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June 30, 2010

Funeral Friday for Marine killed in Afghanistan

LANSING — Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has ordered U.S. flags statewide lowered Friday in honor of Marine Cpl. Daane A. DeBoer, who was killed in Afghanistan.


Posted: 5:59 p.m. June 30, 2010

The 24-year-old graduated from Northview High School in Kent County’s Plainfield Township, near Rockford, Mich. He was on foot patrol in Helmand province when an improvised explosive struck him last Friday.

His funeral is at 11 a.m. Friday at Mayflower Congregational Church in Grand Rapids.

DeBoer was born in Valparaiso, Ind., and attended Immanuel Lutheran School through sixth grade before moving to the Grand Rapids area.

His parents are David DeBoer of Valparaiso and Charlene Zerrenner of Ludington, Mich.

DeBoer enlisted last year and was deployed to Afghanistan in March.

Petraeus Confirmed as Afghan War Commander by U.S. Senate

U.S. Army General David Petraeus was confirmed by the Senate today on a 99-0 vote to be commander of American forces in Afghanistan as President Barack Obama steps up an offensive against Taliban insurgents.


By Tony Capaccio and Edward DeMarco - Jun 30, 2010

Petraeus replaces General Stanley McChrystal, who was removed from the war command by Obama last week for disparaging comments about the administration made in a Rolling Stone magazine interview.

The Senate vote came a day after Petraeus told his confirmation hearing that he is concerned the U.S. military’s rules of engagement in the war are too restrictive and are putting American forces at risk.

“I am keenly aware of concerns by some of our troopers,” Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said he discussed the issue with President Hamid Karzai and other top Afghan officials “and they are in full agreement with me.”

Petraeus will lead a force of 142,000 U.S. and allied troops who are in the midst of an offensive to try to push the Taliban out of their stronghold in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan.

Afghan Security

The Obama administration has described its war strategy as an effort to break the momentum of the insurgency while building up the Afghan government’s capacity to extend security and effective governance across the country.

Petraeus said the Taliban, even with their losses, “continue to show an ability to adapt and respond” to changes in tactics by the allies. The 57-year-old general has already been closely involved in the war as head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility includes the Middle East and Central Asia.

Military commanders and top national security officials are planning to review the progress of the Afghanistan campaign at the end of the year. Obama has set July 2011 as the target for the start of a drawdown of U.S. forces if security conditions permit.

“It is going to be a number of years before Afghan forces can truly handle the security tasks in Afghanistan on their own,” Petraeus said yesterday. “The commitment to Afghanistan is necessarily, therefore, an enduring one.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Tony Capaccio at [email protected]; Edward DeMarco in Washington at [email protected]

Petraeus says he will revisit Afghanistan ROE

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jun 30, 2010 8:13:50 EDT

Gen. David Petraeus said Tuesday that revisiting the rules limiting live fires near civilian populations in Afghanistan will be one of his “highest priorities” upon assuming direct command of the war effort.

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McChrystal to retire with 4 stars

The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 30, 2010 13:15:50 EDT

WASHINGTON — Gen. Stanley McChrystal, fired from his job as commander of the Afghanistan war after more than three decades in the Army, will be allowed to retire at the rank of four stars.

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8 militants slain in fight at Afghan airport

By Rahim Faiez - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 30, 2010 12:58:21 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — Militants set off a car bomb and stormed the entrance to an airport in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday in a failed attempt to enter the air field used by Afghan and international forces, authorities said. Eight insurgents died in the ensuing gunbattle.

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


Use of Humvees restricted in Afghanistan

By Tom Vanden Brook - USA Today
Posted : Wednesday Jun 30, 2010 15:37:01 EDT

WASHINGTON — Top commanders in Afghanistan have further tightened restrictions on the use of vulnerable vehicles after roadside bomb attacks that have killed eight U.S. soldiers since late May.

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All-services medic training campus opens

The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 30, 2010 14:50:46 EDT

SAN ANTONIO — The military has opened the first buildings at a new training campus that will consolidate all medic training across the various service branches.

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


IJC Operational Update, June 30

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international force captured a Haqqani network improvised explosive device and weapons facilitator and another individual in Khost province last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.30.2010
Posted: 06.30.2010 02:39

The security force detained the facilitator, who is linked to IED attacks that have injured Afghan civilians, and the suspected insurgent during a search of a compound in Ali Shi Alaqehdari, Terazai

Women and children present were protected during the search by the combined force and no damage was done to the compound.

An Afghan and coalition force detained several suspected insurgents in Kandahar province last night while pursuing a Taliban facilitator who coordinates foreign fighters, assassinations and logistical support for Taliban commanders operating in central Kandahar.

The security force went to a compound south of Pitaway, Arghandab district, to search the area. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to peacefully exit the compound.

After securing the area, the security force detained the suspected insurgents for further questioning.

Women and children present were protected by the combined security force.

An Afghan and coalition force detained two suspected insurgents in Zabul province last night.

The suspected insurgents were detained while the security force was searching a compound in Sowkhak, Tarnek wa Jaldak District.

Women and children present were protected by the combined security force.

An Afghan-international patrol discovered 1,750 kilograms of ammonium nitrate in Helmand province yesterday.

The illegal fertilizer used in making IEDs was found in 35 50-kilogram bags in Reg-e Khan Neshin District. Two individuals were detained at the site.

ISAF analysis shows that the fertilizer could have been used to make over 80 IEDs.

An ISAF patrol discovered a weapons cache in Ghazni province last night.

The cache, which was booby trapped, consisted of 50 mortar tubes, 5 mines of various types, two boxes of explosives, several AK-47s and ammunition, a long barrelled rifle, hundreds of machine gun rounds, and a large quantity of IED-making material.

Insurgent Attack Against Jalalabad Airport Repelled

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan and ISAF forces repelled a number of insurgents when they attacked Jalalabad airfield this morning using a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms fire. The airfield's perimeter was not breached, and several insurgents were killed during the attack. Two combined security force members received minor injuries; there are no reports of civilian injuries.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.30.2010
Posted: 06.30.2010 02:59

"The combination of our Afghan and coalition forces are always prepared to deal with attacks on this facility shared by Afghans and ISAF, and the response this morning was immediate," said Maj. Mary Constantino, spokesman, Task Force Bastogne.

"This was not only an attack on a combined Afghan and ISAF facility, it was also an attack on the people of Afghanistan. The reality is that attacks such as this have absolutely no impact on the overall security situation in Afghanistan, said IJC Spokesperson Navy Capt. Jane Campbell. "While designed to garner media attention, this attack only temporarily disrupted operations as our forces successfully repelled the attack."
The incident is under investigation, and more information will be released when it becomes available.

Shura brings Afghans, Marines together to discuss future improvements throughout Garmsir

The local village elders and the Afghan National Army met with the Marines of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, held a shura recently to discuss future civil affairs projects. GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan — The projects discussed included bridge reconstruction, canal flood gates, swing sets for children and other reconstruction/development projects throughout Garmsir.


6/30/2010 By Cpl. Skyler Tooker , Regimental Combat Team 7

“It is important to have the shura every week, to get together and talk about the civil affairs projects, because they are a double-edged sword,” said Capt. John Kennely, the commanding officer for Lima Co., 3/1.

“We can be accused of playing favoritism. So we talk about all the civil affairs projects and talk about the proposals and assessments, and we throw them at the floor of the shura so every village elder has a say whether or not one project goes before another, or if the project should even be done. And this has actually worked really well to our advantage.

“As long as the village elders are coming and dealing with governance issues with us, they are not dealing with the Taliban,” said Kennely, 39, from Chesterland, Ohio. “This is critical for us to stabilize the region.”

The Taliban doesn’t want the village elders to have any organization, and by them coming to the Marines and talking together on upcoming policies and procedures, we can clear up many of the concerns between the locals and Marines.

“We talk about everything from civil affairs projects toconduct of Marines on patrols and cordon searches,” Kenneley said. “We address all that in the shura, and that way the village elders and villages themselves have a buy into the governance of the area.”

Establishing a legitimate government is key to fighting the counterinsurgency, and the Marines promote these positive changes by holding the shura right here in a secure area, Kenneley added.

The shura was started by 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, who was out here before 3/1. Attendance, historically, has suffered because of Taliban intimidation, and a lack of military protection for Afghan locals.

“Security has been improving, mostly because the Marines before us, and we are capitalizing on it. Now there are more and more elders showing up,” said Kenneley. “Now every village elder is their own contractor and they are trying to win over the civil affairs projects from us, so that is a good sign. The CAG projects are a key part of the shura and winning over security in the region.”

House panel denies aid to Afghanistan

By Andrew Taylor - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 30, 2010 19:56:15 EDT

WASHINGTON — A key House panel voted Wednesday to cut off almost $4 billion in aid to the government of Afghanistan pending an investigation into charges that Afghan officials are blocking corruption probes and huge amounts of foreign aid is being stolen.

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Children, aged 5, used to plant Taliban bombs in Afghanistan

Children as young as five are being used by the Taliban to lay bombs and carry weapons in a deadly new tactic in Afghanistan, it can be disclosed.

In the past five months the number child insurgents has increased almost fivefold in the town of Sangin, to a band of 40, who are used to run weapons, plant bombs and carry out tasks for the Taliban, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.


Thomas Harding in Sangin
Published: 10:00PM BST 30 Jun 2010

According to military intelligence sources there are about 12 children being routinely used in the Sangin area just to plant bombs.

The Taliban have resorted to the tactic because they know that British troops are unlikely to fire on children planting IEDs (improvised explosive devices). They have also been forced into the change because sophisticated surveillance technology is able to pick up Taliban IED planting teams and take action against them.

On one occasion surveillance cameras picked up two children under 10 walking along the main road with one placing an IED in a hole followed by another covering it up with a bag of stone and earth.

"They know that we won't engage the kids," said an intelligence source with 40 Commando, Royal Marines, based in Sangin. "The kids are less aware of the risks and will to do anything for a quick buck.

"But it's really exploiting children. The parents are upset they do this but they are very, very intimidated by the Taliban."

There have been 44 roadside bombs in Sangin in the past months, a fifth were carried out by children.

At least one child has been killed in the last month laying an IED. Two other youngsters from his team turned up at the Marines' base one missing a hand and the other was later found with batteries, tape and wire on him.

"We have child accessories not child soldiers," said Major Ed Moorhouse, commander of Charlie Company, 40 Cdo. "They are entirely indoctrinated from an early age, very battle hardened and the Taliban know that our Western values inhibit us from firing on children."

In another incident that left the Marines deeply shocked a teenage boy, believed to be 14, arrived at a compound where he started chatting to one of commandos.

"We were having a joke, he wrote his name on my hand and then asked me if I was an officer," said Marine Tim Jones, 26, a Pashtun speaker. "He just seemed like a normal teenager but he had come in with an agenda."

Twenty minutes later the boy returned and went up to the corporal in charge of the patrol who was carrying a radio and detonated a suicide vest. But it is believed the boy put the vest on the wrong way round and caused only minor injuries to the corporal while killing himself.

"It's still difficult to take in that they are using kids to fight against us," said MnE Jones. "You feel sorry for them really because they are taken away at such a young age that they don't get a chance to choose."

Children are also used to approach Royal Marine patrols to identify commanders or officers who are then targeted by bombers or gunmen.

They will also carry guns or rocket-propelled grenades for the Taliban to be used in ambushes or are asked to connect IEDs to batteries.

Taliban commanders are also thought to develop a "cult of hero worship" around children.

"They are fully aware that we will not engage children except in extreme circumstances," said Company Sergeant Major Buck Ryan.

"I feel for the children. I have a 14-year-old son and to think of him doing something like that, to kill people, is horrific.

"Life is cheap out here, there's no question of that."

During one gunfight on a police check point yesterday, witnessed at a distance by The Daily Telegraph, an eight-year-old girl was struck in the back of the head by a bullet believed to have been fired by insurgents. She was in a stable condition after the bullet skimmed the top of her head causing a deep gauge.

June 29, 2010

Marine Corps Body Bearers

WASHINGTON – It’s an iconic scene: Six men stand together halfway around the world from home and raise a flag on top of Mount Suribachi. When the men returned home, their story of valor on Iwo Jima lifted a nation to its feet in the midst of the turning point of World War II.

Click above link for photos that accompany the article.

by Cpl. Scott Schmidt | Tuesday, June 29, 2010 10:56

Now, more than 60 years later, another six Marines stand tall in the shadow of the Marine Corps War Memorial’s valor as it depicts that iconic scene.

They belong to the group of 13 Marines who carry the caskets of fellow Marines through the streets of Arlington National Cemetery and surrounding National Capital region cemeteries, (sometimes up to a mile,) as the last salute to the fallen members of the 234-year-old brotherhood.

The Marine Corps’ body bearers have one of the most unique duties in the Corps.

Exclusive to the Corps, these Marines carry caskets weighing as much as 800 pounds at shoulder and head level, only lowering at the exact moment of burial. Their pace is deliberate and slow, prolonging the honor that is due to America’s heroes.

As unique as the job, the Marines themselves stand out. The smallest bearer, at six feet tall and 260 pounds, towers over the average Marine. His biceps closely resemble runners’ thighs, and his neck blends evenly with his jaw line. Body bearers remain among the largest Marines in the Corps.

It’s a feat that starts early in the Marines’ training. Beyond the 13 weeks of recruit training, body bearers begin their journey at the school of infantry like any other aspiring infantryman.

Potential bearers are scouted during SOI and once briefed can volunteer to join the “World Famous Body Bearers.”
“The selection process is based largely on a strength test,” explained Cpl. John A. Smurr, a senior body bearer. “Height and weight come into play, but if [potential bearers] don’t have an overall big frame to support the strength needed, they just can’t do the job.”

A training time table is indefinite for those selected. At the Marine Corps’ Ceremonial Drill School, a Marine can graduate in a few months or train for a year to achieve the strength and perfection required to bear a casket.

Smurr suggested each Marine arrive at the school able to bench press a minimum of 225 pounds, military press 135, curl 115, and squat at least 315.

Due to their frame and size, the body bearers have acquired a “meat-head” label, but Lance Cpl. Stephen Brewer, a junior bearer, discredited this idea by explaining, “We’re not meat heads in the gym.

Even more important than your strength [or size], your endurance and stamina need to be top class to carry a casket.”

Body bearers execute hundreds of funerals each year, which requires constant muscle conditioning, and Brewer said stamina, not size, makes a good body bearer.

Still, iron weights are not enough to maintain this critical mission.

“The character qualities of this section are bearing, discipline and respect,” said Brewer. “That is everything the body bearers strive to emulate or to display at all times. That’s what we bring to Arlington every day, and that’s what we live in our lives.”

These qualities don’t exist without continual training.

“There’s a lot of mentoring that goes on between the senior and junior body bearers,” explained Cpl. Campoamor Ayala, a senior body bearer. “If there’s something the juniors don’t know, the senior will teach them as they progress to make sure they carry on the traditions and precision of drill.”

From a statuesque salute as the funeral precession approaches to the stern faces worn at all times, bearing becomes the Corps’ final message of honor and respect to the fallen.

Bearers said every funeral takes a toll with their emotions, though their face retains the thousand yard stare at all times.
“Not only does this test you physically, but mentally and emotionally as well,” Smurr said. “It is pretty emotionally stressful when you’re out at Arlington every day and you see a family who just lost their loved one.”

Smurr said the body bearers can be that connection for the families back to their fallen Marine. Though that connection wares on their minds during their time as a body bearer, it’s a job they don’t resent, but embrace.

“You can fast forward your life in your mind and see yourself someday being in that position and having six Marines render honor to you and your family in the same way,” he said. “Every Marine we lay down is us, our brother, our sister, our mom and dad, and our friend.”

The consensus of the body bearers is that the physical pain they feel when lifting a casket for extended periods is incomparable to what a family feels.

Body bearers said they feel as though they represent the whole Marine Corps.

“If it was up to me, I’d say ‘let’s have the whole Corps carry the caskets,’ because each time we lose a Marine that’s really who feels it. The whole Corps,” Brewer said.

They agree that pain is a small price to pay to uphold the honor of being “the last to let you down.”

West View Marine dies in Afghanistan

Joe Caskey followed his grandfather, father, mother and two older brothers into the military after graduating from North Hills High School in 2004.



By Margaret Harding
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"That's all we ever knew," said his brother, Jeremy Caskey, 32. "We always loved our country. It was a natural thing. It was almost the family business."

Marine Corps Sgt. Joseph Caskey, 24, of West View was killed Saturday when an improvised explosive device struck the vehicle in which he was riding in Afghanistan, his family said. It was his second tour of duty overseas.

"For him, there was never any other choice," Jeremy Caskey said. "It was a singular passion for him to be a Marine."

He is the third local serviceman to die in action this month. Bryan Hoover, 29, and Robert Fike, 38, both with the Pennsylvania National Guard's Company C, 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry, based in Connellsville, died June 11 in Afghanistan.

Twenty servicemen from Pennsylvania were killed in action since last June, according to the Department of Defense.

Joe Caskey's body was transferred to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation Center. Jeremy Caskey said the family had not yet made funeral arrangements.

Joe Caskey was born in Germany when his father, Gerald Caskey, was stationed there, and he spent some of his elementary school years in Hawaii, said his mother, Debra Caskey.

"He just loved it there," said Debra Caskey, 54, who was an Army photographer. "He was always the athletic, outdoorsy type, and there you're outdoors all the time."

Debra Caskey's sons deployed overseas five times. Jeremy Caskey was in Iraq with the Air Force, and Joshua Caskey, the middle brother, was in Iraq twice with the Marines. Joe Caskey went to Iraq and then Afghanistan.

Joe Caskey enlisted in 2004 and re-enlisted in 2008. As a sergeant, he probably could have stayed closer to the base in Afghanistan, but that's not what he wanted, his brother said.

"He wanted to be in the thick of it," Jeremy Caskey said. "He took a position out there to fight. He wanted to be with his men, and he wanted to make a difference. He wanted to be there to lead his guys."

The family moved around the world, but Pittsburgh was always the home base, Jeremy Caskey said. When Gerald Caskey retired after 22 years in the Army, the family settled in West View. Joe Caskey played baseball at North Hills, his mother said.

"I heard some rumblings, but I didn't want it to be true," North Hills Principal Patrick Mannarino said after hearing about Caskey's death. "He was a good kid. I knew he would be a great Marine when he decided to do that."

Christa Cardone, by virtue of her last name, had a locker next to Joe Caskey's in high school.

"We had homeroom together, so every morning I woke up to Joe," said Cardone, 23, of Squirrel Hill. "He was goofy and always just kind of fun. He was always really serious about being in the Marines. I always remember him talking about that, and he did it."

No matter his location, Joe Caskey took with him a love of Pittsburgh's sports teams, his mother said. "We've always supported the Penguins and the Steelers, everywhere we went."

Joe Caskey was home two months ago, when his girlfriend took him to see a Penguins game, his mother said.

She described her son as a good Christian man.

"He knows the Lord, and he'd want people to know that," she said. "He was a good patriot."

24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducts liberty visit in Seychelles

MAHE, SEYCHELLES — Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit along with Sailors assigned to USS Nassau participated in a liberty port stop here June 25-28 to take some time off and visit the east-African island after being deployed at sea for approximately five months without a port call.


6/29/2010 By Capt. Robert Shuford , 24th MEU

USS Nassau anchored off the island’s east coast late on June 24 a few miles offshore where it staged to ferry Marines and Sailors to and from shore using Landing Craft Utility (LCU) boats that made continuous trips carrying approximately 200 servicemembers each time over the next four days.

Servicemembers participated in a variety of activities while in the Seychelles including touring and shopping in the capital city of Victoria, volunteering at an orphanage, running in a Hash Run organized between the Marines and the local Hash Run club, and relaxing on the tropical beaches throughout the island. Servicemembers also got a taste of the local culture at festivals in Victoria where they watched local bands perform and had the opportunity to taste local cuisine from various vendors.

“This was a well-deserved break for our Marines and Sailors after being at sea for a very long time,” said Col. Pete Petronzio, commanding officer, 24th MEU. “I am very proud of how they conducted themselves and how graciously we were received.”

“The locals were friendly, the beaches were beautiful, and the food was fantastic. We thank the people of Seychelles for the warm welcome,” added Petronzio.

The 24th MEU is made up of the following units: Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (Reinforced) (based out of New River Air Station N.C.), Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment (based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.), and Combat Logistics Battalion 24 (based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.) .

They are currently deployed on ships from Amphibious Squadron 8 (PHIBRON 8) : the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48).

The 24th MEU has been conducting various training exercises throughout the Middle East since late February, many of which have been bi-lateral with militaries from partnered nations throughout the region. They currently serve as the theater reserve for the Central Command Area of Operations.

Petraeus Discusses Pros, Cons of July 2011 Deadline

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senators questioned Army Gen. David H. Petraeus repeatedly on his understanding of the July 2011 target date to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee June 29.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Story by Jim Garamone
Date: 06.29.2010
Posted: 06.29.2010 05:09

President Obama has nominated Petraeus – the commander of U.S. Central Command – to be commander of U.S. and NATO forces. The committee passed its recommendation for confirmation to the full Senate after the hearing. The general's nomination for the NATO post must go through NATO channels.

When President Barack Obama laid out the new strategy in Afghanistan during a speech at the U.S. Military Academy in December, he said that he would add 30,000 American troops to the mix, but that U.S. forces would begin returning to the United States in July 2011 if conditions on the ground allow. Petraeus told the senators that he supported and agrees with the president's strategy.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan would "begin a process in July 2011 under which tasks are transferred to Afghan security forces and government officials and a 'responsible drawdown' of the surge forces begins, pace to be determined by conditions," he said.

American forces in Afghanistan are relentlessly pursuing the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies, and commanders and political leaders must consider conditions on the ground before a drawdown begins, the general said.

Still, he added, the deadline does make sense.

"On the one hand, productivity experts say that there's no greater productivity tool than a deadline," Petraeus said. "The message of urgency that the deadline conveyed ... was not just for domestic political purposes. It was for audiences in [the Afghan capital of] Kabul, who ... needed to be reminded that we won't be there forever. But we will be there, and presumably for quite some time."

The deadline tells the Afghans that they need to move forward smartly on policies and procedures to effect change, Petraeus said. "I think it did actually galvanize some degree of action," he told the committee. "There may have been some message for some of us in uniform that we needed to get on with it. The truth is that early on in the process, we were looking at a more deliberate campaign. We compressed that, getting the troops on the ground much more rapidly than was originally even thought possible."

But a deadline also can give enemies the impression they simply can wait it out, the general noted.

"You have to make sure that the enemy does not interpret that as that moment whereas it was said the United States is heading for the exits, looking for the light switch to turn it off because we're out of here, because that is not accurate, at least not in my perception," Petraeus said.

IJC Operational Update, June 29

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan and international force detained a number of suspected insurgents including a Taliban facilitator in Helmand province last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.29.2010
Posted: 06.29.2010 04:10

The facilitator, assessed to be a key player in the Now Zad facilitation network, is responsible for procuring and distributing improvised explosive device components.

After clearing several buildings in the village of Do Sang, Now Zad District, the combined security force detained the facilitator and several suspected associates.

A separate Afghan and international force detained a suspected insurgent in Kandahar province while pursuing a Taliban facilitator last night.

The combined security force searched a compound near Vakil Rostam Kalay, Panjwa'i District and detained the man for further questioning.

Women and children present during the searches were protected by the combined security forces and no shots were fired during either operation.

Afghan and coalition forces have made significant progress in Kandahar by increasing up offensive operations in the province and capturing or killing key Taliban leaders. Combined Afghan and international forces recently removed the Taliban district chiefs for Zharay, Panjwa'i, Maiwand and Dand Districts. Hajji Amir, formerly the Dand District chief, was killed, May 30, in Kandahar.

Josh Dumaw was a Marine's Marine

SPOKANE -- A week since his death in Afghanistan was announced by the Pentagon members of Marine Corporal Josh Dumaw’s family have taken some time to honor their son’s memory and service.

Click above link for news video.

Tori Brunetti | KXLY4 Anchor / Reporter
Posted: 5:48 pm PDT June 29, 2010Updated: 6:36 pm PDT June 29, 2010

Dumaw, 23, was killed in Afghanistan and leaves behind his family, wife and an unborn child.

In a statement his mother released Tuesday she said, “I named him Joshua because it means a gift from God and that is exactly what he was.”

She added her heart was shattered by the news of the death of her son.

Josh’s dad Andrew Dahlman says his son was a natural Marine.

“We lost a heck of man, someone who was going to be a great father. The Marines lost a hell of a Marine,” Dahlman said.

“The term I have been hearing referred to Josh from the military side is that he was a Marine's Marine.”

Beyond the Marines Josh Dumaw was an inspiration to those around him and was passionate about life. Josh and his dad were able to have dinner together back in May and at the time Andrew remembers his son Josh was his happy go lucky self.

“In true Josh fashion he cleaned everything on his plate and trying to work on his wife’s plate,” Andrew laughed.

Even though Andrew knew the kind of place his son was in the family wasn’t prepared to lose him.

“You know when they go there this is a possibility but you don't …” Andrew drifted off shaking his head.

Now that Josh Dumaw is gone his family is thinking about what they tell Josh's unborn son about his dad.

“Josh was a very positive person. He was positive and honest and he lived his life honorably and I hope I know those were things we will see from his son,” Andrew said.

U.S., Afghan Forces Launch Major Offensive

As many as 150 insurgent fighters have been killed since Sunday in a major offensive involving about 700 U.S. and Afghan troops along eastern Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, a senior military official confirmed to Fox News early Tuesday.


Published June 29, 2010
| FOXNews.com

The U.S.-led operation was one of the largest yet in the region, officials told The Washington Post, who described the assault as "one of the most intense battles of the past year."

In a statement Sunday, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said more than 600 ISAF and Afghan troops were pursuing Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Kunar and that "a number of insurgents" were killed.

Two American troops were also killed in the battle, according to ISAF.

The offensive was designed to flush out growing numbers of Taliban militants bidding to open up a second front in Kunar, as U.S.-led forces root out insurgents in southern Afghanistan, the Post reported.

"The Taliban know we are bringing our surge of forces, and they realize they can't just let that happen, so they are pursuing their own surge," Maj. Gen. John Campbell, the senior commander in eastern Afghanistan, told the newspaper.

The U.S.-led force in Kunar gave no prior warning of the offensive, unlike the onslaught in Marjah in southern Afghanistan earlier this year.

"We needed the element of surprise in that terrain," Colonel Andrew P. Poppas was quoted as saying.

U.S. and Afghan troops were flown in before dawn Sunday on Black Hawk helicopters and seized mountainous ground in Kunar's Marawara district, but soon came under attack from as many as 200 insurgents, the newspaper reported.

"Once the battle began, others from the area tried to maneuver into the area," Poppas was quoted as saying. "This was a tough fight."

The heaviest fighting subsided by Monday morning. U.S. and Afghan forces are now trying to restore government authority in Marawara's main village.

"The tough part is still ahead," Poppas said.

NewsCore contributed to this report.

Petraeus faces queries by war-weary Congress

By Anne Flaherty - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Jun 29, 2010 11:09:51 EDT

WASHINGTON — Gen. David Petraeus cautiously endorsed President Barack Obama's exit plan for the Afghan war on Tuesday, leaving himself room to recommend changes or delays as he interviewed for the job of commander of the stalemated war.

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Kunar Province Sees Second Full Day of Successful Combined Operations

KABUL, Afghanistan - Operations involving units from the Afghan National Security Forces and International Security Assistance Force continued June 29 in Kunar province.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.29.2010
Posted: 06.29.2010 12:40

The Afghan-led force includes almost 600 personnel, more than 60 percent of which are members of the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and Afghan border police.

The operation began after the combined force was airlifted by helicopter into the mountains early Sunday morning near the town of Daridam, Marawara district.

Insurgents were using the town and surrounding district as a staging area for attacks on both civilians and coalition forces. This group is believed to be responsible for the improvised explosive device attack that killed five U.S. service members June 7 in Kunar province.

Throughout the operation, the combined force has received crucial information from residents and local officials, including details that approximately 250 insurgents were in the area.

The operation is ongoing and complements recent operations in the province in which one Taliban commander, Jan Wali, was killed and several insurgent facilitators were detained. Development projects are also planned to improve critical services for local residents.

Marine remembered as 'modern day Spartan'

PLACENTIA – In a bright gym plastered with yellow championship banners commemorating student achievement, a somber crowd of 500 gathered Monday night to remember a different kind of El Dorado High School champion: a local Marine who gave his life in battle.



Published: June 28, 2010
Updated: June 29, 2010 7:31 a.m.

Cpl. Claudio Patińo IV, who joined the Marines shortly after graduating from El Dorado in 2006, was killed by small-arms fire June 22 in Afghanistan.

A fierce warrior who was steadfast in his devotion to his family, his country and the Marine Corps, Patińo wouldn't have wanted to die any other way, friend and former team leader Marine Sgt. Ryan Lindner said.

"Let that be his legacy," Lindner said.

After watching a slideshow chronicling his life, friends, family members and mourning strangers shared memories of Patińo, a laughing kid who turned into a serious Marine.

He was rough on the outside, family members said, but he was also the most loveable guy you could ever meet.

A scout sniper, Patińo had served a tour in Iraq and another in Afghanistan when he requested a special transfer to redeploy to Afghanistan in March. He had talked about becoming a Marine since early childhood, family members said.

"He was always striving, always testing himself," Lindner said. "He was a modern day Spartan."

After a long week of training, Patińo would often stay on base over the weekend, using the time to practice mixed-martial arts, Lindner said.

Before the memorial services, Patińo's family gathered near his last car, which a neighbor had covered with Marine decals and parked in front of the high school.

"He was so excited to have a fast car," his father, Claudio Patińo remembered. "Maybe he was thinking he could go fast anywhere."

Friends recalled that Patińo had often talked of dying in battle, predicting that he would die by the age of 20. He was killed in battle at age 22. He is survived by his wife, Jamie Burns, his parents, and seven brothers and sisters.

Patińo was the fourth service member from Yorba Linda to be killed in Afghanistan in the past 12 months.

Army Spc. Jonathan Welch was killed by a roadside bomb Aug. 31, 2009. Marine Sgt. Major Robert Cottle and Lance Cpl. Rick Centanni were killed March 24 by an improvised explosive device.

A public memorial service and funeral is being planned for later in the week after his casket is flown home. Patińo's mother wants the funeral and memorial service to be open to the public so people can know who Patińo was and what he did for them, family members said.

The night before Patińo deployed to Afghanistan, his neighbor asked him why he had to deploy just three months after returning home.

"He told me he wanted to go back,"� Patino's neighbor, Tom Woods, said during the memorial. "He told me, 'There's work to be done. If I don't go back and do it, who will?'" Woods recalled.

Contact the writer: 714-704-3719 [email protected]

June 28, 2010

Lima Company Memorial 'very powerful'

ZANESVILLE -- Look into Lance Cpl. Nicholas W. B. Bloem's eyes and you see trust.


BY KATHY THOMPSON • CentralOhio.com • June 28, 2010

The grin on Lance Cpl. Timothy M. Bell Jr.'s face shows how much he loved to tease.

It's clear Sgt. Justin F. Hoffman was a leader, one with compassion and generosity.

These are just three of the Marines depicted in the Lima Company Memorial on display at the Secrest Auditorium until mid-August.

Lima Company lost 22 Marines and its Navy Corpsman almost five years ago in Iraq, among them, Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Lyons, 24, of Shelby. The memorial, consisting of eight painted panels set in an octagon, depicts portraits of the fallen. At their feet are three eternal candles and bronzed combat boots.

The creator of the memorial, Anita Miller of Columbus, said she woke from a dream in October 2005 about creating a memorial. Even though she knew little of the Marine unit, she said she soon became aware she was being compelled and guided to honor the Lima Company of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.

"When I first started this, I didn't know exactly who these men were or how their relationships with each other worked. I had a vision, and my heart went out to all the families," Miller said as she stood in front of the painting. "I had a list of 23 names and I closed my eyes and meditated.

"Then it started to become clear. Tim and Justin were inseparable, each having the other's back. Nick, well, Nick was like the younger brother that tagged along, but wanted to make sure he was taking care of his buddies. That's how each painting is. Each painting has it's own story, just like each of these men were unique and have their own stories."

Miller had lots of help from fellow Marines, relatives of the men and their friends.

"I got thousands of pictures of these men," Miller said. "I spent at least a year preparing before I started painting. I had to know who each one was, what they were like, what they did, what they dreamed, what they loved. And I truly believe as I started, each and every one of these men spoke to me and helped me. I had a lot of help, seen and unseen."

Miller said each man gave "everything he had" for us. Behind each of the faces in the memorial stand thousands of men and women behind them.

"I know the public showing their support for this memorial and for these men means so much to all the families," Miller said. "We want to honor them because they gave their lives for our freedom."

Mayor Butch Zwelling said it broke his heart to view the paintings.

"They suffered all these casualties," he said. "One was only 18 years old and just out of high school. This is such a tribute to them."

Zanesville artist Alan Cottrill said he found the memorial powerful, and told Miller it gave him goosebumps.

"You captured the essence of these men," Cottrill told Miller. "You got their gestures and expressions perfect. This is very powerful."

Miller said she found it challenging to try to capture each Marine's personality: the forgiveness Lance Cpl. Eric J. Benholtz had in his heart, the kindness and goodness of Lance Cpl. Michael J. Cifuentes, the joy Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Dyer brought to all who knew him, and the dedication Sgt. David K. J. Kreuter showed his family and fellow Marines.

Miller plans to include Sgt. Bradley J. Harper, a Dresden native who was killed Aug. 3, 2005, while assigned to the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve out of Norfolk, Va.

Harper's amphibious assault vehicle was hit by an explosive device while he was conducting combat operations south of Haditha, Iraq. Harper was not supposed to be with the unit when he was killed, but he went to protect his fellow Marines.

Miller said the date for the Harper unveiling has yet to be determined, but it will be displayed with the Lima Company Memorial.

For Miller, the memorial began as a vision.

Now it has become an opportunity to experience "the love and dedication of these Marines whose faithfulness never wavered," Miller said.

"You'll feel their loving spirits when you stand in the middle of the memorial," she said. "There's communication here. You can almost feel the wind moving through the pictures as it made its way across the desert they were in. The memorial will speak to you. And that's a comfort for the families. And, I think, for those men who died."

Marine with Ludington ties killed in Afghanistan

DETROIT (AP) — A Marine whose experience hiking the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail while raising money for a charity helped lead him to enlist in the military has died while fighting in Afghanistan, his father said Monday.


AP -
Monday, June 28, 2010

Cpl. Daane Adam DeBoer, 24, was killed Friday by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol, said his father, David DeBoer of Valparaiso, Ind. He said the military notified family in Indiana and Michigan of his son’s death the same day.

“He was an exceptionally phenomenal young man who loved the Lord,” said his mother Charlene Zerrenner of Ludington, Mich. “He loved his family and he loved his country. He died a hero.”

Daane DeBoer was born in Valparaiso and attended Immanuel Lutheran School through sixth grade before moving to the Grand Rapids area. He lived in Rockford until graduating from high school, his father said.

He lived in Colorado for about a year before joining the Marines in spring 2009, and was deployed to Afghanistan in March, David DeBoer said.

Daane DeBoer enjoyed extreme sports such as skiing and hiked the Appalachian Trail along the mountainous spine of the eastern U.S. while raising money for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a nonprofit dedicated to the fight against breast cancer.

“The discipline of doing the trail and what he was doing it for, I think, had a huge impression on him,” David DeBoer said. “Doing something bigger than himself.”

As of Monday morning, the Department of Defense hadn’t released information about DeBoer.

The family has requested privacy. Metcalf & Jonkhoff Funeral Service in Grand Rapids, which was contacted by the family and the military, was handling arrangements. A funeral was expected to be in the Grand Rapids area.

Daane DeBoer’s father and stepmother, Mary DeBoer, live in Valparaiso, Ind., while his mother and stepfather, Jim Zerrenner, live in Ludington, Mich. Other survivors include his sisters Aubrey, Ashley and Lindsey DeBoer.

In place of flowers, contributions may be made to Immanuel Lutheran School of Valparaiso, his father said.

3 Marines die in Afghanistan

Staff report
Posted : Monday Jun 28, 2010 20:22:07 EDT

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - Two Camp Pendleton-based Marines and a Marine from Camp Lejeune, N.C., were killed during combat operations in separate incidents in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Defense Department officials announced Monday.

To continue reading about these Fallen Heroes:


Marine Corps still does family proud, and Everett mother shares the story

Brig. Gen. James Kessler of Mountlake Terrace has a kind message to share about U.S. Marines.


By Kristi O’Harran
Herald Columnist
Published: Monday, June 28, 2010

“I’m happy to report we still have no problem finding the highest quality of young men and women to join our ranks,” Kessler wrote his mother in an e-mail. “Nearly a quarter of our Marines in uniform today are not yet old enough to drink in most states. Two thirds of our Marines are 25 years old or younger. It’s not hard to figure out that all of these young men and women joined the Marine Corps while we have been at war.”

His mother, Nancy Thurmond, of Everett, recently shared her son’s words with me. I wrote about her three years ago when she was making Corps Coolers, a refreshing scarf to wrap around military necks in the hot desert. She sent them to her son, who said temperatures in Iraq hit 120 degrees.

Thurmond has been a Marine mom for 37 years. In 1973 her oldest son, Mike Kessler, was commissioned at the University of Washington as a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

“Evidently his younger brother took all this in,” Thurmond said.

When Jim Kessler graduated from high school in 1976, he received a scholarship in the NROTC program at the UW.

“He chose to follow his big brother’s footsteps and went with the Marines instead of the Navy, she said. “His commissioning was in June of 1980.”

Jim Kessler received his military oath from his older brother.

Mike Kessler retired in July 1998. His parting ceremony happened on parade grounds in Washington, D.C., with marching bands and all the formalities.

“Jim, then a major in the USMC, had the honor to retire his big brother,” Thurmond said. “It was a touching moment and I had a lump in my throat too large to swallow, so it came out in tears. They were in their dress blues and gave each other a hug that only blood brothers and Marine brothers can give each other.”

Mike Kessler is executive director for Young Marines of The Marine Corps League. He lives in Falls Church, Va.

“He didn’t get very far from the Marines,” his mother said.

She said Jim Kessler was the president of his senior class at Mountlake Terrace High School, spoke at graduation and was one of those high-achiever types. He is now stationed at Albany, Ga., where he lives with his wife and high school sweetheart, Debbi. Their daughter, Kristen, was a Navy nurse.

Thurmond was a single mother as she raised her three children, including her daughter and best friend, Colleen Jones of Arlington.

The whole family grieved when Jim Kessler reported deaths in Iraq.

“Twelve Marines, two sailors and one soldier,” Kessler said. “Fourteen men and one woman. All of them younger than 25.”

He sent a message to those who doubt the quality of those who serve.

“We live in challenging times, no doubt,” he said. “Our forces are entirely volunteer forces. They joined, volunteered, at a time when they knew they’d most likely be going into combat.”

He said young Marines, corporals and sergeants and young lieutenants are frequently out operating with their squads and platoons in very isolated combat environments.

“We expect them to always make the right decision on when to pull the trigger, and when to reach out a hand in support of a small village in desperate need of someone who gives a damn about whether or not they live or die,” Kessler said. “There are more life-or-death decisions on the shoulders of these young Marines that at any time in our history.”

He applauds the Greatest Generation and those who answered the call in Korea and Vietnam.

“They were all great,” Kessler said. “However, we should not lose sight of the hundreds of thousands of young men and women today who have also agreed to put on a uniform and wear the cloth of the nation in defense from a new evil and tyranny.”

“He’s a great writer,” his mother said.

“And he’s a very nice general.”

Officials Report on Numerous Afghanistan Operations

WASHINGTON - Precision air strikes, a pitched battle with insurgents in Kunar province and the killing or capture of key enemy fighters highlight recent operations in Afghanistan, military officials reported.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.28.2010
Posted: 06.28.2010 11:17

A precision air strike called in by a combined Afghan-international security force killed several insurgents, including a Haqqani terrorist network roadside-bomb cell leader, while the insurgents were planting a roadside bomb in Khost province last night.

After international forces confirmed insurgent activity and that no civilians were at risk, they called for the air strike as the terrorist cell members were planting the bomb on a main route in the province's Matun District. Following the air strike, an Afghan and international ground force went to the site and found multiple roadside bombs and weapons, as well as the cell leader and several members of his cell killed by the precision strike.

In Logar province last night, an Afghan and international security force captured a Taliban facilitator who actively participated in roadside-bomb attacks throughout the province's Baraki Barak District. The facilitator also is linked to mortar attacks against Forward Operating Base Shank, about six miles from where he was captured.

The security force went to a series of compounds in the province's Pul-e Alam District to search the area. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all everyone to come outside, and then cleared the compounds, detaining the facilitator. No shots were fired, and women and children were protected by the combined security force throughout the search.

Afghan forces working with International Security Assistance Force partners rescued two Afghan National Police officers in Ghazni province yesterday. The police officers had been held hostage for almost a week. As the combined force approached the compound where the officers were being held, several insurgents were seen fleeing. The combined force rescued both officers without firing a shot.

In Kandahar province yesterday, an Afghan patrol found a large weapons cache during a search of a compound. The cache contained 13 homemade bombs, about 10 pounds of explosive material, five artillery rounds and more than 1,700 rounds of small-arms ammunition.

An Afghan-international security force killed a Taliban commander and several armed individuals in Kandahar last night. The Taliban commander, Shyster Uhstad Khan, took over the duties of senior Taliban facilitator after his predecessor was detained by Afghan and coalition forces earlier this year. He was involved in the distribution and purchase of roadside bombs.

The Afghan-led security force went to a compound outside Kandahar City to search the area and was immediately engaged by hostile fire. Afghan and coalition forces returned fire and killed several armed individuals, including Khan. After securing the compound, the combined force detained a suspect who is believed to have direct contact with senior Taliban members near the Afghan capital of Kabul and to facilitate delivery of bomb components to Kabul. No damage was done to the compound, and several women and children were protected throughout the search, officials said.

A combined force of more than 600 Afghan and ISAF forces was conducting operations against al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents in Kunar province yesterday. Early reports said a number of insurgents had been killed in the operation against al-Qaida and Taliban leadership in the area.

The combined force took precautions to prevent collateral damage, and ISAF had no reports yesterday of injuries to civilians during the battle, which was ongoing at last report.

On June 26, An Afghan-international security force killed a number of insurgents with a precision air strike in Kunduz province's Chahar Darah District. The Kunduz police chief and national security directorate sources reported that a Taliban commander who was a senior foreign-fighter and weapons facilitator was among those killed in the strike, military officials said. The commander coordinated logistical support and operations with the Taliban's Pakistan foreign-fighter cell leadership, and formerly was in charge of the Taliban in the Gor Tappa region, before stepping into an advisory role.

The air strike wounded two additional insurgents, who were driven to a local hospital by another suspected Taliban insurgent. All three are now in the custody of the national security directorate.
After verifying insurgent activity and conducting careful planning to avoid civilian casualties and mitigate collateral damage, officials said, coalition aircraft were called in for the precision air strike against the insurgents, who were meeting at a field in an unpopulated area of the district.

Brig. Gen. Abdul Razaq Yaqubi, Kunduz police chief, confirmed the air strike in the Taliban safe-haven area of Bagh-i-Shirkat on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Kunduz City. Provincial government leadership expressed support for the operation and recognized the combined force's efforts to avoid civilian causalities. No civilians were harmed during the operation.

Also on June 26, an Afghan-led combined force searched a compound in Uruzgan province's Khas Uruzgan District and seized a weapons cache that included 190 rocket-propelled grenade boosters, 81 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, 30 cases of machine-gun ammunition, 20 hand grenade fuses, 15 hand grenades; 14 82 mm recoilless rifle rounds, a machine gun with 10 replacement barrels and a flare gun.

Afghan forces with ISAF partners conducted multiple operations in the western and southern provinces of Afghanistan on June 25.

In Farah province, an Afghan-led combined force searched a compound in the Karez-e Jamal Zal village and seized a weapons cache that included six rocket-propelled grenades, a mortar round and various bomb components. Several suspects were detained, and women and children in the compound were protected by the combined force.

In the Rig Desert of Kandahar province, a combined force led by Afghan special police interdicted narcotics smugglers to disrupt insurgent funding gained through the sale of illegal narcotics. Two men were taken into police custody. The police confiscated a shotgun, an assault rifle and almost 2,900 pounds of opium, all of which was destroyed on site.

On the night of June 25, a combined Afghan-international force killed the senior Taliban commander in northern Logar province. Intelligence sources tracked Ghulam Sakhi to a compound in the Pul-e Alam District, where the combined force went to apprehend him. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker and called for women and children to come out of the building.

As they were exiting, Sakhi came out with the group disguised in women's attire. He pulled out a pistol and a grenade and shot at the security force. When Afghan and coalition forces shot him, he dropped the grenade, which detonated, wounding a woman and two children. The assault force immediately evacuated the wounded for medical care.

Sakhi, who is known by several aliases, was involved in roadside-bomb attacks, ambushes and indirect-fire attacks throughout the province. He also kidnapped and killed a national security directorate chief in Logar province.

After securing the compound, the assault force detained several suspected insurgents for questioning.

Also on the night of June 25, a combined Afghan-international force killed several insurgents with a precision air strike in Zabul province in continuing operations aimed at dismantling bombing cells operating in the province's Mizan and Tarnak Wa Jaldak Districts.

The combined security force verified insurgent activity, and after careful planning in order to avoid civilian casualties and mitigate collateral damage, called in the air strike on the insurgents in a remote area in the Tarnak Wa Jaldak District.

After the air strike, the combined security force found and destroyed bomb-making materials found at the scene.

U.S. Troops Face New Threat: Afghanistan’s Toxic Sand

U.S. troops already face plenty of threats in Afghanistan: AK-47–wielding insurgents, improvised bombs, an intransigent and incompetent government. Now add a less familiar challenge to that list of woes: Afghanistan’s toxic sand.


* By Spencer Ackerman
* June 28, 2010 |

The pulverized turf, it turns out, contains high levels of manganese, silicon, iron, magnesium, aluminum, chromium and other metals that act as neurotoxic agents when ingested. Combine the country’s frequent sandstorms and the kicked-up dust that results from helicopter travel with troops’ nostrils, mouths and pores, and you’ve got an unexpected example of how inhospitable the terrain is for the soon-to-be 98,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines fighting the war.

That’s all according to new research presented this month to a neurotoxicology conference in Oregon by a senior scientist with the Navy Environmental Health Effects Laboratory. That scientist, Palur G. Gunasekar, tells Politics Daily’s Sheila Kaplan that “[a]s the sand extract dose increases at the higher concentration you see cell death.” As the late Ronnie James Dio told us time and again, metal is evil.

A Navy spokesman tells Kaplan that more research is necessary to determine whether a connection exists between Afghan sand and neurotoxicology, as the service has yet to receive complaints from troops about “cognitive difficulties that are unrelated to traumatic brain injuries.” Those injuries have become the signature trauma of nine years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices, with nearly 64,000 cases diagnosed between 2003 and 2009.

According to ProPublica, Congress has dedicated an estimated $1.7 billion over the last few years to help troops recover from traumatic brain injuries, even standing up six new “Defense Centers of Excellence” in 2007 to provide research support as well as medical care.

But now it looks like there’s a new, tragic and expensive unintended health consequence of the war. And if the Defense Department’s late start in combating traumatic brain injuries is instructive, it’s going to take a lot more than research and the glacial pace of the defense health bureaucracy to deal with neurotoxic sand.

A September 2009 Defense Department overview of its anti-TBI efforts (.PDF) to date found that grappling with the scope of such a multifaceted health problem required “collaborative efforts” with “state-of-the-art science, technology and knowledge-based outcomes.” And the Department still isn’t there yet, years later.

Until something like that kicks into gear for toxic sand, troops are going to be left on their own to mitigate their exposure, so that may mean enterprising commanders ordering their troops to wear black sunglasses and face masks this summer in the Afghan desert. If there’s any upside to a covered face in baking heat, at least it’ll look pretty metal.

Reserve Engineer Hopes to ‘Spark Some Innovation’ Against IED Threat

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Waiting outside a conference room in the Regional Command Southwest headquarters building, Cpl. Paul A. Spies passes the time by glancing at the wall adorned with wood-framed pictures of fallen brethren, many of whom were killed by improvised explosive device blasts. A few moments later, Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, commander of RC (SW), walks into the conference room already full of unit commanders. Spies waits patiently for his name to be called.



1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs More Stories from 1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs RSS
Story by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Brofer
Date: 06.28.2010
Posted: 06.28.2010 06:13

Spies is waiting to brief the commanders during a counter-IED conference, and he has 15 minutes to convey the idea he envisioned would help combat the threat that has claimed thousands of lives during counter insurgency operations. At 10:05 a.m., he is called into the room.

A few weeks before deploying to Afghanistan, he was driving past an ‘Adopt-a-Highway’ sign and got an idea he thought could potentially reduce or eliminate the deadliest threat to coalition troops in Afghanistan – IEDs. So far this month, eight Marines have been killed by IED blasts in Afghanistan. IEDs also cause severe damage to million-dollar armored vehicles that are designed to protect Marines from IEDs. But Spies’ proposal, if implemented, could help reduce the threat.

Inspired by the organization in which volunteers pick up trash along highway roads to keep them litter-free, Spies, a combat engineer with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), came up with the “Afghan Adopt a Road Initiative,” which is aimed at reducing the number of deadly roadside bombs. The program, if approved, would work like this: for every 30 days Afghan villagers help keep their roads clear of IEDs, they would receive aid-based incentives in return.

In Spies’ initiative, two types of incentives would be offered: Basic Expendable Services and Enhanced Infrastructural Support, according to Spies’ proposal. BES, such as medical and dental care, would be offered monthly if no IED incidents occur. In addition, points would be awarded to villagers for every 30-day period that is incident free; the points could then be used to purchase EIS projects such as schools, wells and irrigation.

“As soon [as] an IED incident occurred in that village’s area, the BES would immediately be suspended pending an investigation of the event,” cited Spies’ proposal. “If the next 30 days were incident free, the BES aid would be employed following the 30 day period.”

‘A smarter way of doing business’
As a combat engineer, Spies, augmented from 6th Engineer Support Battalion in Springfield, Ore., said he spends most of his days working on various construction projects that involve wood framing. For six weeks, he used his down time to draft the proposal in his berthing area at Forward Operating Base Dwyer, which culminated in a 15-page document outlining the strategy he hopes commanders will employ.

“My company commander thought it was a pretty novel idea,” said Spies, who graduated in September with a degree in Planning, Public Policy and Management from the University of Oregon.

After completing his proposal, his leaders passed the idea up the chain of command, and it eventually wound up on the desk of Maj. Gen. Mills, who “loved” the idea, said Spies, 23, from Corvallis, Ore. He was then asked to brief commanders during the counter-IED conference, gathered to generate ideas that would hopefully defeat the IED threat.

His battalion commander agreed that it’s not necessarily technology that will win this counterinsurgency.

“I am always challenging Marines to come up with a smarter way of doing business,” said Lt. Col. Ted Adams, commanding officer of 9th ESB, in an e-mail interview. “I know the way we’ll be more successful in this fight is in our ingenuity. Technology isn’t always the answer, smart Marines are.”

Adams has seen first-hand that incentive projects can help curb anti-coalition violence. On a recent route-repairing mission in Marjah, dubbed “Route Marcie,” not a single small arms fire or IED incident occurred during the 3-week period Marines worked to repair a road in a local village, he said.

“That was no accident,” said Adams. “There were over 20 [small arms fire] and nine IED incidents within a two-kilometer distance of [Route] Marcie during the same time frame. In my opinion, the people were getting a reward [the road rebuilt] and they were willing to influence the bad guys to leave us alone so they’d get it.”

‘Spark some innovation in the Marine Corps’At 10:20 a.m., Spies emerges from the conference room. His 15 minutes are up. What’s the verdict?

“Good,” said Spies, who added commanders were generally on board with the idea, but had questions regarding funding for the program.

Although funding is one of the top concerns for launching the initiative, Spies noted it may be eligible for funding under the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, a tool first used in Iraq to promote social and economic development in war-torn areas.

“The beauty of it is, the program won’t cost any money if it doesn’t work,” said Spies, who’s served in the Marine Corps three and a half years. “But if it does work, we save the cost of an MRAP, a few thousand dollars or even a Marine’s life.”

Even if the initiative doesn’t come to fruition, Spies hopes ideas like these will continue to be pushed forward from the ground up.

“If Marines have ideas like these, pass them up their chains of command,” Spies said. “Hopefully ideas like these will spark some innovation in the Marine Corps.”

Ospreys leave new belly gun in the dust

Left at bases, 7.62mm gun is seldom used

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 28, 2010 9:56:49 EDT

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan — In answer to criticism calling the Osprey vulnerable to enemy attack and lacking fire power, the Marine Corps shipped a handful of 7.62mm belly guns to Afghanistan last winter.

To read the entire article:


Afghan-international Force Kills Taliban Facilitator in Kandahar

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force killed a Taliban commander and several armed individuals in Kandahar last night. The Taliban commander, Shyster Uhstad Khan, took over the duties of senior Taliban facilitator after his predecessor was detained by Afghan and coalition forces earlier this year. He was involved in the distribution and purchase of improvised explosive devices.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.28.2010
Posted: 06.28.2010 02:53

The Afghan-led security force went to a compound outside Kandahar City to search the area and was immediately engaged by hostile fire. Afghan and coalition forces returned fire in self defence and killed several armed individuals including Khan.

After securing the compound, the combined force detained one suspect.

This individual is believed to have direct contact with Kabul area senior Taliban and facilitates delivery of IED components to Kabul.

No damage was done to the compound and several women and children were protected throughout the search.

IJC Operational Update, June 28

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force killed several insurgents, including a Haqqani network improvised explosive device cell leader, with a precision airstrike while they placed an IED in Khost province last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Date: 06.28.2010
Posted: 06.28.2010 06:35

After international forces confirmed insurgent activity and no civilians were at risk, they called for the airstrike as the cell was emplacing the IED on a main route in Matun District.

Following the airstrike, an Afghan and international ground force went to the site north of Badi Kheyl in Khost district to inspect the area.

The security force found multiple IEDs and weapons at the site as well as the IED cell leader, Satar, and several members of his cell killed by the precision strike. Satar and his cell are linked to multiple IED attacks against Afghan and international forces.

Afghan and coalition forces continue to make progress in their on-going efforts to rid the province of the Haqqani network. They captured another Haqqani IED facilitator in the province yesterday, in an area that has seen 13 IEDs detonated or found this year.

In Logar province last night, an Afghan and international security force captured a Taliban facilitator who actively participated in IED attacks throughout Baraki Barak District. The facilitator is also linked to mortar attacks against Forward Operating Base Shank located approximately ten kilometers from where he was captured.

The security force went to a series of compounds near Akhvond Kheyl in Pul-e 'Alam district to search the area. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all individuals to come outside and then cleared the compounds, detaining the facilitator.

No shots were fired and women and children were protected by the combined security force throughout the search.

Afghan National Security Forces along with ISAF partners rescued two Afghan national police officers yesterday, who had been held hostage for almost one week in Ghazni province yesterday. As the combined force approached the compound where the officers were being held, several insurgents were observed fleeing from the compound. The combined force rescued both officers without firing a shot.

In other operations, ANSF patrols discovered numerous weapons caches. A large cache was found yesterday during a search of a compound in Kandahar.

The cache contained 13 improvised explosive devices, four kilograms of explosive material, five artillery rounds and more than 1,700 rounds of small-arms ammunition.

On Saturday, an ANSF-led combined force conducted a compound search in Khas Uruzgan district of Uruzgan. A weapons cache, which included 190 rocket-propelled grenade boosters; 81 rocket-propelled grenade rounds; 30 cases of machine gun ammunition; 20 hand grenade fuses; 15 hand grenades; 14 82mm recoilless rifle rounds; one machine gun with 10 replacement barrels and one flare gun was seized by the combined force.

In a separate operation Friday in the Panjwa'i District of Kandahar province, another ANSF-led combined force discovered 227 kilograms of hashish during the search of a compound.

June 27, 2010

Afghan and ISAF Units Strike Taliban Stronghold

KABUL, Afghanistan - A combined force of more than 600 Afghan and International Security Assistance Forces are conducting operations against al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents in Kunar province June 27.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 06.27.2010
Posted: 06.27.2010 12:58

At present, a number of insurgents have been killed in the attack against al-Qaida and Taliban leadership in the area.

ISAF and Afghan authorities confirm three of their forces have died in the battle, including two U.S. service members.

"We will continue to take the fight to the enemy alongside our Afghan partners," said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, commanding general of Regional Command-East. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones in the fight against our common enemies, the Taliban and al-Qaida".

The combined force has taken precautions to prevent collateral damage, and ISAF has no reports of injuries to civilians.

The fighting is ongoing.

Newest courage-themed strip to be released July

Series illustrates medal citations in graphic-novel style

By James K. Sanborn - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Jun 27, 2010 8:36:25 EDT

The newest series features Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, who died in Ramadi, Iraq, after defending their post against a suicide bomber on April 22, 2008. They each posthumously received the Navy Cross for their actions.

To read the entire article:


NATO says Afghan operations remain on track

By Heidi Vogt and Rahim Faiez - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Jun 27, 2010 8:30:38 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — A NATO spokesman stressed Sunday that military operations to secure vast areas of Afghanistan would not be delayed by the ouster of the top commander in the war and mounting casualties.

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


Afghan-international Force Precision Airstrike Targets Insurgents in Kunduz

KABUL- An Afghan-international security force killed a number of insurgents with a precision airstrike in the Chahar Darah District of Kunduz province yesterday.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 06.27.2010
Posted: 06.27.2010 01:44

The Kunduz police chief and National Directorate of Security sources reported that a Taliban commander who was a senior foreign fighter and weapons facilitator was among those killed in the strike.

The commander coordinated logistical support and operations with the Taliban's Pakistan foreign fighter cell leadership and was formerly in charge of the Taliban in Gor Tappa region, before stepping into an advisory role.

The airstrike wounded two additional insurgents, who were driven to a local hospital by another suspected Taliban insurgent. All three are now in the custody of the NDS.

After verifying insurgent activity and conducting careful planning to avoid civilian casualties and mitigate collateral damage, coalition aircraft were called in for the precision airstrike against the group of insurgents who were meeting at a field in an unpopulated area of the district.

Kunduz Police Chief, Brig. Gen. Abdul Razaq Yaqubi, confirmed the airstrike in the Taliban safe haven area of Bagh-i-Shirkat on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Kunduz city. Provincial government leadership expressed their support for the operation and recognized the combined force efforts to avoid civilian causalities.

No civilians were harmed during the operation.

Afghan and international forces have carried out several operations against the Taliban in Kunduz province recently. Last week, a security force killed Mullah Abdul Razaq, a Taliban sub-commander responsible for moving suicide operatives throughout the eastern part of Kunduz province, along with a number of insurgents at a compound in the Chahar Darah district.

In late April, a combined assault force killed Nur Mohammad, the Taliban provincial deputy shadow governor, and Hamza, the Archi district Taliban commander, along with two Taliban advisors and a Taliban sub-commander. They also captured another Taliban commander.

Alpha Company Provides Medical Care to Now Zad Residents

KABUL- As the city of Now Zad grows, so does the need for medical aid, so the Marine medics of Alpha Company, 2nd Marine Regiment, on Combat Outpost Cafferetta, treat overflow patients both day and night.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 06.27.2010
Posted: 06.27.2010 04:20
By U.S. Marine Cpl. Daniel A. Blatter

Alpha Company and its medical team are working to further develop Now Zad's resources for medical support. Due to an increased level of security throughout the district, the population of Now Zad continues to grow, so the need to increase its medical capabilities has increased as well.

"There is only one medical doctor in Now Zad and he has two nurses," said Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman Eric Motz, the senior department medical representative for A Co. "He is seeing more than 100 patients per day and when he gets swamped he spreads his workload our way."

Although A Co. has helped open another clinic for the residents, they are still under staffed with limited capabilities.

"The ultimate goal is to work this country up to sustain itself," said 2nd Lt. Gene Price, the executive officer for A Co. "We are helping them security wise, health wise and everything in between."

Monday morning started earlier than most as the medical staff at Cafferetta were awake at 5 a.m.

"We started off with a multiple-stab wound patient," said Motz.

"Then we saw two Afghan National Army patients with viral gastric symptoms, one elder with coetaneous leishmaniasis [Parasitic infection], and a three-year-old kid with a broken arm."

As Now Zad's population reaches a four-year high, the need for additional civil services is expected to grow as well with the population.

"On a daily basis we have four families moving into Now Zad," said Price. "Eventually there will be another doctor who moves into the area as well. This is not a quick process, but the end goal is to have enough [medical] personnel to care for the injuries and trauma that Now Zad locals receive."

Within the past week, more and more local Afghans are making their way to Cafferetta to be treated.

"We are currently seeing more patients with little injuries such as broken arms and stomach aches, [symptoms and injuries] that their doctor will be able to handle," said Price. "The severity of the injuries will go down, but the frequency of injuries will go up as there are more people."

Alpha Company continues to work with the locals doing their part to help Now Zad inhabitants help themselves.

"I am trying to help them as much as possible," said Motz. "I will continue to help them as long as I am here."

Updates on Recent ISAF Operations

KABUL, Afghanistan - ISAF confirmed an Afghan-international security force killed Zia Ul Haq, a Taliban commander for Arghandab province who is also known as Zia Agha, during a precision airstrike against several insurgents Thursday.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 06.27.2010
Posted: 06.27.2010 06:48

The precision strike also killed Faizullah, a Taliban sub-commander, as he and Zia Agna were emplacing an improvised-explosive device in a road near Kandahar City.

Both Zia Agha and Faizullah were responsible for IED attacks in Arghandab District and Kandahar City. Zia Agha was also involved in several assassination and kidnapping plots over the past year. This operation was originally included in the June 25 IJC Operational Update.

An Afghan-international force conducting drug interdiction operations seized 655 kilograms of opium and 15 kilograms of heroin and detained several individuals in Garm Ser District, Helmand province June 17.

The drugs were discovered hidden inside two trucks, and after further investigation the combined force detained several suspected drug traffickers nearby who appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

The report was held until investigators could positively identify the type of drugs.

Medical personnel from the U.S. Special Operations Forces provided emergency medical treatment to Afghan civilians following yesterday's suicide attack in Tarin Kowt District, Uruzgan province.

Five injured civilians were treated at a coalition medical facility and were in stable condition. The suicide bomber is believed to have been targeting the acting Uruzgan provincial governor who was not harmed in the attack.

This event was initially reported in IJC news release 2010-06-IA-111, "Statement on insurgent attack on civilians in Uruzgan."

June 26, 2010

Truck makeover stuns Marine home on leave

By Abbey Brown Doyle - The (Alexandria, La.) Town Talk
Posted : Saturday Jun 26, 2010 11:12:52 EDT

BOYCE, La. — Lance Cpl. Brad Riddick pulled into his parents’ driveway at 4 a.m., home for the first time after months in Marine Corps training.

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No changes to war plan, Mullen tells Karzai

By Deb Riechmann - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Jun 26, 2010 16:18:48 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen assured Afghanistan’s president on Saturday that newly chosen NATO commander Army Gen. David Petraeus would pursue the policies of his ousted predecessor, whom the Afghan leader warmly praised for reducing civilian casualties.

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Insurgents bully bakeries in Marjah, Afghanistan, targeting U.S. strategy

KABUL, Afghanistan – Four months after a U.S.-led offensive in Marjah, the one-time Taliban stronghold was supposed to have been a showpiece of what Western military might and ramped-up Afghan government services could accomplish.


12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, June 26, 2010
FROM WIRE REPORTS Laura King, Los Angeles Times

Instead, it has become something of a cautionary tale. A virulent campaign of intimidation by insurgents, designed to undermine any return to normal life, has now centered on a particularly humble target: Marjah's bakeries.

"They ordered us to close down," said a baker named Kalim, describing an abduction ordeal this month that left him and a colleague too terrified to return to their brick ovens.

He said the insurgents told them, "You are helping the Americans. Don't reopen, or we will kill you."

The plight of the bakeries illustrates the depth of the challenge faced by Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of Western forces in Afghanistan, when he arrives as soon as next week after his Senate confirmation.

Petraeus will take control of the counterinsurgency strategy laid out by his predecessor, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was fired this week after comments by his aides critical of the civilian chain of command appeared in Rolling Stone magazine.

The U.S. military plan to remake Marjah is emblematic of the strategy. Killing insurgents, this doctrine holds, is not enough. Military victory is meaningless unless the Afghan population is won over. The path to that, the thinking goes, lies in showing people how good government can improve their daily lives.

American civilian and military officials have repeatedly described steady, if slow, progress in Marjah.

"The situation is still difficult in the central Helmand River valley," Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, told reporters in Kabul this week.

About four months ago, he added, "the Taliban flag was flying, Marjah was a center of narco-trafficking" and bomb factories. "It is just taking some time to reverse a situation that was so bad."

Petraeus' other concerns

In some respects, Marjah is little more than a pinpoint in a constellation of urgent needs confronting Petraeus.

This month's Western military death toll in Afghanistan is already the highest of the nearly nine-year war, in which more than 1,700 Western troops have been killed. The insurgency is gaining ground in previously calm areas such as the country's north, and Afghanistan's security forces still appear far from ready to assume responsibility for safeguarding their nation. President Hamid Karzai's government remains widely mistrusted, mainly because of pervasive corruption. Meanwhile, the clock ticks loudly: The start of Petraeus' tenure coincides with the beginning of a yearlong countdown to July 2011, when Obama has promised to begin drawing down U.S. forces.

Marjah and beyond

Marjah was scripted as an unambiguous success story – and in some ways, locals say, life is better than it was during the years that the Afghan government was virtually invisible in people's lives.

But Marjah residents nonetheless cite a familiar refrain of disillusionment with corrupt Afghan police officers, a sense of helpless terror when Taliban fighters leave threatening "night letters" ordering them to desist from simple activities, or the occasional killings of people known to have friendly ties with the still-struggling local Afghan administration.

The unexpected difficulty of establishing security and governance in Marjah has been cited by military officials as reason to proceed cautiously in Kandahar, the much larger hub of Afghanistan's south and the Taliban's self-declared spiritual home.

Although Western troops have already begun to tighten security in Kandahar's outlying districts, it is Petraeus who will take ownership of one of the war's riskiest gambits. Almost everything about Kandahar – its tribal ties and its entrenched criminality and insurgency – is more complex than the situation in Marjah.

And Marjah is proving highly challenging.

Kalim the baker said he was still too frightened to return to his trade, even though his oldest customers have begged him for the fragrant flatbread loaves that are a staple of almost every Afghan meal.

His fellow bakers feel the same way, which is clearly what the insurgents are seeking through systematic efforts to disrupt daily life by threatening people who cooperate with rebuilding the town.

"We have the subgovernor, the police, the Afghan army, the Marines here, and with all these forces they can't destroy the Taliban," Kalim said. "Who will protect us?"

Laura King, Los Angeles Times

MarSOC helps train elite Afghan police

Afghan units to aid in Marjah and Kandahar

By Sean D. Naylor - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Jun 26, 2010 11:27:49 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command is helping prepare elite Afghan police units to support conventional Marine forces operating in Helmand province.

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


Afghan and Coalition Forces Conduct Operations in Western and Southern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces with ISAF partners conducted multiple operations in the western and southern provinces of Afghanistan Friday. These operations were intended to provide increased security to the population.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 06.26.2010
Posted: 06.26.2010 08:24

Yesterday morning in Farah province, an ANSF-led combined force conducted a compound search in the Karez-e Jamal Zal village. A weapons cache, which included six rocket-propelled grenades, a mortar round, and various weapons components and material used in the construction of IED's, was seized by the combined force along with several detainees. Women and children in the compound were protected by the combined force.

In Tughrak, Kandahar province, another ANSF-led combined force provided school materials and reading glasses to villagers. Local villagers identified the need for these materials during a previous visit by the combined force.

In the Rig desert of Kandahar province, a combined force led by Afghan Special Police interdicted narcotics smugglers to disrupt insurgent funding gained through the sale of illegal narcotics. Two men were taken into police custody along with a shotgun, an assault rifle and 1,300 kilograms of opium, all of which was destroyed on site.

“Narcotics production and smuggling provides significant funding for the insurgents. This funding link between insurgents and narcotics networks allows insurgents to procure materials used to construct bombs, which injure on the people of Afghanistan. Afghan and ISAF forces will continue to target the links between the narcotics networks and the insurgents,” said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, an ISAF Joint Command spokesman.

No civilians were injured in any of these operations.

IJC Operational Update, June 26

KABUL- An Afghan-international security force killed the senior Taliban commander in northern Logar province last night.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 06.26.2010
Posted: 06.26.2010 02:36
Kevin Bell, ISAF Joint Command PAO

Intelligence sources tracked Ghulam Sakhi to a compound near the village of Qal-eh Saber, Pul-e 'Alam district, where the combined force went to apprehend him.

Afghan forces used a loudspeaker and called for women and children to exit the building. As they were exiting, Sakhi came out with the group disguised in women's attire and pulled out a pistol and a grenade and shot at the security force. When Afghan and coalition forces shot him he dropped the grenade and it detonated wounding a woman and two children. The assault force immediately evacuated the wounded for medical care.

Sakhi, who is known by several aliases, was involved in improvised explosive device attacks, ambushes and indirect fire attacks throughout the province. He also kidnapped and killed a National Directorate of Security chief in Logar province.

After securing the compound the assault force detained several suspected insurgents for questioning.

Afghan and coalition forces realize women and children present during these offensive operations are often innocent bystanders to the insurgent activities taking place inside their homes. The security force goes to great lengths to respect Afghan customs and protect them throughout their searches.

An Afghan-international security force killed several insurgents with a precision airstrike in Zabul province last night in continuing operations aimed at dismantling IED cells operating in the Mizan and Tarnak Wa Jaldak districts.

The cells are directly responsible for multiple IED attacks along Highway 1, also known as ring road, resulting in the death or injury of Afghan civilians and Afghan and international forces.

The combined security force verified insurgent activity, and after careful planning in order to avoid civilian casualties and mitigate collateral damage, called in the airstrike on the insurgents in the remote area outside the village of Mianehshakh in Tarnak Wa Jaldak district.

After the air strike the combined security force went to the area and found IED materials including multiple blasting caps and an IED initiator, multiple automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades and launchers. The weapons were destroyed at the scene.

According to a recently released U.N. report, there was a 94 percent increase in IED attacks in the first four months of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009.

"These incidents highlight the insurgents for what they really are. They use cowardly tactics to protect themselves, and to attack Afghan civilians and Afghan and international forces. Their indiscriminate use of IEDs means that nearly one third of all casualties caused by the devices are innocent civilians," said Col. William Maxwell, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director.

"With each insurgent Afghan and international forces capture we are one step closer to making Afghanistan safer for its people," added Maxwell.

Statement on Insurgent Attack on Civilians in Uruzgan

KABUL- The killing yesterday of several children by an insurgent suicide bomber in Tarin Kowt is the third recent example of the insurgents' total disregard for the future of Afghanistan in Uruzgan province.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 06.26.2010
Posted: 06.26.2010 08:37

According to provincial officials, the children were killed when a suicide bomber tried unsuccessfully to assassinate the acting provincial governor near a vehicle checkpoint.

"The Taliban continues to offer no governance or hope for Afghanistan's future, only death and destruction," said Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, ISAF Joint Command spokesperson. "The insurgents leave no question about their vision for Afghanistan - they offer brutality, inhumanity, fear and uncertainty."

The United Nations recently reported that suicide attacks occur at a rate of about three per week, half of which occur in the southern region of Afghanistan. ISAF remains committed to its mission to partner with the Afghan Security Forces to protect the Afghan people.

Eliminating the indiscriminate suicide attack threat to civilians and military forces is a key focus for our operations.

June 25, 2010

Marine corporal from San Jose dies in Afghanistan

SAN JOSE, Calif. — SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - The aunt of a 23-year-old Marine corporal from San Jose who was killed in Afghanistan says the family worried about him and told him about the dangers of military service.


* Posted June 25, 2010 at 7:38 a.m., updated June 25, 2010 at 2:09 p.m.

But she says Kevin Cueto would respond that if he was going to die, he "wanted to go out for his country and for his family."

The Defense Department says Cueto died Tuesday in the southwestern province of Helmand when a roadside bomb went off.

Cueto, a rifleman, was on his second combat deployment since he joined the Marines in 2005 after graduating from Westmont High School in Campbell. He served in Iraq in 2009.

Cueto was assigned to a unit based at Twentynine Palms in San Bernardino County.

His aunt, Maria Cueto, says Kevin's father is in Delaware on Friday awaiting the arrival of his son's body.

Flags at half-staff for Yorba Linda Marine

YORBA LINDA – Flags will fly at half-staff in Yorba Linda through next week in honor of Marine Cpl. Claudio Patiño IV, who was killed in action Tuesday in Afghanistan.



Published: June 24, 2010
Updated: June 25, 2010 4:28 p.m.

The Yorba Linda resident was killed by small-arms fire during combat in Helmand Province, according to the Department of Defense.

Patiño, who signed up for the Marines shortly after graduating from El Dorado High School in 2006, was on his third overseas deployment.

"He was a Marine to the core," said Patiño's brother, Marlon Chinchilla. "He died the way he wanted to die. He died a warrior, and he really believed in fighting for his country."

The 22-year-old was deployed to Iraq in 2008; in 2009, he received a combat-action medal during a tour in Afghanistan.

His battalion, based at Twentynine Palms, was deployed to Afghanistan in the end of March to assist with general combat operations, train and equip Afghan security forces, and suppress the Taliban, Marine spokesman Lt. Kenneth Kunze said.

Another Marine from Patiño's battalion, Cpl. Kevin A. Cueto of San Jose, was killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday in a separate combat incident.

Patiño was married; he did not have children.

A memorial, originally planned for Sunday, is now scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in El Dorado High School's gym, at 1651 Valencia Ave., El Dorado Assistant Principal John Bellows said. A military memorial service will be held at a future date. Monday's event is a more informal remembrance, Bellows said.

Anyone wishing to pay their respects is welcome to attend, Chinchilla said.

The family plans to set up a charity in Patiño's name to send care packages to members of the military in Afghanistan. The family is asking that in lieu of flowers or cards, mourners wait and donate to the charity.

Information about further public services will be announced after Patiño's family gets information on when his casket will return.

Patiño was the third Marine from Yorba Linda killed in Afghanistan this year. Sgt. Major Robert Cottle and Lance Cpl. Rick Centanni were killed March 24 in Helmand Province by an improvised explosive device.

Contact the writer: 714-704-3719 [email protected]

Anatomy of a Taliban Ambush

Taliban Ambush Teams Attack Marine Patrol as It Returns to Base Outside Marja

In Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province this morning, a Marine squad headed into one of the Marja district's many villages looking to make friends.


MARJA, Afghanistan, June 25, 2010

"With us out here, it lets the locals know we are on their side," said Sgt. Travis Dawson, squad leader of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. "We can help them."

But on the streets, they were met with an icy reception. As Dawson spoke to ABC News, a villager slammed a door shut and loudly bolted the lock. Another told the Marines that everyone was at work, and then he rushed off.

Locals that did accept help from the Americans seemed fearful. Children hesitantly took stuffed animals that were handed to them, and an old man rolled away a blanket that was given to him, afraid to accept anything.

The Marines noticed a man down the road watching them, and two residents quietly and almost secretively indicated that the Taliban were watching.

"This doesn't feel right," one Marine said to another.

The air thick with tension, the squad started to head back to base rather than get caught up in a conflict.

Restrictive Rules for Marines in Afghanistan

In a counterinsurgency fight, the rules of engagement for Marines are restrictive, and the Taliban knows it.

"They have to shoot at us first," Dawson said as he walked.

Just a few steps later, shots rang out.

"Where's that coming from?" shouted a Marine. "Is that direct north or northeast?"

"Oh s**t. F***," said another. "Looks like it's coming from both sides."

Everytime the Marines moved, the Taliban took aim, firing from multiple directions. One small team shot at the Marines while another moved around, assuming the next attack position.

The squad slowly ratcheted up their response, launching a grenade and silencing the Taliban's gunfire. As quickly as it started, it appeared to be over.

"You hear that whiz? That's a ricochet going through the trees and that's the round spinning," said Lance Corporal Michael Aquaviva.

But the Taliban wasn't done yet. The sound of incoming bullets filled the air again.

Inside a Firefight in Afghanistan

"Here we go again. Here we go. F**k this s**t. F**k this s**t," said a Marine.

The snap of gunfire could be heard everywhere, and finally, the squad called in support. Heavily armored vehicles called MRAPs arrived and the Taliban vanished.

U.S. forces face the threat of this type of harassing fire everytime they leave base. They can be handing out toys to children one second, then taking fire the next.

Gates: U.S. not stuck in neutral in Kandahar

By Jim Michaels - USA Today
Posted : Friday Jun 25, 2010 12:16:08 EDT

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that the United States and its allies are not “bogged down” in Afghanistan despite the delay of a planned offensive in the southern city of Kandahar. The remarks come one day after President Obama relieved the commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and nominated Army Gen. David Petraeus to replace him.

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Mullen seeks to reassure allies after shakeup

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Jun 25, 2010 18:23:21 EDT

During a planned trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen will be reassuring U.S. commanders and allies that the Obama administration remains committed to the tough fight to pacify and rebuild Afghanistan.

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Hawaii Marine awarded Bronze Star Medal with Combat V

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII — Editor’s note: this is the second installment of a two-part series on heroism.

Cpl. Marc Anthony Madding, formerly a mortarman with Weapons platoon, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device June 3 for “heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy as an Embedded Advisor, Embedded Training Team 5-4, 201st Corps, Afghanistan National Army, on 23 December 2008, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.”


6/25/2010 By Lance Cpl. Reece E. Lodder , Marine Corps Base Hawaii

It was a challenging situation.

Madding and fellow Marine, Capt. John Farris, officer in charge, Korengal Outpost, ETT 5-4, were providing security in the northern part of the village Darbart, Korengal Valley, Kunar province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 23, 2008, when the call came.

Three soldiers had received gunshot wounds and required medical assistance. The two men’s eyes met and without a word, they began sprinting toward the casualties. Their combat lifesaver training was about to be put to the test.

Exposing themselves to heavy enemy fire across open terrain, Madding and Farris trudged 500 meters uphill toward the casualties.

After establishing security around the wounded soldiers, Madding assessed their injuries and treated the most serious first. A soldier had received a severe gunshot wound to his back. Madding administered aid, moved on to the next casualties and conducted a call for fire to suppress two enemy fighting positions.

“All I was worried about was making sure those guys were alright,” Madding said. “In the situation, you don’t really think about anything else.”

Madding called for a medical evacuation for the three casualties, each of which required urgent surgical attention. He held security until the MEDEVAC arrived and pulled the soldiers to safety. Upon the successful evacuation, he and Farris re-linked with the patrol and resumed their mission. The event occurred one month and four days into the 10-month deployment.

Returning from the deployment Sept. 4, 2008, Madding took up duties as the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer (HEAT) and mine resistant ambush protected egress trainer (MET) noncommissioned officer in charge, 3rd Marine Regiment.

“I worked there and at the ISMT [Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer] to pass on to the junior Marines the knowledge I’d attained in the last five and a half years,” Madding said. “By training them, my goal was to help them save their own or somebody else’s life.”

While theory and book knowledge are important, they don’t compare to firsthand knowledge and experience, Madding said. According to his peers, he’s got both.

“Cpl. Madding kept a level head and was technically and tactically proficient at what he did, whether that was calling in a fire mission or directing the ANA [Afghanistan National Army],” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Murray, a training and operations clerk with 3rd Marine Regiment.

Murray spent nearly a year and a half working alongside Madding as a squad leader and platoon sergeant advisor for ETT 5-4 — through the predeployment training and the 10-month deployment. Madding’s leadership, training, previous combat experience in Iraq, and an ability to remain calm under pressure enabled him to perform in the capacity he did, Murray said.

A little over a year after returning from Afghanistan, in December 2009, Madding learned he’d been approved for and would be receiving the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device. Farris submitted him for the award.

“When I found out I was actually receiving it, the ‘wow’ factor really kicked in,” Madding said. “I knew this kind of award is given out gingerly. It was satisfying what we did wasn’t overlooked.”

At the end of the ETT deployment, Madding received a Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device for his overall effort during the deployment.

He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device in a ceremony at 3rd Marine Regiment headquarters on Marine Corps Base Hawaii June 3. It was presented by Col. James W. Bierman, regimental commanding officer, and Sgt. Maj. Paul G. McKenna, regimental sergeant major. Both Marines are Bronze Star Medal recipients.

Moving his stare from across the room, Madding said, “I’m very honored. I understand the volume of what I did and appreciate the recognition, but I was just doing my job and what needed to be done.”

Growing up, Madding used to watch World War II movies and said he idolized the military heroes. “To realize I’m right there in history with other Marines and know I was able to contribute to something good is definitely one of the most proud feelings ever,” he said.

Madding’s enlistment extension expires July 23. He plans to attend college heading into the world of business and investing.

Within his intricate tattoos lie the words, “Fortuna Fortes Juvat,” or Latin for “fortune favors the brave.” The motto, which he borrowed from 3rd Marine Regiment, reminds him about his experiences and how fortune isn’t about wealth and power, Madding said.

“When you’re forced to act on a certain level of bravery, you learn to appreciate life a lot more,” Madding explained. “It’s really taught me to pay attention to everything else and not focus on myself.”

The Marine has faithfully served his country and Corps and the ink on his body — whether the elaborate art or the names of his fallen brothers — ensures these memories will never fade away.

Some will label him a hero but Madding is insistent he’s not. “I didn’t do any of these things for the awards,” he said. “It was for the benefit of other people.”

Marine's brief time with Marine company brings long-lasting bond

Lima Company of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Corps Regiment had a storied history in Vietnam. From Operation Hastings in 1966 to the Battle for Hue in 1968 to the end of Marine Corps combat operations in 1971, Lima was in the thick of things. Its veterans have a reunion every year, and this year it's in St. Louis.


Bill McClellan • [email protected] > 314-340-8143 | Posted: Friday, June 25, 2010 12:05 am |

Going on right now, actually.

Dan Nordmann of Bridgeton is this year's host.

He is an unlikely host. Everybody he knows from Lima Company he knows from previous reunions, not from Vietnam.

"They're great guys," he told me when I visited the hospitality room at the Millennium Hotel Wednesday afternoon.

But none of them are old friends. He spent almost his entire time in Vietnam with a different unit. As far as Vietnam goes, he remembers only one man from Lima Company. That would be a corpsman, "Doc" Murphy.

If Nordmann is an unlikely host, he was also an unlikely candidate to be a Marine. He had polio as a child, and the right side of his face is partially paralyzed. He can't see well out of his right eye. He could easily have avoided military service.

Moreover, his original plan was to be a priest.

He grew up in Pagedale. After graduating from a Catholic grade school, he attended Del Bufalo, a high school seminary in Liberty, Mo. He graduated in the spring of 1967 and enrolled at St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Ind. That school, founded and supported by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, represented the next step toward the priesthood.

"Sometime that summer, I just decided I was tired of school," Nordmann said.

He went to see a Marine Corps recruiter. He was thinking that maybe he could get training as an airplane mechanic. The recruiter advised him against it. Getting a job like that would mean a four-year commitment. He might have to do two tours in Vietnam. If he were willing to go into the infantry, he could get a two-year enlistment. Then he'd only have to go to Vietnam once.

That seemed to make sense, so Nordmann signed up for the two-year hitch.

He became a machine gunner.

He arrived in Vietnam in February 1968. He was assigned to Fox Company of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Marines.

He stayed with Fox Company until September 1968 when the 27th was rotated back to the states. Nordmann still had five months to go in Vietnam so he was transferred to Lima Company.

He joined Lima on Sept. 11, and was wounded two days later on Friday the 13th. Two North Vietnamese soldiers popped out of a spider hole, fired a few rounds and ducked back down. Nordmann was only about 15 yards from the hole, but didn't want to use a machine gun because there were Marines on the other side of it. As he prepared to throw a grenade at the hole, one of the North Vietnamese popped up and fired a burst at him. "I could see the whites of his eye," said Nordmann.

A round tore into the left side of his neck and exited under his right shoulder blade.

The corpsman, "Doc" Murphy, scrambled over to him. "Can you move?" Murphy asked. "Yes," said Nordmann. To everybody's amazement, including his own, Nordmann was able to walk.

Still, the wound was serious enough that he was sent to Guam. "You've got a ticket home," the doctor said when he inspected the wound. But after about a month, Nordmann had recovered sufficiently to be sent back to Vietnam. He was on his third day back with Lima when the company came under mortar fire. Nordmann hit the ground and put his arms over his head. A piece of shrapnel tore into his side.

Murphy put a bandage on it, and told him he'd be on the first medevac chopper out. "I'm not hurt that bad," said Nordmann. "You don't understand," said Murphy. "This company isn't good for you."

The wound was serious enough to keep Nordmann in the hospital for a couple of weeks and then he was sent home.

He became an electrician and he raised a family. In 1999, he put his name on a Marine Corps website, and he listed the various units he had been with, including Lima. A veteran from Lima contacted him about a reunion. "I was only with Lima for six days," said Nordmann. "An hour is enough," said the man.

So he went to the reunion in 1999, and he has been going to them ever since. He even met his former company commander, who showed him a diary entry from the day he was shot: "One of the new guys took a round in the neck, but strangely enough, I think he is going to be okay."

That nameless new guy is now the host of the reunion. The only shame is that "Doc" Murphy couldn't make it to St. Louis. He'd have seen he was wrong. Lima Company was good for Nordmann.

Hospital Corpsmen celebrate 112 years of history, healing

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — Community members gathered at the Club Iwakuni Eagles Nest here to commemorate the 112th birthday of the Hospital Corpsman, June 18.


6/25/2010 By Lance Cpl. Claudio A. Martinez , Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

They spent the evening celebrating the Naval corpsman history and traditions while honoring their fallen comrades.

“I think this was an outstanding opportunity to show our pride for our job,” said Petty Officer 3rd class Anthony Cooper, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron medical readiness representative and Hospital Corpsman Ball attendee.

“I think it’s great that we not only have other rates from the Navy but we have Marines here to celebrate, and that’s a big thing for us because we work hand in hand with Marines.”

As long as the United States has been involved in war, there has always been a need for medical personnel on the field of battle.

Although the need was there, it was’nt properly addressed with personnel who were trained specifically for medical treatment on the field.

The need for a skilled group of trained medical professionals in the field of battle became more apparent as the methods of killing in warfare advanced during the late 1800s.

With the threat of the Spanish-American War, Congress approved a bill which created the naval rates of hospital apprentice, hospital apprentice first class and hospital steward on June 17, 1898, officially bringing the hospital corpsman to birth.

Station corpsman remembered and honored that long history as they observed a moment of silence for past corpsman and reaffirmed their commitment to being a corpsman by reciting the corpsman’s pledge.

“(Being a corpsman) means a lot (to me),” said Cooper. “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here about what a corpsman is.

Being a corpsman, you got to be able to take care of yourself as well as your Marines and sailors.

You got to have that pride and professionalism about yourself at all times and be able to handle yourself so you can take care of the rest of the populace.”

During the ball, station members observed a cake cutting ceremony, which involved Chief Adrian Figueroa, Hospital Corpsman Ball guest speaker, Chief Simeon Cadavos, oldest corpsman present at the ball, and Seaman Zachary Hallowood, youngest corpsman present.

Figueroa cut the cake and passed a slice to Cadavos, who took a bite and then symbolically passed the slice along with their long history to Hallowood.

Figueroa said being a corpsman and having the honor of carrying the history and responsibility of a corpsman fills him with an indescribable feeling.

“I can’t put it into words,” said Figueroa. “It’s just the compassion.”

Road to Navy Corpsman provides insight in Naval history

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — Back in the early 1800s, Navy medical assistants were randomly assigned out of the ship’s company.


6/25/2010 By Lance Cpl. Marcel Brown , Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

These individuals were responsible for keeping irons hot and buckets of sand prepared for any battle injuries the ship mates might experience.

In those days, amputations were a commonly used solution for large wounds.

During these procedures, irons were used to close wounds, and sand was used to keep the surgeon from slipping on the victim’s blood.

Over the years, these assistants have been referred to as loblolly boys, nurses, baymen and surgeon’s stewards, but in our day and age we refer to them as Navy corpsmen, the guardians of the backbone of Marine Corps and Navy health care.

The hospital corpsmen have many jobs and responsibilities, including assisting health care professionals in providing proper medical attention to sailors and their families, assisting in preventing and treating diseases and injury, serving as medical or administrative personnel, functioning as clinical or specialty technicians, functioning as health care providers at medical treatment facilities and providing health care services to Marines in garrison and in combat environments.

“There’s always that day where something different comes up and you have to be able to adapt to that, stay on your toes and make sure you don’t make any mistakes,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Cooper, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron medical readiness representative.

Navy corpsmen go through four months of hands-on basic training in the Naval Hospital Corps School, located in Great Lakes, Ill., which is one of the Navy’s primary rating training schools.

“We do what basically other medics can’t do,” said Seaman Richard Grassley, Branch Health Clinic immunization work center supervisor. “They have to go to other schools to learn everything. We learn it all in one school.”

After completing the Naval Hospital Corps School, corpsmen are given the Navy Enlisted Classification code HM-0000 or quad zero, and they can be assigned anywhere from Naval hospitals and clinics, aboard ships or Marine Corps bases as primary caregivers on.

“They are an asset to the Marine Corps,” said Lance Cpl. Hewan Musie, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron administrator. “They look out for the wellbeing of the Marines.”

Being constantly involved with Marines, corpsmen sometimes have to abide by Marine Corps regulations and physical standards.

“I think corpsmen have a lot of pride in what they do, and the way I look at it is I have to be better than every Marine I’m taking care of or at least a majority of them,” said Cooper.

“If I’m not physically ready or mentally ready, then I can’t take care of people, so I have to take care of myself so I can take care of others,” said Cooper.

Since corpsmen are the primary medical caregivers to Marines, they constantly deploy with Marines, but not all corpsmen are eligible to deploy into combat environments.

In order to be eligible to deploy in support of troops in combat, corpsmen have to complete more specialized training in addition to their basic training, such as Field Medical Training.

Once a corpsman completes one of the specialized training courses or “C schools,” the NEC they’ve earned at that school becomes their primary NEC and their previous NEC as HM-0000 becomes their secondary NEC.

After all their training and course completions, corpsmen are usually assigned based on where their knowledge and skills are most needed around the military.

Although it is a demanding job, both Grassley and Cooper said they have both enjoy being Navy corpsmen, and they enjoy doing their everyday duties.

“I love it; it’s been a great opportunity not only to learn but just to meet a diverse group of people,” said Cooper.

Every military installation has health care providers, every military installation has health clinics, every military has doctors, but not every military installation has Navy corpsmen, and for Marines, the services the Navy corpsmen provide keeps troops physically prepared to go to or remain in the fight.

Four Twentynine Palms Marines killed this month in Afghanistan

Men died in separate incidents during June

Military officials Thursday announced the deaths of four Marines based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms who were killed this month while serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.


Colin Atagi • The Desert Sun • June 25, 2010

According to the U.S. Department of Defense:

Cpl. Claudio Patino IV, 22, of Orange County died Tuesday.

He was shot while conducting “dismounted combat operations” against enemy forces, according to officials.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Patino enlisted in the Marine Corps July 26, 2006. He was on his third deployment after serving in Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2009.

Cpl. Kevin Cueto, 23, of San Jose died Tuesday in an explosion, officials said.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps Aug. 15, 2005, and was on his second deployment after serving in Iraq in 2009.

Cueto was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Lance Cpl. Michael Bailey, 29, of Park Hills, Mo., died June 16, but details on his death were not available Thursday.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Cpl. Jeffrey Standfest, 23, of St. Clair, Mich., also died June 16. The California governor's office has said Standfest was supporting combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, but other details on his death were not available.

He was assigned to 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

The last death of a Twentynine Palms Marine occurred Feb. 19 in Farah Province, Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Since June 2008, at least 23 Marines from Twentynine Palms have died during the war.

IJC Operational Update, June 25

KABUL - An Afghan-international security force killed several insurgents, including Faizullah, a Taliban sub-commander, as the insurgents were placing an improvised explosive device on a road near Kandahar City yesterday.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.25.2010
Posted: 06.25.2010 03:50

Faizullah was responsible for previous IED attacks in Arghandab district and was believed to be responsible for the death of at least one coalition soldier in March.

The combined force witnessed a group of individuals setting an IED, and after they verified no civilians were at risk, called for a precision strike from coalition aircraft.

Following the airstrike, the security force went to the IED site and was immediately engaged by insurgents staged in prepared defensive positions. The ground force returned accurate fire, killing several insurgents. They also found and destroyed the already emplaced IED and confirmed the deaths of the insurgents from the earlier precision airstrike.

In Khost province last night, another combined security force captured a Haqqani network facilitator linked to multiple IED attacks throughout the province.

The assault force detained the facilitator without incident while searching a series of compounds near the village of Batah Kheyl, Terazayi district.

Afghan and international forces have been involved in intense engagements with the Haqqani network along the Khost-Gardez pass over the past couple of weeks. Several insurgent commanders and a large number of insurgents have been killed during the operations.

A large number of insurgents were killed when an Afghan-international patrol came under attack by an estimated 50 insurgents and called in a precision airstrike, in Qadis district, Badghis province, yesterday.

"Insurgent networks callously use IEDs and other indiscriminate acts, in their campaign of terror. Thirty percent of IED strikes harm civilians, and each successful operation places greater pressure on the insurgents and helps improve the lives of the Afghans we are serving," said Col. William Maxwell, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director.

Afghan National Security Forces with ISAF partners conducted an operation Wednesday night in Trek Nawa, east of Marjah, in Helmand province to increase security to the Afghan population by disrupting a network known to supply explosives and other material used in constructing roadside bombs.

As the Afghan-led force approached the compound housing insurgents, two armed individuals presented a direct threat and were killed. Afghan Special Police ensured all remaining residents left the compound safely. Several women and children were protected, and two men were taken into police custody.

"In the last 12 weeks, insurgents have increased the number of civilian casualties they caused mainly by their use of indiscriminate tactics like IEDs and suicide bombings," said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, an ISAF Joint Command spokesman. "This operation was aimed directly at preventing insurgents from being supplied with material to conduct those attacks."

No civilians were reported harmed in any of these operations.

Cpl. Jeffrey Robert Standfest, USMC In Memory

Cpl. Jeffrey Robert Standfest was a natural leader whose winning presence allowed him to take control of various situations with ease. Equipped with a clear and calculating focus, he possessed a tough-minded, "take charge" attitude. He had the ability to make even routine situations seem exciting, and he was at ease with the role of playing problem solver. Jeffrey always sought out the scene of where the action was. Sociable, analytical and pleasant, Jeffrey was an individual who enjoyed life's challenges.



Jeffrey was born on April 24, 1987 at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. His parents are Timothy and Karen Standfest. Jeffrey was raised in St. Clair, Michigan. Always able to express himself well, Jeffrey possessed strong interpersonal skills. He was optimistic in his outlook on life and was able at all times to be open and direct in his communication. Armed with a great wit, Jeffrey was raised to be accepting of others and to implement a strong personal work ethic.

Blessed with a balanced attitude, Jeffrey was able to relate well with others. His occasional role as family mediator gave him the opportunity to ease tense situations when they occurred. Jeffrey was raised with one sibling, his younger sister, Jaclyn. Jeffrey had a strong desire to be treated fairly and would readily offer others the same fairness in return.

As a young child, Jeffrey showed his creative ability in many ways. He was outgoing and animated. Jeffrey enjoyed new activities and pursued a variety of interests. He took part in baseball, snow skiing, hockey, track, and cross country. He was a Cub Scout. Jeffrey's memorable achievements included Middle School Science Fair-1st Place.

Known to others as a focused, logical, open-minded and somewhat driven individual, Jeffrey was able to utilize these qualities to succeed in high school. His curious nature was spurred by his ability to maximize his personal learning style through employing a hands-on approach. He was good with facts and had an excellent memory. He graduated from St. Clair High School in 2005. He enjoyed some courses more than others, having favorite classes and teachers. His favorite class in high school was History. The teacher he enjoyed learning from the most was Jon Davidson. In High School he received many awards, including Academic Honors and Academic All State, All Blue Water Area Runner, All League, All Area, All State, and MAC Champ in Track and Cross Country. Plus many other awards and honors.

When the goal of college was in sight, it became important to Jeffrey. Again, his direct, "down to earth" approach served him well. He was able to absorb complex concepts and had an acute sense of how things worked. Jeffrey wanted to be a Marine and was planning to go to Officer Candidate School (OCS) after attaining his Bachelors Degree in the Uunited States Marine Corps. His favorite courses were History and Literature. Mid-Con Champs with Oakland University Cross Country.

Friends and acquaintances found Jeffrey an easy man to get to know, and those close to him would often praise his open, practical style of communication and relaxed approach to life in general. Jeffrey was uncomplicated and straightforward in his relationships, which allowed him to accept people for what they were. Jeffrey had many friends, he got along well with many boys and girls.

Jeffrey was currently serving with the United States Marine Corps. Jeffrey was a cool thinker who could handle himself well in a crisis. He was stationed at Twentynine Palms, California and Afghanistan. Jeffrey saw action in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He achieved the rank of Corporal. He received several awards including Plank Owner and Purple Heart. He showed leadership qualities and could make tough decisions when he was called upon to do so.

Jeffrey enjoyed his leisure time by taking part in various hobbies. He had something of an artistic flair in many of the things that he did. He put this creativity toward all of his pastimes. His favorite pursuits were playing guitar and writing funny songs. He was content to enjoy his hobbies alone but was also willing to share his interests with others.

Because he liked to take risks, Jeffrey was a perfect match for athletics and exercise. He was enthusiastic and confident about these activities. In high school, Jeffrey ran track, cross country, played baseball and hockey. In his college years, Jeffrey continued to run track and cross country. Recreational sports included downhill snow skiing. Jeffrey was also something of a sports fan and enjoyed watching his favorite events whenever he got the opportunity. Tops on his list were baseball games at Comerica Park.

Jeffrey held close traditional values and as a result, faith was important to him. He was a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Clair, Michigan. During that time, he was a kitchen helper at the Sauerkraut Dinners.

Travel and vacations were experiences that Jeffrey truly enjoyed. He preferred to seek out excitement wherever he went and he was partial to vacations that were casual and laid back with an atmosphere of "live and let live." He was willing to leave his plans open and flexible, just in case something more interesting came along. Favorite vacations included snow skiing trips to Colorado, Utah, and New England all areas.

Jeffrey was a lover of animals and cherished his pets. One of Jeffrey's favorites was Buddy, a beagle mix. They were best friends for 14 years.

Jeffrey was killed in action on June 16, 2010 at Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He fought brave battles with the United States Marine Corps, with Ruppert (his K-9 partner) and with his many fellow Marines. He is survived by his parents Timothy and Karen Standfest, his sister Jaclyn. Grandson of Bernadette and the late Andrew O'Hara, Robert and the late Gladys Standfest. Nephew of Patricia (Alan) Dunbar, Robert (Lynn) Standfest, and Steven (Beth) Standfest. Jeffrey is also survived by several cousins. Visitation is Thursday June, 24, from 4-9:00PM, Friday, June 25 from 2-9:00PM at Resurrection Funeral Home, 40800 Hayes Road, Clinton Township. A funeral service will be held at Immanuel Lutheran Church 47120 Romeo Plank Road (at 21 Mile Road) Macomb Township on Saturday, June 26 with visitation at the church starting at 12Noon until time of service at 1:00PM. Interment will be at The Veterans and Fallen Heroes section of Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township, Michigan. In lieu of flowers memorials to the USO would be appreciated.

Jeffrey was the kind of person who could win others over easily. A concrete communicator, he relied on his senses to increase his involvement and awareness of others. He was always able to provide amusing repartee to his friends and acquaintances, offering a seemingly endless supply of quips, anecdotes, jokes and stories. If Jeffrey had a theme song written about him, it might well have been "Don't Worry, Be Happy." He enjoyed his life and the experience of living it. This is how everyone will remember Cpl. Jeffrey Robert Standfest

Small Projects Reap Large Gains

PATROL BASE MINDEN, Helmand province, Afghanistan – An old saying goes, ‘good things come in small packages,’ but in the isolated, rural villages of Afghanistan the saying is, ‘good things come in small projects.’



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: 06.25.2010
Posted: 06.25.2010 05:35

Local Afghans, with support from the Marines of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, are planning small projects that will improve the quality of life for many local Afghans in the district of Musa Qal’eh.

One of the first projects to be done will be the construction of much needed repairs to the Yatimchay Road. The paved roads will aid in the safer travels of both local Afghan residents and Marines.

“It will help limit improvised explosive devices,” said Maj. Anthony Aragon, the civil affairs team leader with 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2. “This road will also allow them to travel to Musa Qal’eh easier so they can sell their goods at the bazaar.”

Providing aid is the root cause of most civil affairs projects.

“We want to help enhance their economy and show them their government wants to as well,” said Aragon, a 38-year-old native of Salt Lake City.

Other projects called micro-grants are a big boost to the economy, Aragon said. Micro-grants are similar to small business loans given to Afghans who own a business they would like to expand.
“These businessmen are excited to look at a better future,” Aragon said. “We just give them a little money and guidance and their entrepreneurial spirit does the rest.”

While projects often make the locals favor the Marines, favor is not the goal.

“We tie everything back to the Afghan government,” Aragon said. “We want the people to know that there government and local governor care about them.”

The rural areas of Afghanistan are occasionally overlooked, but according to Aragon, the small projects in outlying areas are just as important as the larger projects in major cities.

“We are keeping things small here at first,” Aragon said. “We hope to empower them to do greater things on their own.”

Even though projects are done solely to benefit the Afghans, there are tactical benefits as well.

“Once the people realize we are here to help them, they want the projects to continue,” said Cpl. Cameron Brainard, a civil affairs team member with 1st Bn., 2nd Marines. “The best way to do that is to keep the Taliban out.”

Brainard also said the Afghans want to build relationships with the Marines through aiding them. The ultimate goal in these areas is to complete projects and teach the Afghans to protect them, Aragon added.

“We are seeing the positive change here,” Aragon said. “They see us as a positive [partner] and take ownership of what they have.”

Afghan contractors and workers finished the few projects Marines have funded ahead of schedule; a good sign for things to come, Brainard concluded.

Small and large scale projects will continue throughout Helmand province, and the Marines believe they are the key to success in Afghanistan.

Injured Marine determined to adjust to new prosthetic feet

An area Marine is adjusting to new prosthetic feet while working to get the pieces of his life together.


By Laurie Ritger • The Reporter [email protected] • June 25, 2010

Lance Cpl. Josh Wege spent about a month at his parents' Waucousta home in April and then returned to Washington, D.C., where he continues to receive therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Josh needed surgery to have some bone growth removed and then was fitted with a "new set of legs," said father, David Wege.

"These are some pretty high-tech legs," David said. "He's running with them and can do a half-mile at a time."

His son also rehabilitates by hitting softballs at a batting cage.

"He wants to be back in Wisconsin playing some softball and I think it's possible," David Wege said. "I've seen him on video, fielding grounders."

After the surgery, David reported that his son needed a month to recuperate and was in a wheelchair the entire time.

"When he got back (to Walter Reed), his therapists told him he was going to have to relearn balance and walking with crutches," he said. "He (Josh) looked at them, looked at the crutches and got up and walked away under his own power."

Josh Wege was seriously wounded Oct. 4, 2009, while serving in Afghanistan. A vehicle he was riding in was struck by an improvised explosive devise. Injuries to his lower legs and feet were so severe that doctors were not able to save them.

Wege has been featured in a number of stories as The Reporter has followed the Winnebago Lutheran Academy graduate's recovery.

Right now, Josh is waiting for the Marine Corps to spell out options regarding his future.

"He's not a guy to sit behind a desk," David Wege said. "If the Marines don't pan out, he said he may go to school to be a prosthetist" — someone who assists persons needing a prosthetic limb.

Josh told his dad that he believes he could help wounded soldiers and inspire them to get their lives back.

He has been checking into a program offered by Northwestern University in which some of the studies could take place at home, through online classes.

David Wege said watching his son's progress eight months after losing his lower legs and feet sometimes moves him to tears.

"He's become a symbol in our community," he said of his son's determination. "This was a terrible blow for a 19-year-old kid. (But) he's a guy with a bright, bright future."

Beheaded bodies found in Afghanistan

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Jun 25, 2010 9:27:54 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — The bodies of 11 men, some beheaded, were found Friday in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, police said.

To read the entire article:


Fallen Yorba Linda Marine wanted to return to war

YORBA LINDA – Marine Cpl. Claudio Patiño IV had been home from Afghanistan for only few weeks when he started talking about going back.


Published: June 25, 2010

The 22-year-old scout sniper returned from deployment in December 2009, and soon paid a visit to the mother of a fallen Anaheim Marine, Lance Cpl. Justin Swanson. He told her he wanted to go back to avenge her son.

The Yorba Linda native requested a special transfer so that he could redeploy. He left for Afghanistan on March 31 and was killed by small-arms fire during combat in Helmand Province on Tuesday.

"These guys get so close, it's like no other bond you've ever seen," Swanson's mother, Mary Hargrove said.

He was the third Marine from Yorba Linda killed in Afghanistan this year.

Members of Patiño's large, close-knit, family said Friday they were coping with his loss through the knowledge that he died doing what he treasured.

"There is no greater honor than to die the way he did," brother Andrew Parada said. "That's the way a true warrior thinks when they go into battle, that they might not come back."

Patiño, the U.S.-born son of a Mexican immigrant father from Guadalajara, came from family with a strong tradition of military service in Mexico. He started talking about becoming a Marine soon after he learned how to walk.

"He would walk around with a toy gun screaming, 'I am a Marine,' in Spanish," Parada, said.

As kids, Patiño and Parada would sneak out the house at night, playing in nearby Hurless Barton Park, pretending that they were ancient warriors in the woods, coyotes their terrible foe.

He was a tough kid. He started a fight club as a teenager, meeting with friends in the park after his mother banned fighting in the house. He was the kind of guy who always won at a fight, but would stick around to help the other guy up. Because of that, his foes often became his friends.

Patiño was athletic. He loved to be outdoors, running in Carbon Canyon or camping in Yosemite. He was popular in high school and did well on the wrestling team, but his grades were mediocre at best, family said. Still, when he set his mind to something nothing could stand in his way.

He achieved his dream of joining the Marines soon after graduating from El Dorado High School in 2006.

"He was committed to his job," Parada said. "He wanted to be the best warrior out there."

On one Patiño's biceps was tattooed a Mexican eagle in honor of his father's military service. On the other arm was an American eagle, inspired by an old USMC insignia.

On his chest he had a pair brass knuckles tattooed near his heart, a tough-love symbol in honor of his mother, the only person whose opinion he really worried about, family members said.

This week, Patiño's brothers and sisters plan to get memorial tattoos, honoring the different sides of their fallen brother. Parada had an image of Patiño holding an M-16 rifle tattooed on his arm. Sister Evelyn Patiño plans to get a tattoo with his nickname, "Nene" along with one of his favorite cartoon characters.

The tough kid, who became an even tougher Marine, had a sensitive heart, his siblings said.

He couldn't pass beggars on the street without stopping to try and buy them food. He rescued birds with broken wings, Evelyn said

When Patiño he came home from deployment, he would tell his family about fellow Marines who never received care packages. The family plans to set up a charity in Patiño's name to send care packages to Marines in Afghanistan. The family is asking that in lieu of flowers or cards, mourners wait and donate to the charity.

In addition to his parents, Patiño is survived by his wife, Jamie Burns, and seven brothers and sisters.

An informal memorial is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in El Dorado High School's gym, at 1651 Valencia Ave. A military memorial service will be held later in the week after Patiño's remains are flown home. All memorials and services will be open to the public.

June 24, 2010

Spokane Valley Marine killed in Afghanistan

SPOKANE VALLEY -- Friends are saying goodbye to a young local Marine killed in Afghanistan.

Click above link for a news video.


by KREM.com
Posted on June 24, 2010 at 3:32 PM
Updated yesterday at 11:59 PM

Cpl. Joshua R. Dumaw, 23, died just months before the birth of his first child. The Department of Defense says he was killed June 22 while supporting combat operations in the southwestern part of Afghanistan.

Joshua grew up in Spokane Valley and went to school in the West Valley School District. Many of his family members still live there. Joshua grew up with Stacie McGarvey's kids. He was like a nephew, someone who used to come over for breakfast whenever he could. She says she can't believe he is gone. Stacie has known Joshua since he was born. For 23 years he was friends with her own kids and with her. Stacie describes him as a born leader.

According to Stacie, Joshua could have gone into the family electrical business. Instead he joined the Marines. The Department of Defense has not said what happened the day Joshua died. He has been married less than a year. His wife is pregnant with their first child, a son named Bode.

"It just breaks my heart to think that he's never gonna get to hold that baby boy of his," said Stacie.

KREM 2 News was told Josh's mother is back east at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware waiting for Joshua's body to come home. Joshua was based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. He was assigned to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Joshua had just celebrated his 23rd birthday in Afghanistan.

Lima Company memorial to go on display

Chillicothe Marine among those honored

ZANESVILLE -- The Lima Company Memorial, a powerful display of paintings honoring the fallen heroes of Lima Company, including one from Chillicothe, will be in Zanesville beginning on Friday. Twenty-two Marines and a Navy Corpsman from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, lost their lives while serving in Iraq in 2005. Among them was Lance Cpl. Aaron Reed, of Chillicothe.


BY CENTRALOHIO.COM • June 24, 2010

The reserve unit based at Rickenbacker in Columbus, was one of the hardest-hit single units serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Anita Miller, of Columbus, has created eight life-sized paintings the include each hero.

Secrest Auditorium will house the Lima Company Memorial beginning Friday and running through mid-August. Viewing of the memorial will begin on Friday following an Ohio Army National Guard Band concert at 7 p.m. Visitors also can view the memorial daily during regular business hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Extended hours will be part of the following Zanesville special events:

# First Friday Art Walk, 5 to 9 p.m., July 2.

# Stars & Stripes on the River, 6 to 9 p.m. July 3, and 2 to 9 p.m. July 4.

# Taste of Zanesville, 5 to 8 p.m. July 14.

# Y Bridge Arts Festival, 5 to 10 p.m. Aug. 6 and noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 7.

26th MEU raid force hones maritime interception skills

BARNWELL, S.C. — Marines prepare to fast-rope onto a building as their hovering Navy MH-60S Seahawk Helicopter begins to inch closer to the rooftop.


6/24/2010 By Lance Cpl. Santiago G. Colon Jr. , 26th MEU

The Marines launch their ropes and swiftly slide down onto the roof, which serves as the simulated deck of a ship. As soon as the team is on the deck, they quickly assemble and breach the building entrances where their enemy waits to resist.

Their objective: to take control of the simulated ship and capture or eliminate enemy threats within it.

This was the goal during a three-day Maritime Interception Operations exercise held at a training facility in Barnwell, S.C., June 22-24.

The exercise provided integrated and sustainment training in the areas of breaching, fast-roping, tight-quarters maneuvering, and ship control for the raid force. Marines with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit worked in cooperation with Helicopter Sea Combat 22 sailors based out of Norfolk, Va., as well as civilian law enforcement and military training instructors. The training utilized buildings renovated to simulate naval vessels. Marine scout snipers also trained in aerial assault by shooting targets on a nearby range from UH-N1 Huey and Navy MH-60S Seahawk Helicopters.

Despite the fact that the training took place inside a building and not a ship, the tight spaces and low-light environment provided a realistic feel for the Marines, said Lance Cpl. Stephen McCormick, a radio operator with Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th MEU.

“This building with its very enclosed spaces provided for good ship training since ships have narrow passageways,” McCormick said. Ship passageways and spaces are extremely narrow and become more difficult for Marines to maneuver through when they are wearing combat gear. This training helped prepare the Marines to overcome these kinds of challenges.

Inside the building the Marines encountered role-players offering varying degrees of compliance, including simulated gunfire from hostile personnel. The force also had to compete with language barriers, had to check for identification of people inside, and negotiate the challenges that come with simulated improvised explosive devices, said Chad Harbaugh, president of Government Training Institute, the company facilitating the training during the exercise.

“This building offered us a ton of flexibility,” Harbaugh said. “Training inside the building is analogous to training in the belly of the ship.”

The exercise is an important part of preparing 26th MEU Marines for their upcoming deployment as the MEU has dealt with similar situations in the past. In January 2009, 26th MEU provided support to Combined Task Force 151, an international naval task force set up in response to piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia.

“What these abilities provide the MEU commander is the ability to train with multinational Maritime Interception Operation teams and conduct real-world missions on different platforms as piracy has become more prevalent in the past few years,” said Lt. j.g. Carrie L. Muller, lead planner for the training event.

The Maritime Interception Operations exercise was one of the last land-based training evolutions for the MEU prior to its deployment. Next for 26th MEU is Composite Training Unit Exercise, during which MEU Marines will project power ashore from Naval vessels. After that, the Marines' Certification Exercise will be the last training event for the Camp Lejeune-based 26th MEU before deployment.

Military opens brain injury center in Md.

BETHESDA, Md. — The U.S. military is opening a new medical center in suburban Washington dedicated to traumatic brain injury, sometimes called the signature wound of today's wars.


The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Jun 24, 2010 8:03:35 EDT

The $65 million National Intrepid Center of Excellence at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda was built with private funds by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

The New York-based charity is turning the building over to the military on Thursday.

Brain injuries are common among service members who have been exposed to blasts from the bombs used by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The center will test new treatment methods and introduce patients and their families to services available for those suffering from brain damage and psychological problems.

Marine from Sutter a hero in Afghan war

When his U.S. Marines unit participated in an operation to take back the Afghanistan town of Marjah earlier this year from the Taliban, Sutter native Wesley Slattery thought it was the hairiest operation he'd encounter during his deployment.


June 24, 2010 11:32:00 PM
By Ben van der Meer

Even with artillery and rocket-launched grenades coming at him, Slattery was wrong.

The most danger-filled situation he found wouldn't involve Taliban, roadside bombs, or anything involving the enemy.

Instead, it would involve a bulldozer, a sandstorm and a roaring fire. And Slattery's actions with the bulldozer earned him a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, one of the highest achievements possible for lower-ranking Marines.

"Being a Marine, you don't question anything," said Slattery, 26, since promoted from corporal to sergeant. "You don't go in thinking about medals."

On May 14, his unit, the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group was in the last two weeks of its deployment in Afghanistan. His unit was stationed at Camp Leatherneck, in the country's Taliban-ridden Helmand province.

At about 5 p.m., Slattery said, he and other Marines noticed smoke coming from the camp's supply management area where the Marines and other military branches stored everything from vehicle parts to lubricants to medical supplies.

Because a windstorm was moving through at the time, the fire quickly spread. This fire, complete with explosions, whipping flames and 55-gallon barrels of lubricant shooting skyward, was something out of a summer blockbuster.

And because it was headed for the camp's fuel farm, the battalion commander gave Slattery and four Marines under Slattery's command a direct order: Get on a bulldozer and make fuel breaks.

No sooner had he begun clearing a path than the windstorm became a sandstorm, reducing visibility to zero. Parts of the bulldozers caught fire.

"It was intense, very over the top," Slattery said, on leave until July 6 and staying with his parents in Yuba City. In an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt, cargo shorts and sandals, he seems far from the military. "It was almost like it was too much to believe."

Back in California, Slattery's mother, Pam, got a photo message on her phone of a column of smoke, along with a text, "Base on fire."

"I didn't really know what to think," said Pam Slattery, who recalled being impressed with her son's decision to join the Marines and put on hold a $50,000-a-year job with his parents' company. "I have to admit, it's the best thing he's ever done."

Because the fuel farm supplied not only the Marines but virtually every other military unit in the area, it had enough on site to destroy the entire camp if it caught fire, he said.

Slattery and the other four Marines had to make a 200-yard firebreak between the edge of the flames and the farm within minutes.

"The dozers go about 6 mph, and you're dealing with 20 mph winds," Slattery said.

But the attempt succeeded. Fiery debris carried by wind got into the farm, but the fire itself, which burned overnight and consumed millions of dollars in supplies, stopped at the break.

Though up to 30 troops were working inside the supply area when the fire hit, the only injuries were a couple who suffered smoke inhalation, and another who had a concussion, Slattery said. No one died.

Within hours, Slattery and his four fellow Marines got notice they'd receive the Achievement Medal. "All we cared about is saving supplies," said Slattery, who had never operated heavy equipment before he enlisted in 2007.

Despite his being in harm's way in Afghanistan, and previously Iraq, Pam Slattery said her family's faith keeps her from worrying too much.

"I've always felt, whatever happens, I'll deal with it," she said. And Marines, including Slattery, don't always share details when they're home on leave, she said. "I was always the last to know. He'd tell me, 'I didn't want to worry you.'"

When Wesley Slattery returns to duty, he's unlikely to face as much danger. With seven months left in his enlistment, he'll help train new Marines at Camp Pendleton, and spend his downtime with a new Camaro — bought with his own money — at an apartment in Oceanside.

After that, he said, he'll enroll at California State University, Sacramento, to work toward a construction management degree.

If he's running his own construction company someday, he said, he'll be tempted to share his story of the time he drove a bulldozer.

In an inferno.

Engineer falls victim to IED, leaves heritage of honorable service

CAMP DELARAM II, HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — With our nation at war, young men and women have constantly answered the call to bear arms and protect the nation’s way of life. With every war come casualties. On June 16, Cpl. Jeffrey Standfest was counted among many of America’s fallen warriors.


6/24/2010 By Sgt. Dorian Gardner , Regimental Combat Team 2

During a post assessment of an improvised explosive device blast, Standfest, an engineer and military working dog handler, was killed by the blast of a second IED.

Unlike many enlisted Marines, Standfest didn’t go to boot camp directly following his graduation from Saint Clair High School in St. Clair, Mich. Recognized as a dominant runner, Standfest enrolled at Oakland University in 2005 and competed as a cross-country runner. Not long after, Standfest made the decision to become a U.S. Marine, inspired by his grandfather, who served in WWII.

Upon completion of recruit training in 2005, Standfest attended Marine Corps Engineer School at Courthouse Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. Graduating as a combat engineer, he received orders to 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. He was soon assigned to Company A.

According to Capt. Brady Petrillo, Company A commander, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, Standfest constantly demonstrated a high level of maturity.

“He was smart, articulate; he had life experiences as well,” said Petrillo. “He brought a lot to the table.”

Because of his constant demonstration of maturity and leadership, Standfest was selected to become one of the unit’s few dog handlers, specializing in ordinance detection.

“It was mostly because of his abilities,” said Petrillo. “He was one of the top go-getters in this company.”

Company A deployed in April to Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Since April, Standfest has been operating alongside fellow engineers as a dog handler, detecting IEDs and assisting the route clearance platoon, clearing routes for future convoys.

During an operation in June, Standfest was attempting to clear a building when a secondary IED was set off, killing him. The memories he left behind have left an impression on the company that will never be forgotten.

Company A held a memorial service to honor Cpl. Standfest and his service in this war. Marines and sailors throughout Camp Delaram II were in attendance, as well as Marines throughout the area of operation, to include Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, 1st Marine Division (FWD) commanding general.

“This memorial was a time to help Marines cope with and mourn together over the loss of Jeffrey,” said 1st Sgt. Matthew Fortune, Company A first sergeant. “Jeffrey was considered to be a brother to us all, and we all knew him and grew close to him. We will never forget the sacrifice he gave for our country.”

MCAS Cherry Point cpl. dies in Nimroz province

A North Carolina-based Marine died Tuesday while supporting combat operations in Nimroz province, Afghanistan, the Defense Department announced Thursday.


Posted : Thursday Jun 24, 2010 17:48:53 EDT

Cpl. Joshua R. Dumaw, 23, of Spokane Valley, Wash., was assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

More information was not immediately available.

June 23, 2010

Foundation Creates Interactive Marine Web Museum

DUMFRIES, Va. - The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation launched the National Museum of the Marine Corps Virtual Experience June 23, allowing Marines and civilians worldwide to experience a cutting-edge Web version of the real National Museum of the Marine Corps located in Quantico, Va.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Date: 06.23.2010
Posted: 06.23.2010 02:10

With in-depth, special educational features on exhibits, galleries and artifacts as well as museum guides sharing their stories of Marine Corps history, the Virtual Experience brings the museum straight into homes and classrooms through a series of high-definition, 360-degree panoramic tours, audio narratives and extensive multimedia presentations.

Virtual Experience special features include:
-- Oral history recordings;
-- Walking-tour narratives available at the museum;
-- Video interviews and personal recollections by museum guides;
-- Zoomable high-definition photos of special exhibits;
-- Custom video presentations created exclusively for the museum; and
-- Interactive 3-D models of aircraft and other large-scale artifacts.

"In today's economy and with Marines deployed around the world, Marines don't always have the opportunity to visit their National Museum," said retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. George R. "Ron" Christmas, president and CEO of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. "The Virtual Experience provides all Americans and Marines everywhere, no matter where they live, the opportunity to be connected to the [National Museum of the Marine Corps] and witness their history on display."

Unable to visit the museum in person, Marine Corps veteran Steven Wallace of Beverly Hills, Calif., conceived the idea to create a digital version of the museum. Through funding provided by Wallace to the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, the Virtual Experience was created by the Virginia-based Dynology Corp., allowing anyone with Internet access to experience the unique perspective of U.S. history on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

The Virtual Experience is a free educational tool for students and American history enthusiasts and it provides an up-close look at exhibits and artifacts on display while explaining their significance in Marine Corps and U.S. history, foundation officials said. The Virtual Experience offers visitors an in-depth tutorial on artifacts, officials added, providing more information than is possible to display at the museum.

The nonprofit Marine Corps Heritage Foundation supports the historical programs of the Marine Corps, providing grants and scholarships for research and the renovation, restoration and commissioning of historical Marine Corps artifacts and landmarks.

Governor Orders Flags Lowered for US Marine

Flags To Be Lowered Friday For Cpl. Jeffrey R. Standfest

LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has ordered U.S. flags be lowered statewide to honor a 23-year-old Marine from St. Clair County who was killed in Afghanistan.


POSTED: 12:52 pm EDT June 23, 2010
UPDATED: 1:04 pm EDT June 23, 2010

Flags are to be lowered Friday for Cpl. Jeffrey R. Standfest, a canine handler and a combat engineer who died June 16 in Helmand province.

He was struck by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol.

Funeral services will begin at noon Saturday at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Macomb Township followed by interment at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township.

Standfest was a graduate of St. Clair High School, where he excelled as a runner.

Standfest was assigned to the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

In Afghanistan, U.S. Troops Ponder the Possible Loss of a Commander

The commander of international forces in Afghanistan was scheduled to pay a surprise visit to Marines at Combat Outpost Hanson in Marjah this week, some four months after they waged a fierce offensive to break the Taliban's grip. Instead, General Stanley McChrystal headed back to Washington, his job in jeopardy over published remarks that criticize President Obama and senior staff members for hamstringing efforts to turn around the nine-year war.


By Jason Motlagh / Marjah Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2010

The trip was canceled "thanks to a Rolling Stone article," an officer deadpanned as word was announced at an evening briefing inside a dust-caked tent on the base. At dinner, a Marine joked that McChrystal, known for his spartan habits, had asked for trouble when he broke "standing order No. 1: no drinking," referring to a booze-soaked evening at an Irish pub in Paris that was described in the article, during which he and some of his aides unwound in the presence of a reporter. "I talk trash about the President sometimes too," he says, "but at least I don't get fired for it." One lesson from the Rolling Stone episode among both officers and grunts: wariness of prying reporters. Almost everyone TIME talked to for this story asked not to be quoted by name.

Most of the low-level troops on the base say they are unaware of any McChrystal-related controversy. A lance corporal from Denver explains that political news tends to trickle down slowly among Marines with limited access to the Internet, newspapers and other creature comforts readily available at rear bases. "Half of these guys don't even know why we're here in the first place," he said with a laugh. "The rest of us aren't gonna worry: we're just focused on today" — a point well taken when mortars and gunfire are at times audible in the near distance.

While some blow off speculation that the general may be replaced as "back-home talk," the fact remains that they are fighting in this hostile swath of Afghan desert by the general's design, waging a brand of counterinsurgency campaign that bears his signature. Rich in opium poppy and, until the February offensive, under full Taliban control, Marjah was supposed to be a test case for a government-in-a-box strategy aimed at quickly winning over locals with security, jobs and basic services. Once affairs were consolidated in Marjah, the general's plan was to then push forces east toward Kandahar, extending a belt of security across the volatile Pashtun heartlands.

But Marjah remains a deadly stumbling block. Near daily firefights and the threat of roadside bombs have kept many residents who were displaced by the initial fighting from coming back. While there are nascent signs of progress, shops in the main bazaar are mostly empty, the Taliban ready and able to dispatch suicide bombers from nearby hideouts. Indeed, in a different article published earlier this month, McChrystal was quoted as likening Marjah to a "bleeding ulcer."

Violent as the area still is, Marine Lieut. Colonel Brian Christmas, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Infantry, maintains that gaining the public trust needed to marginalize the Taliban is all-consuming; news of McChyrstal's predicament is, for now, "outside [the] box" that Christmas is tasked with cleaning up. However, if changes up the chain of command start to undermine the counterinsurgency strategy that he's following, he adds, "then that becomes a real concern." Another officer agreed that given the slow progress, "any [potential] loss of momentum" arising from the general's departure would be "bad for the mission."

This story was reported with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Marine absorbs IED blast, walks away

SOUTHERN SHORSURAK, HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — Cpl. Matt Garst should be dead.


6/23/2010 By Sgt. Mark Fayloga , Regimental Combat Team 7

Few people survive stepping on an improvised explosive device. Even fewer walk away the same day after directly absorbing the force of the blast, but Garst did just that.

A squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Garst was leading his squad on a patrol in Southern Shorsurak, Afghanistan, June 23 to establish a vehicle checkpoint in support of Operation New Dawn.

The men were four miles from Company L's newly established observation post when they approached an abandoned compound close to where they needed to set up their checkpoint. It would serve well as an operating base — a place for the squad to set up communications and rotate Marines in and out of. But first, it had to be secured.

As they swept the area with a metal detector, the IED registered no warning on the device. The bomb was buried too deep and its metallic signature too weak. Two men walked over it without it detonating.

At six feet, two inches tall and 260 pounds with all his gear on, Garst is easily the largest man in his squad by 30 or 40 pounds — just enough extra weight to trigger the IED buried deep in hard-packed soil.

Lance Cpl. Edgar Jones, a combat engineer with the squad, found a pressure plate inside the compound and hollered to Garst, asking what he should do with it. Garst turned around to answer the Marine and stepped on the bomb.

“I can just barely remember the boom,” Garst said. “I remember the start of a loud noise and then I blacked out.”

Since Garst's improbable run-in with the IED, his tale has spread through the rest of the battalion, and as often happens in combat units, the story mutates, the tale becoming more and more extraordinary about what happened next: He held onto his rifle the whole time … He actually landed on his feet … He remained unmoved, absorbing the impact like he was muffling a fart in a crowded elevator …

What really happened even eludes Garst. All went black after the earth uppercut him. When he came to, he was standing on his feet holding his weapon, turning to see the remnants of the blast and wondering why his squad had a look on their faces as if they’d seen a ghost.

Marines in Company L think Garst is the luckiest guy in the battalion, and while that may seem a fair assessment, it was the enemy’s shoddy work that left Garst standing. The three-liters of homemade explosive only partially detonated.

Marines who witnessed the event from inside the compound caught glimpses of Garst’s feet flailing through the air just above the other side of the building’s eight-foot walls. The explosion knocked him at least fifteen feet away where he landed on his limp head and shoulders before immediately standing back up.

Not quite sure of what had just happened, Garst turned back toward the blast, now nothing but a column of dirt and smoke rising toward the sun.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh s---, I just hit an IED,’” he said. “Then I thought, ‘Well I’m standing. That’s good.’”

Garst’s squad stared at him in disbelief. The square-jawed Marine has a tendency to be short-tempered, and the realization that the blast was meant to kill him spiked his adrenaline and anger.

“It pissed me off,” he said.

He directed his men to establish a security perimeter while letting them know in his own way that he was OK.

“What the f--- are you looking at?” he said. “Get on the cordon!”

Garst quickly radioed back to base, calling an explosive ordnance disposal team and quick reaction force.

“I called them and said, ‘hey, I just got blown up. Get ready,’” he said. “The guy thought I was joking at first. ‘You got blown up? You’re not calling me. Get out of here.’”

Once EOD cleared the area, Garst led his squad the four miles back to their observation post — just hours after being ragdolled by an IED blast.

“I wasn’t going to let anybody else take my squad back after they’d been there for me,” he said. “That’s my job.”

The next day Garst awoke with a pounding headache and was as sore as he’d ever been in his life.

“Just getting up from trying to sleep was painful,” he said.

But he saw no reason being sore should slow him down. He popped some ibuprofen and after a day of rest, Garst was back out on patrol, showing his Marines and the enemy that just like his resolve — Cpl Matt Garst is unbreakable.

Education; the Key to the Future

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MUSA QAL’EH, Afghanistan – Afghanistan’s improved security was earned by the men and women who put their lives on the line daily, but Afghans and Marines know that education is the key to Afghanistan’s future success.


Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs
By Cpl. Ned Johnson
Date: 06.23.2010
Posted: 06.23.2010 06:06

Musa Qal’eh contains 24 schools, but only four of them are open for classes, according to Ghulam Ali, the Musa Qal’eh District minister of education. He ishoping to change that.

“The long-term goal is to have established schools from primary to secondary education that are funded and run by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” said Capt. Phillip Noack, a civil affairs team leader with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2. “We would like those schools to feed into higher education or trade schools.”

Marines are not the only ones who want to build schools.

“The people here really want education,” Noack said. “They are willing to give their time, their money, and their land so their sons and even daughters can go to school.”

Noack said the process will not happen overnight, but a few of the schools are already being planned. One of the up-coming schools is in a local village where the elders have already picked a location and donated it to the ministry of education.

Once a village wants a school, the Marines can help in several ways.

“They know what education can do for them, but the Taliban makes it tough on them,” said Noack, a 29-year-old native of Georgetown, Texas. “That is where we can help them by providing security. We can also provide buildings, help train teachers and complete the long-term projects,” Noack said.

The desire for education trickles down to the youngest level: the children.

“We have talked to many of the kids here and asked them what they want to be when they grow up,” said Noack, a graduate of Texas A&M; University. “They say they want to be doctors, lawyers and engineers and they know that requires education.”

The facts prove these children are not kidding because the largest school in Musa Qal’eh has 700 students. Still, that is not enough.

“As they say, ‘Build it and they will come,’” Noack said.

For the Marines, there is more behind education in Afghanistan.

“It has been shown that the Taliban preys on the uneducated,” Noack said. “What the teachers are trying to do here is show the kids there are better optins.”

What matters most to Marines in Afghanistan is leaving the country in better shape than it was when they arrived.

"To have long-term stability you absolutely have to have education,” Noack said. “It is definitely the future: one book at a time, one day at a time.”

MARSOC ALC gradates first Dari, Pashtu, Urdu speaking Marines

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Ten Marines graduated from the second class of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command Advanced Linguist Course, inside the MARSOC headquarters building, June 17.


6/23/2010 By Cpl. Richard Blumenstein , Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command

The Marines are the first to graduate the 52-week long courses, which focused on teaching them to speak, listen, read and write Dari, Pashtu, or Urdu and the second class overall to graduate from the ALC. The previous 36-week long course graduated five Marines on Feb. 19, in French, or Bahasa (the primary language of Indonesia).

“Right now, our students are able to speak and communicate very well,” said Ahamd Sakhizada, an ALC Dari instructor.

The courses are intended to prepare Marines to meet the challenges of mastering the cultural understanding necessary to partner with host nations.

“You really can’t learn a language without getting into the cultural part of it,” said a sergeant with MARSOC who graduated from the Pashtu class. “A lot of the aspects of a language, especially in the languages we learned, come from the culture, from the greetings, to how you say good bye.

“As we work more with foreign nationals and foreign forces, it’s going to help develop a rapport on a level that was not available to us before,” the sergeant added.

The aggressive curriculum included formal classroom work taught by contracted instructors using the communicative approach, and a three-week immersion period within the U.S. where the Marines interact with a populous who spoke the respective language they learned.

According to Todd Amis, the command language program manager for the ALC, future courses will include Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, and Tagalog (the language of the Philippines). Additionally, MARSOC has offered seats to Marines from II Marine Expeditionary Force to attend future courses.

June 22, 2010

3/7 Welcomes Alpha Company Resupply, Recovery to Hilltop Security Position

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – After days in the field and dwindling supplies, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, welcomed the rumbling of more than a dozen gear and food laden tactical vehicles from CLB-6 headed toward their hilltop security position, May 22.



1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs More Stories from 1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs RSS
Story by Sgt. Justin Shemanski
Date: 05.22.2010
Posted: 06.22.2010 02:30

In addition to items of subsistence, the Marines of Alpha Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), provided vehicle recovery assistance for several trucks and mine rollers downed by improvised explosive devices.

“We brought out everything these guys need to live on for the next four or five days,” said Gunnery Sgt. Mario Locklear, motor transportation operations chief for Alpha Company, CLB-6, 1st MLG (Fwd).

This also included 4,800 gallons of fuel.

“Less than 24 hours prior to stepping off we had to make a few adjustments, add a few vehicles to support their request to pick up a few more downed vehicles, but it was nothing these guys couldn’t handle,” said Locklear. “My guys have a lot of experience under their belt out here, so they knew what they needed to do.”

No sooner had the Marines of the “Red Cloud Battalion” stopped their trucks than the unloading and off loading of gear and supplies began aboard the occupied area no larger than a couple of football fields laid side by side.

The Marines of 3/7 were in the midst of making their way back to Forward Operating Base Delaram, after canvassing the area in and around the Musa Qal’eh River Valley for several weeks. Self proclaimed nomads; the infantrymen welcomed the sight of trucks loaded with items to keep them going a bit longer.

“We’ve moved around quite a bit; we’ve only been here for a day, so we typically only have enough food and water to keep us going to the next position,” said Lance Cpl. Harvey Calderon, an infantryman with Lima Company, 3/7. “It’s always nice to have this type of stuff show up.”

As McChrystal Stumbles, the U.S. Campaign in Marjah Struggles

The squad of Marines walks an alternating route, first along rutted dirt roads and then on trails running along the edges of fields, often stopping to squint at farmers through the magnifying scopes of their M4 rifles. Sometimes they skip the trails and tree lines entirely, cutting straight through the fields, sinking in muddy furrows and jumping the irrigation canals in between. Other times, they plunge directly into the canals — better to get wet than risk the bridges where they've been before. The squad's leader, Sergeant Dennis Andersen, explains the strategy: When they first arrived, they walked on roads. Then they started hitting IEDs on the roads, so they walked in fields. Then they started hitting IEDs there too. Now they mix it up and bet on luck.


By Abigail Hauslohner / Marjah
Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2010

Not a whole lot has changed in the four months since the Marines of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, swept into northern Marjah as part of the largest NATO operation since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The IED count has dropped off some since the poppy harvest last month — a trend that no one here can explain — but firefights occur with predictable regularity. And the local governance NATO promised to deliver is virtually nonexistent. "The pattern usually is 48 to 72 hours of fairly consistent contact [with insurgents], followed by a day or two of rest and refit for them, [then] move supplies and logistics around," says Lima Company commander Captain Josh Winfrey of the daily grind that Marines here have grown accustomed to. "Shoot and scoot is kind of their mantra."

But Marjah may be in just Stage 1 of another mantra. In the language of counterinsurgency doctrine that sets out "clear, hold and build" as its three main components to stabilizing an area, Marjah may still be in the "clear" stage. In the meantime, the topmost command of the U.S. operation in Afghanistan appears unsettled, with General Stanley McChrystal having been summoned to Washington to explain to the President and the Pentagon brass statements he and his staff made to Rolling Stone magazine. The quotes had more than a whiff of insubordination, an unnecessary distraction while the major combat operations in southern Afghanistan meanders, with goals that may as well be written on sand.

On the ground in Marjah, there is a creeping notion that the Taliban the Marines are trying to clear will never completely go away. "It depends what your metric is for clear," says Winfrey, whose 180 Marines patrol some 50 sq km in northern Marjah and who, like other commanders, likens the enemy to "vapor." "They're obviously not gone. And they're not going to be gone. And I think that the ultimate challenge of counterinsurgency is to get the preponderance of individuals who might choose to fight — depending on the day, depending on what's best for them — convincing them that in the long run, it's more beneficial for them not to fight."

That's the U.S. military's stated goal in Marjah, as it is in other areas of Afghanistan's volatile south: to persuade the local population to side with the government of Afghanistan over the Taliban. But it's a goal easier said than carried out. And in districts like Marjah, it may well be impossible.

To start with, Marjah is a swath of rural farmland, largely devoid of roads, electricity and running water, where government never really existed. The area wasn't even defined as a district — in other words, Marjah, as it is currently labeled, didn't exist — before the February offensive here. "This is Marjah," says Winfrey of the land outside his headquarters at dusty Combat Outpost Coutu. "But as the crow flies 8 to 10 miles away from the district center, [district government] couldn't be further from a reality to [local residents] than if it was 8,000 miles away. It's not something that's real to them yet."

Winfrey has virtually no local political partners to work with, although his mission is to build governance and development as his men secure an area with a population that is largely transient because of the recent fighting, Taliban intimidation and traditional nomadic and seasonal farming practices. He has held dozens of shuras — councils of tribal elders — meant to bring locals on board with governance and development. But Winfrey says most of the meetings yield nothing of substance. And he admits that the very elders he's seeking to accommodate may themselves be Taliban. "It wouldn't surprise me at all," he says. "They freely admit to meeting with the Taliban just as much as they meet with us."

Analysts say struggles like Winfrey's, which are playing out across the south this summer, highlight a set of larger problems that extend beyond the ground-level Marine commanders' control. "There are all sorts of problems with this idea that foreigners can show up and suddenly impose a government from above," says Alex Strick van Linschoten, a Kandahar-based researcher and analyst. "There are all sorts of local structures that were there before, which are now being replaced by something new," he says of the Marines-led shuras and NATO-designated "key" leaders. That's something that's a perennial feature of the foreign military intervention in southern Afghanistan. "What I can make out from Marjah is, it's a confused strategy at best," he says — and one that shouldn't necessarily be left to military commanders to interpret. "Political things are being carried out more or less entirely by the U.S. military, which brings problems on its own."

Many believe Marjah was also meant to act as a litmus test for the larger offensive in Kandahar, which is under way according to NATO but has largely been downplayed in the months since the Marjah offensive. "I think it is partly the result of lessons learned by the U.S. military — mainly, that you can do whatever you want with the military stuff, but unless the government and political dynamics are going to start changing, you're going to have a lot more difficulty portraying it as a success," says Strick van Linschoten.

The political dynamics are changing, but not necessarily for the best. Policymakers in Washington and Kabul have expressed concern in recent weeks that President Hamid Karzai's faith in the NATO counterinsurgency operation in the south is slipping; meanwhile, Karzai's approach to the Taliban is increasingly conciliatory. If reconciliation is to happen, the government and its NATO backers have yet to agree on a specific plan for it — a factor that may be crucial to resolving the on-the-ground redundancy of districts like Marjah.

At Combat Outpost Coutu, where Lima Company has seen four of its Marines killed and 19 sent home in the past four months, Winfrey, like many of his commanders, urges patience with the Marjah effort. But he dismisses "government in a box" as a goal that was unrealistic to begin with. "I don't know where we kind of got off track with thinking that anything here would be easy," he says. "I think there were probably a fair number of general officers and senior executive decision makers that wanted it to be the case too — that we could demonstrate very clearly how successful we could be when we pair military might and State Department — put it all together in this nice little package, throw it out there, and everything would be great. I don't know why in the world people expected, well, we can get everything done in 90 days or whatever time line it was. So hopefully we've learned that lesson."

Report: U.S. funds ending up in Taliban hands

By Aamer Madhani - USA TODAY
Posted : Tuesday Jun 22, 2010 10:34:34 EDT

WASHINGTON — Taliban and Afghan warlords are extorting some of the $2.16 billion the Defense Department has paid to local contractors who transport food, water, ammunition and fuel to U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, according to a House investigation to be released today.

To read the entire article:


More Violence Breaks out in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, gunfire broke out as President Obama's special envoy to the region and the U.S. Ambassador arrived in Marjah.


Posted: 3:51 AM Jun 22, 2010

Marjah, is the town which marines have been trying to secure since seizing it from the Taliban in a turning-point battle last winter.

Marines have been fighting in Marjah for four months.

They've succeeded in driving out Taliban fighters and beginning to build a functioning government, but progress hasn't been as quick or dramatic as expected.

Marines tells ABC News, several insurgents shot at the V-22 aircraft carrying Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke.

Holbrooke took it in stride.

"Special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan I've been shot at in other countries. A lot of other countries."

Holbrook says, the fighting is getting more complicated and volatile.

Less than a minute after Holbrooke left, a huge explosion rocked Marja's Government Center.

Afghan police say, three suicide bombers were planning to attack the delegation.

Taliban finance chief captured in raid

KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO and Afghan forces captured a senior Taliban figure in an overnight raid, the international force said Tuesday in a statement.


The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Jun 22, 2010 7:40:24 EDT

The man had recently been appointed the Taliban's finance chief in northern Baghlan province, NATO said. He was captured in southern Helmand province along with two other suspected insurgents after a tip-off that he was staying in a compound in Nah-e Saraj district.

Meanwhile, NATO said one of its service members died Monday following an insurgent attack in the south. The international military coalition did not provide the nationality of the deceased or any other details. However, a U.S. military spokesman said it was not an American service member.

The death brings to at least 65 the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan this month. Ten of them died Monday, including three Australians and an American killed in a helicopter crash in Kandahar province.

IJC Operational Update, June 22

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force detained the Taliban's recently appointed chief of finance for Baghlan province, along with two other suspected insurgents, in Helmand province last night.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.22.2010
Posted: 06.22.2010 04:13

The Taliban finance chief is also an improvised explosive device expert and former district commander of at least three insurgent cells near Mangal village in Baghlan province.

After intelligence sources confirmed his location, a security force went to a compound near Tajdar-e Vali, Nahr-e Saraj District, and searched the area. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for the finance chief to give himself up, and when there was no response the assault force entered the compound. No shots were fired and the women and children present during the search were protected by the combined

This operation is another example of recent successes against Taliban networks in Baghlan province. In late May, the joint force removed three successively appointed Taliban provincial shadow governors for the province. Mullah Ruhullah was killed along with his deputy on May 14. His replacement, Maulawi Jabbar, was killed along with two Taliban commanders, May 28. Three days later his replacement was detained by Afghan and coalition forces.

A separate Afghan-international security force detained two suspected foreign fighters in Kandahar province while pursuing the Dand District Taliban military commander last night. The commander is linked to suicide attacks in Kandahar.

After a tip from an area resident, the combined security force went to a compound south of Bala Dehe Sufla, Kandahar District, and searched the area. After initial questioning on scene, the security force detained two Pakistani men.

No shots were fired and the women and children present during the search were protected by the combined force.

Large numbers of foreign fighters remain interspersed in the ranks of the Taliban and Haqqani networks.

An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected insurgents in Helmand province yesterday while pursuing a senior Taliban commander who operates in the area.

The commander is an IED facilitator, Taliban fund raiser and is also suspected of involvement in suicide attacks.

The security force detained the individuals while searching a compound in the Nawa Barak District.

Afghan and international partners conducted an operation just north of Babaji in Helmand province Sunday night. The intent of the operation was to disrupt a Taliban network which supplies explosives and other material used in the construction of roadside bombs.

After surrounding the compound housing the insurgents, Afghan Special Police called for all residents to exit the compound.

When several insurgents failed to follow directions from police and instead presented a deadly threat to the combined force, they were killed.

ASP ensured the remaining residents exited the compound safely.

A number of women and children were protected and two men were taken into custody.

No civilians were injured during the operation.

"This was another in a serious of operations intended to reduce the threat of roadside bombs which have killed innocent Afghan civilians, as well as Afghan and ISAF partners. It also demonstrates the increasing capacity of the Afghan Special Police who, in partnership with ISAF, are successfully disrupting the insurgency in Helmand," said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, an ISAF Joint Command spokesman.

Marine awarded for stopping purse snatching

The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Jun 22, 2010 7:09:20 EDT

JACKSONVILE, N.C. — A North Carolina Marine who prevented a purse snatching is being recognized.

To read the entire article:


Marine from area killed in Afghanistan

Marine Lance Cpl. Timothy G. "Win" Serwinowski looked forward to sitting down with his father later this summer and discussing his future.


By Lou Michel
News Staff Reporter
Updated: June 22, 2010, 10:52 pm
Published: June 22, 2010, 2:20 pm

Late Sunday, those plans were cut short when a sniper's bullet mortally wounded the 21-year- old from North Tonawanda as he stepped out of a military vehicle while on patrol in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

Serwinowski lived for about an hour before he was pronounced dead early Monday.

Family members said details of the attack are limited, but they believe that after he was shot, a firefight broke out; no other Marines were injured. He was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"Tim was thinking of continuing his military career, and he wanted to talk it over with me. He only had one month to go before he came home," said a shattered Phillip Serwinowski, the fallen Marine's father. "Tim loved life, and he was a good man. He could have been an even better man if given the chance."

For months, Timothy Serwinowski's relatives had been concerned not only for his safety but also for the safety of another 21-year-old in the family — his stepbrother, Airman 1st Class David Urban, who had been serving in Iraq since September.

Urban's deployment to Iraq ended Saturday, one day before Serwinowski was shot.

"He learned about the death in Kuwait," James Urban said of his son, adding that he and his wife, Sally Urban, the mother of Serwinowski, have flown the American flag in front of their North Tonawanda home for both sons since they left.

This isn't the first time the tragedy of war has hit home for the Serwinowski family. Richard E. Serwinow- ski, a cousin of Phillip Serwinowski, was killed in Vietnam in the 1960s.

Timothy Serwinowski, a 2007 graduate of North Tonawanda High School, attended Niagara County Community College for a year before enlisting in May 2008.

He never lost touch with his connections to the high school. Before his deployment in December, he had stopped by the Meadow Drive school to say goodbye.

"When I asked him, "Why the Marines?' he said, "If you're going to do it, you go with the best,'" said Peter Fezer, his 11th-grade history teacher and 12th-grade economics teacher.

On that visit, Serwinowski also stopped by the school library to view a wall of photographs featuring veterans and current members of the armed forces.

Emily Serwinowski, his 17-year-old sister, had brought his photograph in after librarian Catherine Duquin had asked him for a picture.

"I know he was very proud to see that photograph on the veterans' wall," Fezer said.

The teacher also recalled how, in the years Serwinowski played football for the school team, the Lumberjacks, the 6-foot, 2-inch safety maintained a cheerful disposition and could be counted on for an ever-present smile "even when he was bruised and beat up from football practice."

When Serwinowski turned 21 in December, his family and friends gathered at Pizza Junction in North Tonawanda for a combination party to celebrate his birthday and upcoming deployment.

A photograph of Serwinowski at the party shows him smiling and sitting in front of a birthday cake decorated with two miniature American flags.

"Tim was a little nervous but wanted to leave on a good note," said Alex Rivera, Serwinowski's 20-year-old stepbrother. "I never thought this would happen. He wanted to serve his country."

And that he did, according to North Tonawanda High School Principal James V. Fisher.

"At this somber time we mourn the great future potential that has been lost, but we will forever count Tim as a model of selfless service to his country," Fisher said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the school library.

During Serwinowski's senior year, the principal added, he was honored by his football coaches for his "excellence and leadership" when the Lumberjacks won the Niagara Frontier League's North Division Championship.

Outside the high school, the American flag flew at half-staff as well as next door at Meadow Elementary School, where Serwinowski's mother works as a teacher's aide.

"I'd say to him, "Honey, we worry about you,' and he'd say, "Mom, I'm with my family here. I have their back, and they have my back,'" Sally Urban said of conversations she had with her son during his deployment. "I'd ask him if he had a shower, and he'd say, "I went in the canal.' I said, "No, a shower?' He never had a shower over there."

True to form in putting the best face on his circumstances, she said he would tell her, "Mom, the Vietnam, Korean and World War II veterans had it so much worse."

When he was at home, she said that he was constantly upbeat and that he loved it when she made him his favorite meal of the day. "He'd say, "Mom, are you going to make me breakfast?' He loved to eat," she recalled.

Born on his mother's 30th birthday, Serwinowski enjoyed singing and playing the guitar. And while he loved the camaraderie of the Marine Corps, his mother said, he was undecided on whether to make a career of it or, in time, return to college and one day become a state trooper.

Now, the North Tonawanda School District and its graduating Class of 2010 are planning to pay a special tribute to Serwinowski at 10 a.m. Sunday during graduation exercises in Artpark.

Before the diplomas are given to graduates, there will be a moment of silence followed by a tribute read aloud in Serwinowski's honor. Among the graduates, district officials said, will be his sister Emily.

Other survivors include his stepmother, Lori Rivera; an older sister, Kate Serwinowski; a half brother, Rory Serwinowski; a stepbrother, James Urban; and a stepsister, Kelsey Urban.

Peleliu ARG, 15th MEU Visit Orphanage in Timor-Leste

DILI, Timor Leste (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines from the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group (PEL ARG) participated in a community service project at the Santa Bakhita Orphanage outside Dili June 21.


By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Edwardo Proaño, USS Peleliu Public Affairs

Cmdr. Gary Clore, USS Peleliu (LHA 5) chaplain, led the mission, which provided school supplies, candy, music and games to the children.

The ship's mascot, the Peleliu Gator, came along with the team and pantomimed a local fairy tale for the kids, as the chaplain read the story. The tale was about a crocodile that became the mountains and hills of Timor-Leste.

Throughout the day, Sailors and Marines interacted with the children, playing, singing, dancing and giving out candy.

"It's important to contribute to … the orphanage because we can make a positive impact in the lives of these kids," said Clore.

Clore said community service projects such as this contribute to strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Timor-Leste on a grass-roots level.

"The goal of this project is to … let them know that we represent the U.S. Navy and we think they are special," said Clore.

The experience was great for the kids, but also rewarding for the participants.

"It feels good to reach out to these kids," said Ensign Timothy Tacl, Peleliu's first division officer. "I played soccer with them, and it means a lot to see how happy they were. It was awesome."

PEL ARG and embarked Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are participating in Exercise Crocodilo, a multilateral exercise that promotes partnership through civil programs and training with the Timor Leste and Australian militaries.

Other elements of the PEL ARG include Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3, the command element; Fleet Surgical Team 1; Tactical Air Control Squadron 11; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23, Detachment 5; Assault Craft Unit 1, Detachment F; Assault Craft Unit 5, Detachment B and Beachmaster Unit 1, Detachment D.

The PEL ARG is transiting the 7th Fleet Area of Operation and reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.

June 21, 2010

Gates announces choice for Marine Corps chief

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced his choices for new leadership of the Marine Corps on Monday, passing over a maverick candidate in favor of the service's No. 2 official.


The Associated Press
Monday, June 21, 2010; 8:19 PM

Gates said he has recommended that President Barack Obama nominate Gen. James Amos for the top job of commandant of the Marine Corps. The job requires Senate confirmation.

The White House is expected to accept Gates' choice. A public schedule released last week prematurely listed Amos as the nominee.

Amos is seen as willing to support Gates and other senior Pentagon leaders as they spend the next several months looking for cost savings.

In choosing him, Gates and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus passed over Gen. James Mattis, an expert in counterinsurgency warfare who would have probably posed a stiffer challenge to proposed budget changes.

Amos is the service's assistant commandant. He would replace Marine Gen. James Conway, whose four-year term as Marine commandant ends this fall. Gates proposed replacing Amos as No. 2 with Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford.

"I came to these leadership decisions after a thorough process that considered several outstanding candidates," Gates said. "I am convinced that Gen. Amos and Lt. Gen. Dunford are the right team to lead the U.S. Marine Corps at this time, especially as it balances the capabilities needed to support current operations, its unique maritime heritage and its future role defending America."

Mattis, the head of the Joint Forces Command, is regarded as a rising star but one willing to challenge his superiors and the prevailing political winds.

The Marines, conceived as a flexible, hybrid land and sea service, have spent most of the last decade fighting wars firmly on land. After years of duty in Iraq that mirrored the Army, Marines are in the midst of sustained combat in landlocked Afghanistan's Helmand Province.

Eau Claire Marine injured in firefight in Afghanistan

Eau Claire (WQOW) - A U.S. Marine from Eau Claire is recovering Monday in the hospital after being wounded in a firefight Monday morning in Afghanistan.


Posted: Jun 21, 2010 1:48 PM CDT

Tom Walters says his son, Tyler, took a round in the leg from an AK-47. Tyler was in Marjah. He was on patrol with a squad of Marines and Afghan national soldiers when they exchanged gunfire with insurgents.

Tom says he believes doctors will be able to save Tyler's leg. He's at a combat hospital right now and will need one or two surgeries before he can be moved out of there. His family expects him home within a week or two.

Tom says he spoke with Tyler Monday and says his spirits were good. He says he's thankful his son is alive and headed home soon.

Tyler is a 2005 Eau Claire North High School graduate. This is his second tour of duty. His first tour was in Iraq in 2008.

Tom says the violence is increasing almost daily in Afghanistan. Ae said his son called Sunday to wish him a happy Father's Day and told him he had just been in a firefight.

Third Elders' Shura Held at Marjah's Government Centre

KABUL, Afghanistan - The third elder shura took place at the government centre in Marjah, southern Afghanistan recently.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.21.2010
Posted: 06.21.2010 11:55

Shuras, the Afghan equivalent of a town hall meeting, serve as a forum where the residents' concerns can be discussed, and proposals deliberated upon. Prior to the meeting, Haji Zahir, Marjah's district governor, presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the renovation of the town's government centre and symbolize the formal and permanent presence of the government of Afghanistan in Marjah.

"The ceremony officially marked the government centre's refurbishment after it was repainted, had new doors and windows installed, and had interior restructuring done," said Capt. Anthony F. Zinni, commanding officer for Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

"Having all the block leaders there see the government of Afghanistan slowly establishing itself presents the perception of the government improving on what it has and a sense of status that comes with legitimacy."

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony and a prayer, the shura convened under a solar shade. Roughly 200 men were present, the majority of whom were village elders, mullahs, the religious figureheads of community, or block leaders, a significant increase on the 60 elders who attended the previous meeting.

"When we first started holding the [shuras], the main concern was civilian casualties," said Zinni. "The last one was focused on accountability of block leaders. This one was aimed at establishing the structure and workings of an elder shura as a governing body."

Representatives from Afghan security forces, the regional governor and elders at the shura discussed several different topics, the foremost being how to establish a governing body of elders to work as a council for the city.

"We're trying to get them to buy into the idea of the council because it's a form of empowerment," Zinni said. "They can vote, speak up and in doing so make changes. [The elders] are on the ledge, wondering if they should take a leap of faith and put their trust in Afghan government or not. They're going to support the guy who can oust the other. In a lot of ways the Taliban have burnt bridges since they've been here."

Other key points were the recruitment of local men into the Afghan Uniformed Police and the need for the various tribes and villages that comprise the city to present a unified front against the Taliban.

"The people of Marjah like the idea of having locals police their own city, as they're not too trusting of outsiders," said Zinni. "The fact that there will be Marjah residents being police officers in their city gives them a sense of ownership over their community."

One of the final points of discussion was on tribal support, as smaller tribes and villages are at the highest risk of being targeted by the Taliban.

"A lot of villages that are farther away are isolated and are at risk of reprisal from the Taliban if they cooperate with us," said Zinni. "The Taliban aren't targeting areas that are unified, because the larger tribes are fighting back. Some of the larger tribes have been encouraged to unify with the smaller ones for security. It's possible in Marjah, which is a melting pot of different tribes and ethnicities."

‘Myles’ From Home: Twin Brother, Sister Reunite in Afghanistan

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Two Marine corporals who are twin brother and sister are serving in Afghanistan, a long way from their hometown of Niagara Falls, N.Y.


1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs
Story by Lance Cpl. Jerrick J. Griffin
Date: 06.21.2010
Posted: 06.21.2010 12:14

Corporals Jordan and Jade Myles, 20, reunited after being apart for almost two years.

The siblings are deployed to Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance Force. Jade is on Camp Leatherneck with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), home based in Camp Pendleton, Calif. Her brother, Jordan, is at nearby Forward Operating Base Price with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st MLG (FWD), home based in Okinawa, Japan.

“It feels great,” said Jade of being deployed with her brother. “Since we’ve been in the Marine Corps we have never been together. We were together maybe for a month in boot camp, and this is the first time being stationed in the same [area].”

Jade deployed to Afghanistan in March and Jordan arrived a few weeks later. After he touched down, Jordan sent his sister an e-mail letting her know he had arrived. They met at the Morale Welfare and Recreation Center here, time seeing each other for the first in nearly two years.

“I feel motivated because this is her first time over here and this is my second tour here,” said Jordan of their tours to Afghanistan. “I feel privileged to work with my sister despite being in two different units.”

Jade is a radio operator and helps train people to become familiar with communication devices. She also trains Marines in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program during her spare time; she became a MCMAP instructor a few weeks ago. Jordan is a bulk fuel specialist who receives, processes, transfers and dispenses fuel to both aviation and ground elements.

Despite having such different jobs, they still share one thing in common – the title ‘Marine.’

The pair grew up in a big household – they have five brothers and sisters, two of whom are also twins – and Jordan and Jade were nearly inseparable growing up.

“When we were growing up we were always together,” said Jade. “We had a high school class together; we even worked at the same job.”

Jordan joined the Marine Corps in August 2007, and Jade followed in his footsteps a month later. Jade is scheduled to redeploy in September while Jordan will remain in Afghanistan until late December, but he hopes to extend his tour in Afghanistan.

Since they work on separate camps, they can’t physically see each other all the time, but they do keep in touch via e-mail.

“Keeping [in] contact with my twin sister helps with my morale,” said Jordan. “Just knowing I have family so close makes me an even better Marine.”

Undisciplined Afghans endanger Marjah Marines

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 21, 2010 10:17:34 EDT

MARJAH, Afghanistan — Many Afghan National Army troops who work and patrol with U.S. Marines are considered a nuisance at best and a danger at worst.

To read the entire article:


Marines Make Most of Life at Forward Operating Base Edinburgh

FORWARD OPERATING BASE EDINBURGH, Afghanistan - Life here is austere and Spartan at best. Howling winds coat everything with a talcum-like dust, there are few escapes from the searing heat, electricity is scarce, hot are meals a rarity yet the morale is probably the highest I have seen in southern Afghanistan.


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs
Story by Cpl. Ryan Rholes
Date: 06.21.2010
Posted: 06.21.2010 05:56

Albeit a rough place to live and nestled in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country – Edinburgh is a haven for the warriors of Marine Wing Support Squadron 274. Salaam Bazaar, Musa Qal'eh, and Now Zad ring the small forward operating base and Taliban strongholds are visible on the imposing mountains looming just a few miles from the base.

The support squadron, from New River, S.C., assumed responsibility for the FOB from the U.K. a few months ago and has since transformed the small compound into a functional and somewhat comfortable living space. The squadron introduced electricity provided by gas-fueled generators, set up laundry services, established a chow hall where Marines can eat two hot meals a day, built showers and began purifying water.

The squadron also expanded the borders of the small FOB, pushing the berm out hundreds of meters to accommodate an influx of Marines and to clear the way for its main project – an assault landing strip capable of hosting medical evacuation helicopters, assault support helicopters and attack helicopters. In addition to the assault strip, MWSS-274 has installed forward area refueling points capable of hot and cold refuels for all types of helicopters, including those used by other coalition forces.

Yet, even with these “amenities” and more than 200 inhabitants the base is quiet during the day, the silence occasionally split by an exploding improvised exploding device or the artillery battery here executing a fire mission. At night the place is almost serene. The view of the stars is entrancing and most nights you can find dozens of Marines sitting or laying outside star gazing, using one of the few satellite phones to make over-due calls to their families. The lack of light and the base’s seclusion provide a crisp, clear picture of the constellations.

The Marines and sailors have to use satellite phones because the other lines of communication on the FOB are somewhat unreliable. Although the morale center is receiving an upgrade that will allow Marines internet access, the only lines home now are two DSN phones in small, cage-like structures. But most of the Marines don't care-they talk to their families when they can and spend the rest of their time with their peers. The added element of seclusion bolsters the already strong camaraderie.

Mail for these warriors comes once a month if they are lucky. Convoys roll in with hundreds of packages that working parties separate into about a dozen different bins. Marines dig eagerly through the piles and often stagger off with their arms full of long-awaited packages. Sometimes they leave disappointed and empty-handed, but care packages here are often opened and left out so every Marine can take what they need. There is no hoarding or concept of excess here; the Marines share openly and willingly.

Every Marine on the FOB is expected to man guard posts or run entry control points in addition to their daily duties, which places many of the aviation Marines in unfamiliar roles. They trade their wrenches, cranials and heavy equipment for flares, night vision goggles and crew-served weapons to stand four-hour shifts at one of the crude security posts ringing the FOB. Although the base is not regularly attacked, there are constant signs that the Taliban is watching Edinburgh. Explosive ordnance technicians routinely dispose of IEDs placed within a few hundred yards of the FOB's perimeter.

The cooks aboard Edinburgh serve hot breakfast and dinner – lunch is always an MRE – dishing out about 400 meals every day. Although the food is heat-and-serve, it provides a great relief from the constant flow of MREs that were the main source of sustenance until about a month ago. The menus do not vary widely, but most of the Marines are thankful for hot food and a chance to relax in the air-conditioned dining tent, lit by plug-in lights hanging from the tent braces.

Supplies are scarce aboard the base. What Marines don't get from home in care packages they can purchase from a traveling post exchange that visits the FOB about every six weeks. It's like a holiday when the trucks arrive, laden with supplies. A line of dozens of Marines stretches away from the truck as shoppers scavenge the aisles for hygiene gear, energy drinks and tobacco. It usually takes several hours to get through the line.

Edinburgh is on the opposite end of the spectrum than sprawling combat metropolises like Kandahar Air Field. The life service members live at larger installations is vastly different than that aboard this barebones FOB. But the Marines here explained that comfort is relative; they feel they live a lavish life compared to their brothers sleeping in fighting holes outside the wire. These Marines love their little oasis, and most don't want to leave. Sacrificing running water, electricity, real food, sewage systems and other amenities is worth it to them if they can bring support a little closer to the fight.

White House: Afghan pullout will start in 2011

By Anne Gearan - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jun 21, 2010 8:35:14 EDT

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration reaffirmed Sunday that it will begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer, despite reservations among top generals that absolute deadlines are a mistake.

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South Florida Navy seaman dies in Afghanistan

MIAMI (WSVN) -- A local Navy seaman made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.


Posted: June 21, 2010 at 6:15 am EDT

William Ortega of Miami died in Afghanistan. His grief stricken family shared memories of their loved one as they await for his body to be brought back to South Florida. "He was a good kid, great kid in school, great kid with his parents. He was like a son to everybody. He said he wanted to do something good with his life and he found it through the military, so decided to serve it," said Miguel Rodriguez.

Ortega, 23, was working at a marine hospital in Afghanistan. He died following a blast during a combat operation against enemy forces.

Ortega's body will be flown back to Miami to be laid to rest.

Afghanistan-deployed Marines record messages, book readings from for families

Letters, phone calls and internet only tell so much of the story for many of the Marines living in the harsh desert conditions in Afghanistan. Being able to send a video home to their children and other loved ones using the United Through Reading program allows the Marines to put their families at rest about the dangerous situations they may be encountering.


6/21/2010 By Lance Cpl. Jeremy Fasci, Regimental Combat Team 7

GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan — Marines and sailors from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, are given an opportunity to read a book or just send a message home to the friends and family they are forced to leave behind while they are serving their seven-month deployments in Afghanistan.

“United Through Reading helps bridge the gap between deployment and home,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew S. Lovick, the religious program specialist for 3/1.

Many of the Marines and sailors that deploy with the battalions are husbands and fathers, making it very hard for their families to deal with the separation. Some of the Marines also have newborn babies, which makes it even harder to leave and commit to the seven months away from home.

“I did it so my daughter back home can a better way to see her father other than just pictures,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph L. Montoya, 20, a rifleman with Lima Company, 3/1, from Austin, Texas.

Even the Marines who have younger children have a hard time explaining why they have to be away for so long.

“It’s much better than a letter because kids don’t always understand what’s going on,” said Lovick, 22, from Fort Smith, Ark.

Helping set their families at ease while being deployed helps the Marines stay more focused on the operations they need to conduct while deployed.

As Lovick travels around the battalion, he tries to make the program available to any and every Marine who would like to partake in the opportunity.

“It’s harder to get all the gear down to the patrol bases, but when we do it’s a pretty big hit,” said Lovick.

When the recording is complete the Marine receives a disk and envelope they can mail home for free.

The program is just another way for the Marines to get in touch with their families, which is one of the most difficult things to do while they are so far away.

“I volunteered to do it,” said Lovick. “To be able to provide the guys out here who are sleeping with their head in the mud with a chance to send a video back to wife and kids means a lot to me.”

Marines maintain presence in Marjah

MARJAH, HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — Marines from Company I, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, stepped into the scorching heat of Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, June 18, to clear their area of weapons caches, improvised explosive device-making factories and any Taliban insurgents in the area.


6/21/2010 By Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde, Regimental Combat Team 7

Approximately 70 Marines, sailors and Afghan National Army soldiers supported the mission which was carried out in a notoriously dangerous section of Marjah.

“The purpose of today’s mission was to clear out an area (of Marjah) we continuously take fire from every time we just try to do a simple patrol,” said Cpl. Joseph Figueroa, a fireteam leader with 2nd Platoon, Company I, 3/6. “Today was pretty much a major clearing (of the area): every little tree, bush, branch, table, house – everything.”

The Marines didn’t uncover any significant finds during the patrol in a place that has become a virtual ghost town due to the constant fighting.

“This mission pretty much proves the point that the Taliban are not stupid “They don’t just leave their gear lying around somewhere where we can find it.”

The Marines weren’t surprised.

“It’s like a playground. Kids don’t sleep at a playground. They go there to play. That’s the way I look at (this area). The Taliban don’t go there to sleep. They go there to fight with us,” said Figueroa, from Anaheim, Calif.

The Marines didn’t face any major resistance from the Taliban, considering the amount of contact they usually take in this sector. However, an IED did explode in front of the patrol as the Marines were entering the area.

“Luckily the blast went off about 25 meters in front of the patrol and it was a directional (IED),” said the 23-year-old Figueroa. “The fragmentation was directed in front of the blasting area, which we were behind. I think that the Taliban weren’t expecting to see the amount of Marines that we actually rolled out with. They probably got scared, blasted a little too early and ran (away).”

The Marines attribute the lack of Taliban resistance to the amount of troops they brought on the mission.

“Today was different because we had the numbers,” said Sgt. Robert C. Angellella, a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, Company I, 3/6. “We had a lot of military assets to back us up in case something was to happen. (The Taliban) saw a big presence out there today and probably left the area.”

Although the Marines did not uncover any major finds, nobody was hurt and they were able to maintain a presence in this treacherous section of Marjah.

“(The mission) went well, as planned,” said Angellella, from Long Beach Island, N.J. “It was a nice and smooth, methodic, clear. The Marines are doing a really good job trying to eliminate the Taliban and providing security for the local nationals.”

Mountain Men: 1/25 Marines use Mountain Warfare Training Center to train for future Afghanistan deployment

MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, Calif. — In the mountains, the temperatures vary hourly, from hot to cold, depending on the time of day. The terrain can work against Marines; the thin air and peaks tire them and provide cover and concealment for the enemy. Communications can become spotty and they never know what is exactly waiting behind the next peak or hill.


6/21/2010 By Cpl. Tyler J. Hlavac, Marine Forces Reserve

These are among the many lessons the Marines of 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment learned after spending more than a week training at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center as of June 21.

Mountain Warfare is a different experience for the Marines who have spent countless hours training for urban and desert combat zones and even have an Iraq tour or two under their belt.

“We probably spent weeks, training practically every day for six months for MOUT (Military Operation, Urban Terrain) before we deployed to Iraq,” said fire team leader Lance Cpl. Malcolm Miller, while scanning the trees and peaks in front of him from his security position. “A lot of it (the MOUT training) can’t be used out here. In Iraq it was MOUT, MOUT, MOUT…here it’s mountains, mountains, mountains.”

During their time in the mountains, the Marines conducted improvised explosive device and land navigation training as well as frequent patrols that occasionally resulted in shootouts with mock enemy aggressors.

During the patrols the Marines experienced first hand the physical effects of the terrain.

“Elevation is a factor out here that takes time to get used to,” said 2nd Lt. Jake Jackson, who functioned as the 3rd platoon commander during the training. “The inclines kill you, it can take an hour or so to cover 300 meters.” Jackson is one of 49 second lieutenants from The Basic School in Quantico, Va., who are participating in the exercise while waiting for their military occupational schools to begin.

One ‘gut check’ moment during the weeklong training occurred when the Marines found themselves ambushed by mock aggressors during their longest patrol to date, June 20.

The Marines began the patrol under the training scenario that they were searching for a band of insurgents who had been launching attacks to discredit the local government.

The Marines spent the next five hours scouring the mountains, climbing and navigating steep, rocky mountain peaks along the way to the landing zone that would serve as their final destination.

During the patrol the grunts had to overcome basic problems from spotty radio communication and frequently finding themselves out of breath due to the terrain and elevation.

“Out here you need to take breaks more often but in smaller intervals,” said Miller. “You need to conserve energy; use what you need to overcome the mountains but save some energy for the fight.”

After spending hours patrolling, constantly changing squad formations to adjust to the terrain, the Marines made it to the flat, open landing zone that would serve as their end point; only to be promptly ambushed by the mock aggressors who fired upon the Marines with machine gun and small arms fire from a concealed position on a hill.

The infantrymen quickly returned fire and utilized boulders in the area to take cover and provided support fire for a squad of Marines who maneuvered up the hill and eliminated the aggressors.

“It’s hard to see the enemy sometimes, hill fighting is all about the high ground,” said Jackson. “(During the firefight) the Marines, due to the terrain, had to run straight up the hill to get the enemy who was fleeing, it was one of those individual gut check moments.”

During the shootout, the Marines found themselves relying more on their sense of hearing than sight to assess the situation and locate the enemy.

“You can’t see over a hill,” said Miller. “Guys get cut off (from the rest of the platoon due to the terrain) and you often can’t physically see the enemy. You need to listen to find out where people are.”

Jackson explained the main concept the Marines had gained from the mountain training.

“This is the perfect place to train for Afghanistan as the terrain is so similar,” he said. “Out here, sometimes you have to climb the peaks even though you are tired. You can either let the terrain dictate your movements or not.”

The Marines of 1st Bn., 25th Marines, will continue to conduct mountain warfare training throughout the rest of exercise Javelin Thrust 2010, which is slated to end June 24th.

Javelin Thrust is an annual exercise conducted by Marine Forces Reserve in several different locations in the Southwest. This year, more than 4,500 Marines from ground combat, logistical and air wing units are participating in the training, which resembles a Marine Air Ground Task Force operating in Afghanistan, in terms of both terrain and mission objectives.

June 20, 2010

U.N. report: Little progress in Afghan security

By Robert H. Reid - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Jun 20, 2010 9:30:54 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — The United Nations reported Saturday that insurgent violence has risen sharply in Afghanistan over the last three months, with roadside bombings, complex suicide attacks and assassinations soaring over last year’s levels.

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3 U.S. troops die in southern Afghanistan

The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Jun 20, 2010 8:37:18 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — Five NATO troops, including three Americans, died in fighting Friday in Afghanistan, raising to 34 the number of U.S. troops killed in the war this month.

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IJC Operational Update, June 20

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force detained a number of suspected insurgents in Kandahar province last night while pursuing the Taliban commander responsible for insurgent activity in the western part of the province.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.20.2010
Posted: 06.20.2010 06:19

The security force detained the men and found a 45-pound bag of wet opium while searching a compound near Talukan, Panjwa’i district.

No shots were fired and women and children present during the search were protected by the combined security force.

A separate Afghan-international security force detained several suspected insurgents while pursuing a Haqqani network commander in Khost province last night.

The combined security force detained the suspected insurgents while searching several compounds in Uqbay, Sabari district, after receiving intelligence information on the Haqqani network commander’s location. The security force also found and destroyed several improvised explosive devices during the operation.

Women and children present were protected by the combined force throughout the search, and no damage was done to the compounds.

Another Afghan-international security force detained two suspected insurgents in Logar province last night while pursuing a Taliban sub-commander linked to IED and rocket attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

The security force detained the individuals while searching a compound near Rostam Kheul, Baraki Barak district.

No shots were fired, and women and children present during the search were protected by the combined force.

“The insurgents have chosen to fight us using indiscriminate roadside bombs which end up hurting many innocent Afghans. We target all aspects of their operations including the funding gained from the illegal drug trade, and all our efforts to reduce this threat will help the Afghan people," said Col. William Maxwell, ISAF Joint Command’s Operations Center director.

Corpsman killed in Afghanistan blast

Staff and wire reports
Posted : Sunday Jun 20, 2010 14:00:29 EDT

The Defense Department on Saturday announced the death of a hospital corpsman serving in Afghanistan.

To continue reading about Fallen Hero, Hospitalman William Ortega, of the 3/1:


June 19, 2010

Afghan, ISAF Operation Against Haqqani Network

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan and international forces conducted operations against the Haqqani network along the border of Khost and Paktiya provinces overnight and throughout the day June 19. Precision airstrikes were used in self defense against a large number of armed insurgents.


ISAF Joint Command
Date: 06.19.2010
Posted: 06.19.2010 12:59

We are aware of conflicting reports of civilian casualties made by local officials and are therefore reviewing the operational details of the engagement.

Our mission is to protect the population, and we will accept full responsibility if civilians were unintentionally harmed in this intense fight against insurgents.

IJC Operational Update, June 19

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force killed a Taliban sub-commander along with a number of insurgents at a compound in Chahar Darah district, Kunduz province last night.


ISAF Joint Command
Date: 06.19.2010
Posted: 06.19.2010 05:33

Mullah Abdul Razaq was responsible for moving suicide operatives throughout the eastern part of Kunduz province and was the Taliban military commander in Talaqwa Village. Afghanistan National Police in Kunduz confirmed the death. According to multiple intelligence reports, Razaq is suspected of being involved in an improvised explosive device attack that killed two American soldiers in the vicinity of Isa Khan, Kunduz province, June 16.

The security force searched a compound east of Chahar Darrehchi, Chahar Darah district, where they were fired upon by individuals armed with automatic weapons and grenades. The combined force returned fire and secured the compound.

During the search a civilian man came out of his home and told Afghan and coalition forces that the Taliban use the road near the compound daily and that they frequently stay in the mosque behind his home. The Taliban continue to use mosques as safe havens and weapons storage sites, knowing that international forces are not allowed to enter.

A significant amount of automatic weapons, magazines full of ammunition, grenades and an RPG launcher with rounds were found on site.

Women and children present were protected by the combined force during the search.

“IED attacks continue to be the insurgents’ main tactic against Afghan National Security Forces and coalition elements,” said Col. William Maxwell of the ISAF Joint Command. “This puts Afghan civilian lives at risk and yesterday’s operation helped take those responsible for these acts out of the Chahar Darah community,” he added.

A separate Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban commander and several suspected insurgents in Zabul province last night.

The commander is linked to IED attacks along the road connecting Zabul to Kabul.

The security force searched a series of compounds in a remote area of Shah Joy district after receiving intelligence reports on the Taliban commander’s whereabouts.

“The heavily travelled ring road is used not only by Afghan and coalition forces but civilians as well. Emplacing IED's on this road demonstrates the Taliban’s complete disregard for human life. Detaining the commanders and facilitators responsible for these tactics helps temper this threat,” said Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, ISAF Joint Command spokesperson.

No shots were fired during the search and women and children present were protected by the combined force.

Another Afghan-international security force killed a suspected insurgent, detained several other suspected insurgents and found IED material while pursuing a senior Taliban commander in Helmand province yesterday afternoon.

As the security force approached a compound in Lashkar Gah district, they immediately received fire from an individual outside the compound. The combined force returned fire killing him.

After securing the compound, the assault force found seven containers of home-made explosives, multiple initiators and numerous amounts of materials for making IED's. The explosives were destroyed on site.

A separate Afghan-international security force detained several suspected insurgents while pursuing a Taliban shadow governor, responsible for attacks against coalition forces, in Logar province last night

The security force searched a series of compounds south of Karizeh Za’faran after intelligence sources confirmed insurgent activity. During the search the joint force found a 25 Kilogram bag of ammonium nitrate, which is commonly used in the manufacture of the homemade explosives often found in IED's and is banned by the government of Afghanistan.

While preparing to depart the area, the joint force was fired on by an individual, and they returned fire killing him.

Women and children present were protected by the combined force, and no buildings were damaged.

Afghan National Army Commandos assisted by U.S. Special Operations Forces killed a number of insurgents in Badghis province while searching for an insurgent commander Thursday.

The Afghan-led force was in the village of Burrida, Morghab district, when they were attacked by a group of insurgents.

The insurgents engaged the force with heavy small-arms, machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from fortified positions. The partnered force returned fire and called in a precision airstrike killing many of the insurgents.

There were no civilian casualties and no reports of civilian property damage.

Marine lowered in rank, fined for slurs on Facebook

An enlisted Marine from the base at Twentynine Palms has been busted in rank, sentenced to 30 days' hard labor and fined $964 for allegedly putting offensive comments about Afghans on his Facebook page, according to the Marine Corps Times.


By Tony Perry in San Diego
June 19, 2010 | 4:20 pm

The page also allegedly included a homophobic remark about the Marine Corps.

The Marine, a heavy-equipment operator, pleaded guilty to charges of dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming to the Marine Corps after superiors found the comments. He was reduced in rank from lance corporal to private and docked two-thirds of a month's salary, or $964.

The Marine Corps, like other military services, is wrestling with what rules to impose on the private social media pages of its troops. Rules are expected to be set forth soon.

Marine from Park Hills killed in Afghanistan

PARK HILLS, Mo. — A Missourian who was killed Wednesday in Afghanistan had served for years in the Navy before switching branches and deploying twice with the Marines.



Lance Cpl. Michael C. Bailey, 29, was on security patrol in Helmand province when he was shot to death. Bailey was a rifleman who had been a Marine less than two years, said 1st Lt. Ken Kunze of the 1st Marine Division's public affairs office in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Bailey's stepfather, Thomas Rodgers of Frankclay, Mo., said Friday that he was told Bailey had been seated in the fourth vehicle of a convoy when shots were fired. Bailey was shot in the neck, Rodgers said.

Bailey was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. This was Bailey's second combat deployment.

After high school, Bailey enlisted in the Navy, Rodgers said. After years in the Navy, Bailey switched branches and enlisted as a Marine in 2008, Kunze said. Rodgers said of Bailey: "He had a really good heart."

Rodgers said he helped rear Bailey since he was in elementary school and called him his son. Bailey enjoyed his time in the service, Rodgers said. In 1999, Bailey graduated from West County High School in Leadwood, Mo. Every time Bailey would come home on leave, he would stop by the school and talk and reminisce with teachers and the principal.

"Mike was a very special kid, he was highly thought of by people who knew him," said the principal, Eric Moyers. "He never failed, after he made the rounds with friends and family, he'd always come back to the school and visit with myself and teachers he had at the school."

On his last visit to the school, Moyers recalled that Bailey said he was preparing to be sent to Afghanistan.

"I thought the world of him," Moyers said. "Our community is hurting right now."

Park Hills is 65 miles south of St. Louis in St. Francois County.

Arrangements are incomplete. They are being handled by Boyer Funeral Home in Bonne Terre, Mo.

Bailey's family has been hit hard by tragedy. His mother died unexpectedly in 2003. His sister was killed in a car crash when she was 25. A year before the sister's death, her baby died of sudden infant death syndrome, Rodgers said.

"My whole family is gone," Rodgers said. "Michael is the last of them.

"I figured he'd be the one to outlive us all. He always did the right thing, he never ran with the wrong crowd, he was just a good kid," he said.

U.S. Hopes Afghan Councils Will Weaken Taliban

NADALI, Afghanistan — More than 600 men, most of them farmers with weathered faces and rough hands, sat on the ground under an awning, waiting all day to deposit their ballots in plastic boxes. They had braved Taliban threats and road mines to come here to select a district council, part of a plan to strengthen local government in the most unstable parts of Afghanistan


Published: June 19, 20

“The important thing is we are trying to build trust between the people and the government,” said Qari Mukhtar Ahmad, a senior cleric attending the election last month. “This district was under fighting for a long time, but now there is peace and we have to listen to the people and bring them together.”

Peace is a relative term in Nadali, a district in the southern province of Helmand with one of highest levels of roadside bombs per square mile. Government officials still have to fly by helicopter from the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, rather than risk the 20-minute drive.

The district encompasses Marja, a Taliban stronghold where United States Marines have been battling insurgents since February. Marja remains largely ungovernable, but the operation broke the hold of the Taliban in the rest of the district, making it stable enough to try to set up some local representation.

The election here, an exercise in nation-building from the ground up, is part of a pilot program to set up 100 district councils to provide representative government in places where government has largely been absent. But the councils, backed by the British and American governments, also represent a critical element of counterinsurgency strategy: if they succeed, the hope is they will convince people that there is a viable alternative to Taliban rule.

Since the beginning of the year, 35 such councils have begun work in nine provinces, and the American and British governments have pledged financing to establish 100 by July 2011, officials said. The ultimate goal is to have directly elected councils nationwide.

“It is a vital, basic element of administration,” said Christopher Demers, an adviser for the Agency for International Development in Kandahar. “Building a people’s body like this is important; it is giving people an opportunity to speak with the government.”

Military officials in the United States-led coalition have often expressed frustration at the inability of the Afghan government to move quickly into secured areas and start governing. Yet Afghan officials say that it is a lengthy task to build an administration from scratch and gain the trust of a population that has suffered at the hands of predatory officials and repeated military operations by foreign forces in recent years.

In many districts, like Nadali, there is little government presence, often only a district chief and a police chief, both appointed by the central government in Kabul. They have few resources or personnel. Most district chiefs have no official car and an official budget of only $12 a year, the United Nations said last year.

One of the successes of the Afghan government over the past eight years has been the National Solidarity Program, which set up small development councils across the country to undertake small reconstruction projects in every village. Yet it takes six months just to elect and train community councilors and two years to complete a village project, said Wais Ahmad Barmak, deputy minister in the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, who has 30 years experience in community development.

In the most insecure areas, like Helmand, the ministry has had to suspend its work, he said.

In Nadali it has taken a year of visiting villages and persuading people to cooperate with the government to get them to the point of electing the district council, said the district chief, Habibullah Shamlani, a former police academy instructor.

After several gatherings around the district, 600 representatives were selected to come and vote for 45 councilors, all of whom must live in the district, a change from the absentee landlords or tribal chiefs who have traditionally made the decisions.

“This district council should make all the decisions which affect the life of the district,” said Jelani Popal, who leads the local government directorate, an arm of the national government that is running the program. “We will use them for security reasons, like reintegration; they will be very active in deciding about development, but also governance; they can communicate or channel the grievances of the people to the governor and district governor.”

Those who took part in the selection said they were taking the risk because they needed representatives to intercede with the government and the foreign forces on a variety of problems, from securing the release of detainees and compensation for war damage to resolving tribal and land disputes and winning development assistance for their areas.

“We hope the government will do something for us if we have this district council and we can share our problems with the higher authorities,” said Feda Muhammad Khan, an elected councilor. “We are fed up with the fighting, and there is a drought, and we are hoping peace will knock on our door.”

One of the main tasks of the council will be to persuade local insurgents to give up the fight and return to a peaceful life in the community, or if not to move away and stop destabilizing the area, Mr. Shamlani, the district chief, said. Already 40 people who were with the Taliban have been persuaded to quit fighting, he said.

“We are working step by step,” he said. “We cannot put too much pressure on the people to reject the Taliban. Gradually now, people have found some courage to point out who are Taliban. If things are sustained the same as now I am hoping by next year we will know who is behind it all.”

The key has been to deliver on promises of assistance and treat the people well, he said. “It takes time; you have to go and talk a lot and spend money,” he said.

But there is already evidence that the Taliban are fighting the councils much as they have resisted other government initiatives.

Some of the participants said they risked assassination if the Taliban in their area discovered that they were cooperating with the government. At least five councilors have been killed and one has been wounded since the four councils were formed in Helmand Province, officials said, presumably by the Taliban.

And the representatives choosing the council here included Taliban members, several participants said. They, too, wanted representation to help win the release of their people who have been detained.

Maj. Abdul Salam, who runs the police criminal department in Nadali, said the fact that 600 representatives showed up was itself a vote of confidence in the process.

“These people are here because they have some hope that the government is gaining strength and they are hoping they can defend themselves,” he said. “But you are right, they are in some danger.”

Routine Operation Meets Resistance

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, combined with Afghan National Security Forces, headed north to show face in an area not often visited by friendly forces, June 9.


Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs
Story by Cpl. Daniel Blatter
Date: 06.19.2010
Posted: 06.19.2010 08:00

The mission’s purpose was to reach the northern villages and engage with the local elders while gaining information about their neighboring town, Bar Now Zad.

“We wanted to get the (Afghan National Army) and (Afghan National Police) a little further up north, and to see how well they operate together,” said 2nd Lt. Gene Price, the executive officer of Alpha Company. “We decided to go to Badam, a place we haven’t been to in a while. We also wanted to hit some other spots in the area of operation to include Towrah Ghundey, a town with a possible (Taliban) mortar site we wanted to check out.”

Both locations are a few miles north of Now Zad, and they border Bar Now Zad, possibly one of the largest Taliban strongholds in Helmand province, said Price.

“The intent was to get out to the local population, let them know what is available for them verses the Taliban persuading them,” said Price. “The Taliban tells the people that their government won’t be able to help them.”

Although Price explained the benefits of what their government can do for the townsmen, the people still stated that Taliban would kill them and they were not leaving the village.

The convoy departed Forward Operating Base Caffereta with not only a fleet of vehicles, but with the manpower to make things happen.

“On the convoy to Badam, we hit an improvised explosive device at a choke point just south of Kenjak Olya,” said Sgt. Javen Roberson, the platoon sergeant for 2nd platoon, Alpha Company. “We lost one Marine from the fight that was medically evacuated out with a grade-three concussion, but we moved on and staged just outside of Badam for the night.”

Badam was anticipated to be a calm and friendly area; however, it was anything but.

While in the middle of a conversation between Price and the local elders, an explosion rattled the ground and shots started to pop off. Marines, ANA and ANP rushed towards the firing, but came to find nothing.

“We pushed out to a hilltop to observe where they were firing from as five rounds of small arms fire were shot at us,” said Price. “They also fired one more round of indirect fire at us while we were on the hill.

“It felt like they were bracketing us, so we pulled back and went around the backside to Towrah Ghundey.”

Once at Towrah Ghundey, the ANA spotted a suspicious compound and insisted they search it.

“We always listen to the ANA, said Roberson. “We listen to them because they know what to look for and even know the people that belong by the different accent in their voice. Just like back in the states if you know someone is from Texas they have that accent. Here, the ANA are the locals and they know best.”

“While searching a compound, we started receiving small-arms fire and indirect fire,” said Price. “As soon as we received contact, the Marines didn’t hesitate, they pursued the enemy and forced them into a valley where there was an egress point leading to Bar Now Zad.”

The Marines tried to isolate the enemy to avoid losing site of them, but as the Marines pursued, the enemy slipped away into the populace.

“A turret gunner saw four guys run out of a compound and open up with AK47s and then run into a herd of sheep and go back into the village,” said Lance Cpl. Will MacDonald a squad leader for the machine-gun section of Alpha Company. “After that, we lost positive identification. We pushed up and tried to cut off their egress route, but they were gone.”

The Taliban fired rounds and ran.

“They are not able to influence us at all,” said Price. “They shoot more sporadic fire then anything and they are not accurate with their weapons. They just take pop shots and run away. Well, the next time they try to run away, we will be sitting there ready for them.”

After the contact, the convoy pushed to patrol base Sofla, to make them aware of the situation and stay for the night.

“We returned to Towrah Ghundey the next day,” said Roberson. “We went into that same building again and the same thing happened, we got shot at, only this time we had Marines waiting.”

“We also detained the guy that had IED making material, and was manufacturing homemade explosives in his compound,” said Roberson.

The Marines countered the Taliban tactics and as Price said, the Marines were waiting.

Nearly an hour of lying in the prone overlooking the village, shots started firing and they were quickly suppressed. The enemy not only fired sporadic small arms from the hilltops, but also fired mortars from the opposite side of the hill.

“After they started firing, we had heavy suppression on the enemy,” said MacDonald. “We saw them running around on the ridgeline so I started to engage them with my [M240 Bravo machinegun]. I fired between 400 and 500 rounds at a sustained rate so my gunner on the [MK-19 automatic grenade launcher] could follow the tracer rounds and open up with the Mark.”

MacDonald wasn’t the only Marine to lay down heavy fire.

“I laid down 150 rounds of fire that way,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Davis, a turret gunner with Alpha Company. “I was sitting in the turret waiting for them to fire so I could see where they were. Three rounds flew over my head, one hit my bulletproof window on one side of the turret and another hit it on the other side. I began suppressing the hilltop where the shots were coming from and others joined me.

“It was pretty scary,” he added. “My adrenalin was running and I was trying to find where they were shooting from so I could shoot them before they shot me.”

Then there came a moment of silence.

The firefight was over, as the Taliban threat was defeated.

The convoy moved out of the area and although this operation came to a halt, one could bet there will be a similar operation taking place in the near future.

“There will be further operations with increased numbers of Afghan National Security Forces. We are here to mentor them and turn the security over to them,” said Price. “In the past three days the ANA and ANP have demonstrated that they are not afraid to fight the Taliban. They are aggressive warriors and they will pursue the enemy while operating alongside Marines.”

With continued support from Marines of Alpha Company, the ANSF continue to develop into a professional and competent organization, capable of fighting the enemy with little to no assistance from coalition forces.

“It was phenomenal to be part of this operation and to be out there watching the Marines react under pressure. It was even more phenomenal to watch the ANP, ANA and Marines come together as a team while fighting the same enemy,” Price continued.

“We will continue operations up here and keep security for the local population and develop the Afghan National Security Forces to allow them to provide security for themselves,” Price concluded.

Marines Establish New Contacts in Unchartered Territory West of Helmand River

GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan— Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, inserted along the unchartered western portion of the Helmand River Valley to conduct patrols and key leader engagements as part of Operation Ozark Mountain, June 14.


Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs
Story by Cpl. Skyler Tooker
Date: 06.19.2010
Posted: 06.19.2010 03:41

Prevented from traveling by foot due to the river’s depth, the Marines used air support to cross west over the Helmand River

The Marines were unable to physically cross because the water in the Helmand River was too high.

“I decided to try and get helicopter support in order to get us over there and figure out what’s going on over there with the people, engage the atmosphere, and try to interdict any of the Taliban ‘rat lines' going north to south,” said 1st Lt. Marcos Ruvalcava, a platoon commander with Lima Co., 3/1.

After the helicopters dropped the Marines across the river and departed, the Marines took off, heading down the river toward the villages. As the sun rose, the Marines headed into the first village, seeking out the village elders.

“I wish we could have had more time. We didn’t anticipate the key leader engagements taking that long, and we ran into more village elders than expected,” said Ruvalcava, 33, from Fillmore, Calif.

Village elders should know when and where the local shuras are so they can go and seek help, knowledge or if it is just to let the Marines know of any Taliban activity in their area, said Lance Cpl. Steven Morones, 19, a rifleman with Lima Co., 3/1, from Earlville, Ill.

“It’s definitely a good thing for the elders to know about the shuras, but due to the Helmand River in between us and them, it would probably be more of a hassle for them to get over here to the shura,” said Ruvalcava. “Taliban are still active in the south, not too far away from them, and they are still intimidated by them.”

Marines stopped a random motorcycle to find one of the Afghans failed a gunpowder residue test. The Marines detained the Afghan and made their way to the helicopter pickup point.

“We accomplished a bunch of key leader engagements from Lt. Ruvalcava, and to get out there and see the elders and let them know that we are here to help aid their country in bettering itself,” said Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Dreyer, 28, Weapons Platoon sergeant, Kilo Co., 3/1, from Dayton, Texas.

“I think the message was sent out there. We are able to get over to the western side of the Helmand River, and the river doesn’t divide us and them,” said Dreyer.

June 18, 2010

"Thundering Third" Hunts Taliban's Bombs

CBS News Exclusive: Marine Battalion Tasked with Defusing Explosives Provides Inside Look at Afghanistan's Hidden Danger

(CBS) For nearly a decade, Americans have been fighting - and dying - in Afghanistan. Just on Friday, three service members were killed in combat in the south.


By Terry McCarthy
GARMSIR, Afghanistan, June 18, 2010

Of the more than 1,000 U.S. deaths, nearly 40 percent were killed by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs for short. Preventing those attacks is job one for the Marines of the "Thundering Third," CBS News Correspondent Terry McCarthy reports.

IEDs are the hidden danger Marines fear the most.

Barely 100 yards from their base one day, a Marine patrol comes across an abandoned house booby-trapped with three IEDs. The Marines wired it for a controlled detonation, set a timer and run for their lives.

"They're either about 20 pounds apiece or 40 pounds, and we have found some that have been daisy chained," said Gunnery Sgt. Brian Smith of the 1st Marine Logistics Group.

Smith is particularly wary of daisy chains, where multiple IEDs are wired to go off at the same time. Smith, who is from Alabama, has been an explosives expert for four years. He knows how to find buried wires and pressure plates that detonate IEDs.

With four kids back home, Smith is only too conscious of the danger of IEDs. Now part of his job is to teach the other Marines in the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment how to find them.

"You can place them anywhere around here, and we just do the best we can to train the Marines on where to look," Smith said.

There were 8,159 IEDs detonated or found in Afghanistan last year, an average of more than 20 a day. Marines have begun avoiding the heavily mined roads by driving through the desert, which is not without its own risks. On foot patrols, they stay off paths and footbridges, walking through the fields and wading canals instead.

This is one of the first Marine battalions to bring explosive-sniffing dogs to Afghanistan. They have 13 specially trained dogs.

Lance Cpl. Garrett Zeigler, a dog handler, grew up playing with dogs like dalmatians and German shepherds. Now he trusts a labrador named Dixie with his life.

"We click pretty well together," Zeigler said. "We make a good team."

The dogs can work 300 to 400 yards ahead of their handlers, so if they find an IED they can alert the Marines before they get into the danger zone.

But even the dogs are at risk. On May 6, a bomb-sniffing dog just north of here was killed by an IED, saving the lives of three Marines walking behind him.

"I'm sad; I'd be devastated if that were my dog," Zeigler said. "These dogs are there to protect Marines' lives, and that's what that dog did. The dog's a hero."

There are some threats the dogs cannot protect against. Just five weeks after speaking to CBS News, Zeigler was shot in the neck by a Taliban gunman. He survived but had to be evacuated to Germany.

That's a loss the Marines can barely afford. With IEDs so destructive and the Taliban planting new ones every day, the Marines need every tool they have to stay safe.

‘Thundering Third’ bids farewell to fallen brothers

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” quoted Navy Lt. Michael Taylor, the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, chaplain, from John 15:13, in the New American Standard Bible.


6/18/2010 By Pfc. Sarah Anderson, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

The hustle and bustle of everyday life stood still on the morning of June 11 as two fallen Marines from 3rd Bn., 4th Marines, were honored for their sacrifice at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field.

Lance Cpl. Cody Stanley, 21, a native of Rosanky, Texas, made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Helmand province, Afghanistan. On Oct. 28, 2009, Stanley was killed by an improvised explosive device while attempting to save the life of a fellow Marine. He belonged to Weapons Company.

Lance Cpl. Joshua H. Birchfield, 24, from Westville, Ind., gave his life during a firefight as he turned to fearlessly face his enemy on Feb. 19, in Farah province, Afghanistan. Birchfield was assigned to Company K.

Two rifles with fixed bayonets were placed into wooden stands, two kevlars gently placed on top, a pair of new boots were laid in front of each rifle, pictures of the fallen were placed at the bases and dog tags hung from each pistol grip.

As sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” echoed throughout the field, seven riflemen fired a 21-gun salute to their fallen brothers.

“Its sobering. It brings you face-to-face with reality,” Taylor said. “They were selfless, very loyal committed friends.”

Weapons Company was hit hard with Stanley’s loss, but his sacrifice fueled their fighting spirit, said Sgt. Brandan Jansen, Stanley’s section leader.

“We looked at Stanley as a hero. We didn’t get depressed. We conducted ourselves in a way that would make him proud,” Jansen said. “We hung Stanley’s picture on the wall for motivation before we went out.”

Memorials are a reminder to Marines of what they have chosen to sacrifice for the preservation of freedom for their country, said 1st Sgt. Rogelio Deleon, the Weapons Company first sergeant.

“Through hardships and training, you form a bond and a brotherhood. So losing Stanley is like losing one of your own,” Deleon said. “The profession they have chosen to do is a serious profession; it is a life and death situation.”

Taylor said these Marines chose to serve because they believed someone had to answer the call.

“It takes a rare few, a person of incredible moral disciplines, courage and understanding that its not about themselves. It’s about something greater, its about people who need to be honored, protected and fought for.”

Birchfield always encouraged his brothers to keep pushing and never quit through hard times, said Lance Cpl. Michael D Hines, a rifleman in Co. K, and friend of Birchfield.

“As a person, he always looked at the good side of things. When things were hard or down, he would find a way to make everyone have a good time out of it,” Hines said. “As a Marine, he never quit on anything or anybody. He made sure everybody pushed through things.”

At the end of the service, final roll call was sounded. When two names of the fallen were shouted and there was no reply, it was a grave and somber reminder of the loss they all seemed bear.

Birchfield’s and Stanley’s families were the first to pay respects at the memorials. It was a heart-wrenching moment shared there as the families said goodbye to their loved ones.

Hundreds of Marines lined up in front of the memorials, each waiting their turn to pay respects to their fallen brothers. They solemnly touched the Kevlars, kissed the dog tags or bowed in respect as a final farewell to their heroes.

3/1 Marines enhance marksmanship skills at makeshift range in Garmsir

GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — Marines with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, enhanced their marksmanship techniques at Patrol Base Koshtay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 16, to help keep the Marines vigilant throughout their seven-month deployment.


6/18/2010 By Lance Cpl. Jeremy Fasci, Regimental Combat Team 7

Under the company commander’s guidance, all Marines with Lima Co., 3/1, are required to ‘zero’ their weapons, adjusting and perfecting their combat ‘optics,’ while using proper sight alignment and sight picture.

“Every Marine is a rifleman. If we are going to say that and continue to preach it, then we need to back it up,” said Gunnery Sgt. Patrick E. Fay, company gunnery sergeant for Lima Co., 3rd Bn, 1st Marines. “Marksmanship is what is going to help us win the war. These guys aren’t sticking around too long for us to fire, so whether you shoot one round or one thousand rounds, it may be only that first shot that you fired that’s the most important one.”

Using what they have seen from their previous patrols they are able to make adjustments helping them be more prepared for future engagements.

Using different types of battle site zero also helps keep the Marines ready for anything. Firing the weapons without gear allows the Marines’ technique and form to be critiqued and adjusted accordingly.

“There is no point putting a Marine in 60 pounds of gear if he can’t even shoot (without gear). You have to build up from the basics,” said Fay, 31, from Rialto, Cali.

Firing their weapons helps prepare Marines for some of the situations they may encounter while in Afghanistan.

“As generic as it does sound, being in the pits at the range is probably one of the most conducive training objectives that the Marine Corps has available to relate to a combat firefight situation,” said Sgt. Mark Peters, a squad leader with Lima Co., 3/1, from Chicago. “When we were just down south recently in a compound and rounds were whizzing over our head, I said, ‘Hey we’re at the rifle range boys, we’re in the pits.’”

Sticking to the basics helps the company stay combat effective.

“We try to keep it simple at Lima Company,” said Fay. “If you can’t fire your weapon system properly, what are you doing on a battlefield? You need to put the right tool for the right job.”

War zone corruption allegations rise sharply

By Aamer Madhani - USA Today
Posted : Friday Jun 18, 2010 10:27:35 EDT

The U.S. government, which is pressing Iraqi and Afghan leaders to get tough on internal corruption, is doing the same in its ranks.

To read the entire article:


Afghan National Civil Order Police Graduate in Herat

KABUL, Afghanistan – Nearly 300 Afghan National Civil Order Police recently graduated from a four-month course at a Regional Training Centre in Herat.


ISAF Joint Command
Date: 06.18.2010
Posted: 06.18.2010 04:55

The police learned tactical and patrol skills, to include counter-improvised explosive device and anti-riot procedures from their Italian Carabinieri instructors.

“The training provided covers a variety of aspects and is meant to increase operational capabilities and survivability,” said Lt. Col. Michele Facciorusso, head of Herat’s Specialty Training Team, a part of NATO’s Training Mission-Afghanistan.

Graduate Saed Qasim said he was excited to begin work as a policeman.

“I’m proud to be part of an elite corps,” he said. “I learned a lot during the four-month course thanks to the Afghan and ISAF trainers.

“I’m now looking forward to serving my country,” he added.

The mission of ANCOP is essential to police reform and counter-insurgency in Afghanistan and is two-fold. Units are divided into two main types: urban and rural units. Urban units establish law and order in population centers, while rural units work in high risk rural areas.

IJC Operational Update, June 18

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international force captured a Taliban commander in Zabul province last night.


ISAF Joint Command
Date: 06.18.2010
Posted: 06.18.2010 03:08

The commander is responsible for coordinating and assisting in attacks against Afghan and international forces and has also been involved in the procurement and emplacement of improvised explosive devices.

The suspect was detained while the security force searched a compound in the village of Ja’far-e Olya in Shah Joy district, after intelligence sources confirmed insurgent activity. The combined force protected several women and children, and no shots were fired during the operation.

A separate Afghan-international security force detained two suspected insurgents in Kandahar province last night while pursuing a Taliban sub-commander responsible for coordinating IED attacks and ambushes against coalition forces in Arghandab district.

The combined security force searched a number of compounds west of Senjaray, Zhari district, after intelligence sources confirmed insurgent activity. No shots were fired during the search.

Eliminating insurgent IED operations is a key focus for Afghan and coalition forces. The highly indiscriminate nature of IED and suicide IED attacks makes them a threat not only to Afghanistan’s security forces and their coalition partners, but also to civilians. Afghan and international forces are aggressively pursuing insurgents to further degrade the Taliban’s network and resources.

Marines Make Progress in One Afghan Valley

Taliban Retaliates With Assassinations and Threats

With Washington on the hunt for signs of progress here officials might look to Garmsir where improvements are easily measured, but still tempered by an adaptable Taliban insurgency.


KOSHTAY, Helmand Province , Afghanistan June 18, 2010

A year ago there were no Marines here. Today there are more than a thousand spread out in 42 encampments, some of them as small as four Marines, throughout the sprawling area of operation.

Twenty-five miles long, with a population estimated at upwards of 100,000, the district stretches north to south along the Helmand River from an area Marines call the Snake's Head, a wide area of foliage in the otherwise narrow valley.

The 3rd battalion, 1st Marines based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., began replacing the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines in April and took over full command in May.

In July 2009 Marines fired the opening salvos in their effort to turn Helmand Province around. In the first offensive after President Obama ordered an initial increase in troops Operation Khanjar saw 4,000 thousand Marines simultaneously striking Taliban strongholds in both Garmsir and Nawa.

Ltc. Ben Watson, Battalion Commander for the 3/1, is realistic about the challenges laying ahead but says, "I believe in what we are doing and I believe we are making steady progress."

A year ago the Taliban openly controlled the entire area. Today they've been pushed almost entirely out. Hospitals, markets and schools have opened, roads have been repaired and the town of Garmsir even has solar street lights thanks to U.S. taxpayers.

In Garmsir's thriving market shopkeepers and business owners, convinced that long-term security has returned, have begun sinking their own money into refurbishing old shops and building new ones.

Perhaps the most promising sign of improvement in and around the town of Garmsir was that poppies for opium production weren't planted this past season. Farmers instead planted wheat for the first time in years.

Col. Randall Newman, commander for Regimental Combat Team 7 which oversees a wide swath of Helmand Province including Garmsir, believes the change is due in part to markets reopening and a more normal economic rhythm kicking in and because the villagers here tacitly accept what the central government in Kabul wants, an end to poppy growing.

Lack of Poppies Being Planted Is Sign of Marines' Success
Afghanistan's government has made it illegal to grow poppy, but the drug business has become such a way of life here the law is rarely enforced and readily ignored.

Newman says just north of Garmsir in Nawa district poppy production has fallen by 75 percent. Newman is also in command of Marja , where Marines conducted a major operation last February to oust the Taliban, and says "The real test there is whether they plant poppy next season. Then we'll see what sort of effect we had." Poppy planting occurs in October and November.

For the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines the progress has come at a heavy price. Since the 3/1 took full command in May, seven Marines have died. Three others have suffered traumatic injuries from homemade bombs.

At Combat Outpost Koshtay, in the center of Garmsir District, Marines held a memorial service for Sgt. John Rankel Thursday. He was killed on June 7. The 23-year-old from Speedway, Ind., was leading his squad as they attempted to clear an area where another base is to be built. He was shot in the chest just above his body armor and died while being transported by helicopter to a medical facility.

The other casualties include three Marines killed by homemade bombs in separate incidents and three more Marines who drowned when their 30 ton armored truck known as an MRAP accidently tumbled into a canal.

Despite the progress, in recent weeks the Taliban has been moving back into the area in an effort to dissuade residents from supporting the Americans and the nascent localgovernment. Two village elders and a shopkeeper, all siding with the Marines, have been assasinated. Letters warning residents about the consequences of siding with the Americans and Afghan security forces have been posted on mosques and left at homes and some residents tell Marines they've received threatening phone calls.

The result is that Marines have seen a decrease in the number of elders attending community meetings, or shuras, fewer people making use of health services. And maybe most damaging effect has been a decrease in the number of tips about Taliban activities coming in from residents.

Police Chief Arrests Taliban After Tribal Leader Assassinations
"It's a chess game," said Ltc. Watson, whose biggest challenge it is to win over a population that still isn't convinced the Americans will stay until the hardcore Taliban are gone. "These people have been fought over for 30 years" said Watson. "It's a culture of abandonment. We'll turn it around, but it will take time."

Local governance here has also suffered what appears to be a setback. The long time district governor, Haji Abdul Jan, was recently stripped of his job and replaced with Mohammed Fahim, a 22 year-old who, while energetic, lacks political skills, management experience and isn't even from Garmsir making an already tough job even more monumental.

Every dark cloud here seems to come with a silver lining. After the village elders were assassinated Watson said the Afghan police chief loaded up several pickup trucks with police, drove to a Marine base and told the captain there that he was going to "arrest some Taliban."

A short time later he returned with six men he claimed were Taliban. The police chief Omar Jan dropped off the men saying he wasn't finished and went off and collected two more and disabled several boats he suspected of ferrying insurgents across the Helmand River.

To the surprise of the Marines at least four of the men were on their wanted list.

Lance corporal killed in Afghanistan

Staff writer
Posted : Friday Jun 18, 2010 10:24:55 EDT

A California-based Marine died Wednesday in Afghanistan, the Defense Department has announced.

To continue reading about Fallen Hero, Lance Cpl. Michael C. Bailey, of the 3/7:


June 17, 2010

Marine from St. Clair Co. killed in Afghanistan

CHINA TOWNSHIP, Mich.—A 23-year-old Marine from St. Clair County described by those who knew him as proud of his service has died while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, the military said Thursday.


The Associated Press
Posted: 06/17/2010 09:48:47 AM PDT
Updated: 06/17/2010 08:56:16 PM PDT

Cpl. Jeffrey R. Standfest died Wednesday in Helmand province, the Defense Department said in a statement. His family lives in China Township, but the military listed his hometown as the nearby community of St. Clair.

He was a canine handler and a combat engineer. The Marines said an improvised explosive device struck him Wednesday while he was on foot patrol.

He was the son of Timothy Standfest, a detective with the police department in Macomb County's Clinton Township, and Karen Standfest, vice president for patient care services and chief nursing officer at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.

Jeffrey Standfest was an "all American kid" who joined the military because his grandfather served in the Marines during World War II, family friend Doug Mills, a retired Clinton Township detective, told The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens.

"I watched Jeff grow up into a man and into a Marine hero," Mills said. "This sounds corny, but I thank God there are people like him in the Marines and Army. What would we in this country do without people like him?"

He was a graduate of St. Clair High School, where he excelled as a runner. Clinton Township police spokesman Detective Capt. Richard Maierle knew Standfest since the Marine was a young child and said he was proud to serve.

"He was an outstanding high school athlete and a respectful person who loved his family and loved being in the Marine Corps," Maierle said. "He was just an overall great kid."

The military said Standfest was assigned to the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

He enlisted in the Marines in October 2008, and this was his first deployment. He was single.

China Township is located about 45 miles northeast of Detroit.

Twentynine Palms Marine dies in Helmand

Staff report
Posted : Thursday Jun 17, 2010 16:25:31 EDT

A Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based Marine died while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, the Defense Department announced Thursday.

To continue reading about Fallen Hero, Cpl. Jeffrey R. Standfest, of the 3rd CEB:


IJC Operational Update, June 17

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international force captured a Taliban sub-commander responsible for coordinating attacks and the movement of improvised explosive device material, and detained several suspected insurgents in Kandahar province last night.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.17.2010
Posted: 06.17.2010 04:09

The security force searched a remote building north of Morghan Kechah in the Daman District after intelligence sources confirmed insurgent activity. No shots were fired in this operation to capture insurgent facilitators and reduce attacks against coalition forces and civilians.

An ISAF patrol discovered large quantities of drugs in Garm Ser District, Helmand province, Tuesday.

The force found 450 kilograms of opium hidden under a false floor in a truck after the driver tried to avoid a vehicle checkpoint.
The driver and a passenger were detained.

In a separate action, the same unit seized a kilogram of amphetamines on a farm tractor and detained several individuals who tested positive for using the drug.

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

Petraeus: Afghan withdrawal date not locked in

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jun 17, 2010 17:01:47 EDT

President Obama’s announced date for the start of U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan has confused some friends, allies and enemies alike, according to lawmakers.

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


Lejeune Marines deploying to Afghanistan

The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Jun 17, 2010 8:44:45 EDT

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — More North Carolina-based Marines are headed to Afghanistan as U.S. and Afghan forces battle a resurgent Taliban.

To read the entire article:


Services June 24 for airman killed in Afghanistan

Services for Air Force 1st Lt. Joel Gentz of Grass Lake have been scheduled for 10 a.m. June 24 at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Chelsea. A private burial at Oak Grove East Cemetery in Chelsea is to follow.


Posted: June 17, 2010

Mr. Gentz, 25, and three other airmen died in a June 9 helicopter crash in Afghanistan after two Taliban rockets struck the aircraft. He was part of the 58th Rescue Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Mr. Gentz ran cross-country at Chelsea High School, where he graduated in 2002, and received a bachelor's degree from Purdue University in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.

Gates Concerned About Pessimism on Afghanistan

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is concerned about emerging public pessimism and cynicism regarding the outcome of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said here June 17.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
Story by Jim Garamone
Date: 06.17.2010
Posted: 06.17.2010 06:50

Gates says Americans need to remember what was happening in Afghanistan a year ago to appreciate how far the country has progressed since then, Morrell said.

"I don't know that he's laying the blame with anyone in particular," the press secretary said. "It just seems as though there is a great deal of not just skepticism, but cynicism about ... our operations there, and an effort to prematurely judge the outcome of the strategy."

Morrell stressed that last year, the Taliban had increased their control over many areas in the country. The Taliban controlled whole swaths of Regional Command – South and the trend in Regional Command – North was going in the wrong direction.

"In the year since, that growth has been halted, and we are taking back territory from the Taliban," Morrell said. "Their momentum has been thwarted, but it is still far too soon for us to say it has swung completely in our favor."

The International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan National Security Forces have regained the initiative and continue to make headway, he said.

"But I would remind you that this new strategy has really only been under way in earnest for a few months now, and the full complement of surge forces are not in theater yet," Morrell said. "And not all of those that are in theater are yet in the fight. So we need to give, I think, the strategy a chance to work."

Still, the clock is ticking, Morrell acknowledged. "The American people and those of our coalition partners are growing tired of war," he said. "After all, we've been at this for nearly nine years."

There is time to prove that the plan is working, Morrell said. There will be a study of the strategy and its effectiveness at the end of the year. By then, officials should be able to judge how the strategy is progressing.

What's more, there is a year before the July 2011 transition date, when coalition forces begin to turn over responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces.

"A lot can happen in a year," Morrell said. "We have a lot of work to do, no doubt, between now and then. But there is still a lot of time left on the clock for us ... to change the conditions on the ground.

"And the conditions on the ground, I would remind you, are what are going to determine the pace and the breadth of the drawdowns to come in July 2011," he said.

Afghan Children Discover IED

KABUL, Afghanistan - The recent discovery of an improvised explosive device by children on the Ring Road between Herat and Farah provinces helped ISAF service members safely destroy it.


ISAF Joint Command
Date: 06.17.2010
Posted: 06.17.2010 02:54

The bomb, consisting of an estimated 50 kilograms of homemade explosives, was found in a culvert by a group of children playing nearby, who reported it to village elders.

Afghan police cordoned off the location and notified the Task Force Centre IED disposal team in Shindand district, Farah province.

Due to darkness and to prevent harm from citizens, the disposal was successfully performed early the next morning.

Lt. Stefano Zonzin, Italian IED disposal team, said, "This is evidence that the trust of Shindand's population towards the police is growing, thanks to the increasing professionalism displayed by its staff, who work in close cooperation with ISAF forces to improve security in the area."

America's Battalion, Afghan Army Complete First Task in Operation New Dawn

SOUTHERN SHORSHORK, Afghanistan - Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, in partnership with the Afghanistan National Army, successfully completed their first task of establishing an observation post in support of Operation New Dawn in Southern Shorshork, Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 17.


Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs
Story by Sgt. Mark Fayloga
Date: 06.17.2010
Posted: 06.20.2010 03:09

Operation New Dawn is a joint operation between Marine Corps units and the Afghanistan National Army to disrupt enemy forces which have been using the sparsely populated region between Marjah and Nawa as a safe haven.

The men of ‘America’s Battalion’ and their ANA counterparts are responsible for establishing a defensive blocking position to deny enemy forces freedom of movement in the area.

“We’re going to be conducting patrols, vehicle checkpoints and looking at the population, making sure there aren’t people from out of the area coming in and causing harm or issues for the local people,” said Capt. Luke Pernotto, L Company commander and commander for 3/3’s ground force in Operation New Dawn. “We want to make sure enemy forces can’t be reinforced, and don’t fall back to regroup in this area. We’ve made extreme progress in Nawa, and to have it all go to waste, especially when we’re doing our last bit of clean-up in the Trek Nawa area, would be a shame.”

Following a nearly seven-hour convoy from Combat Outpost Toor Ghar, which took much longer than expected due to traveling on roads unused by coalition forces, and vehicle problems, an initial observation post was set up in a local’s compound.

During the first 48 hours of the operation, the Marines overcame obstacles to establish an observation post. While continuing to build up their defensive position, the Marines began to patrol in their new area of responsibility.

Afghan elders gathered nearby within a few hours of beginning to build up the compound, Pernotto and ANA 1st Sgt. Najibullah Bakht Beland along with fellow leadership met with them.

The compound the men moved into was located near a cemetery where local women often go to pray. The elders worried the women would no longer be able to travel to the cemetery and adamantly asked the military to move to a new position.

“We are here for Afghanistan to build up the area,” Beland, from Jalalabad, said to the elders. “We are from this country, to serve this country.”

Beland and Pernotto persuaded the elders to allow them to stay in the compound for one night, before moving further south to a position on the edge of the desert, but close enough to interact with the local populace.

“We’re essentially on the line where the desert ends and cultivation and civilization begins,” said Pernotto, from Shreveport, La. “Once the population realizes that a lot of their fears are unwarranted and we really are here to help them, that’s when we can begin to work with them and show that the government of Afghanistan, along with the partnership of the Marines, are here to help them and here to make their lives better. Yes, we had to take some land, but we took unfavorable land out in the desert to establish an operating base.”

It became evident the area the Marines and ANA now occupy hasn’t been patrolled or observed. While sweeping the observation post, Lance Cpl. Steven B. Lowe, an engineer from Headquarters Company, 3/3, discovered a buried cache of materials needed to make two pressure-plate, improvised explosive devices.

“Anytime you take away a position that the enemy uses, or you occupy a position that’s known to be frequented by the enemy, you hope to yield positive results,” Pernotto said. “Those two pressure plates could easily trigger two 200 pound IEDs. Taking those off of the battlefield, that alone, we’ve already contributed to Operation New Dawn and the overall security of this area.”

The Marines and ANA have taken their time with establishing their position and for good reason — they understand the importance of making a positive impression with the people here. The area has little electricity and few forms of distraction so the Marines have become the primary source of entertainment.

“All of our movements are watched by both those who support us and those who don’t, and that’s completely acceptable,” Pernotto said. “Even the guys that don’t like us, when they see us handling ourselves well and acting well, I think we can win over people who may originally not like us.

“I’d like to continue to build up the area and provide the security to where we can get the elders together and start discussing the issues and having partnership with the elders and the ANA as they continue to improve life around here.”

June 16, 2010

Romanian, Ukrainian Soldiers Join US Marines for Peacekeeping Training

BABADAG TRAINING AREA, Romania — Marines and Sailors with scout platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Tank Battalion, are currently partnered alongside Romanian and Ukrainian soldiers at Babadag Training Area, Romania, to conduct the third peacekeeping operation training evolution during the Black Sea Rotational Force 2010 deployment.


U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe Public Affairs
Story by Cpl. Logan Kyle
Date: 06.16.2010
Posted: 06.16.2010 09:28

Throughout the two-week evolution, the Marines, Romanians and Ukrainians will sharpen their skills in a variety of fields, including the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, convoy operations, patrolling, combat marksmanship and nonlethal weapons. However, the rigorous peacekeeping operations course is about more than just honing skills, it’s also an opportunity for the three nations to work together as partners.

“This is the first time we’ve worked with our neighbors, the Ukrainians, as well as the Marines,” said Romanian Land Forces 1st Lt. Priciu Volentin, a platoon commander with 341st Battalion. “We want to see what we can learn from both of them.”

“We’re here to focus on training for missions in Afghanistan, and I hope we can build a strong partnership with the Ukrainians,” he added.

Ukrainian soldiers said they agree the training opportunity offers a unique opportunity to bolster relationships across borders.

“It’s a very good experience for us to train with Americans and Romanians, and it’s very important to us,” said Ukrainian Army 1st Lt. Aleksander Yasko, a combat training and planning instructor with the 30th Mechanized Infantry Brigade. “We have already learned new techniques we can use when preparing soldiers for combat.

“All of this is very interesting and new for us. We look forward to continuing to build this friendship,” he added.

Since arriving in Romania, the Marines and Sailors of scout platoon have spent the majority of their deployment at Babadag Training Area, and some said they think of Babadag’s pastoral, rolling hills as a home away from home.

“It’s been exciting experiencing the Eastern European culture,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Hazlitt, an assaultman with scout platoon, H & S Company, 1st Tank Bn. “It’s a pleasant change of scenery from our desert in Twentynine Palms, Calif., but I do miss the comforts of home.”

The Marines have spent the past six weeks working in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions to promote regional stability, build enduring partnerships and build partner nations’ military capabilities. The Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task 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 cooperation objectives.

“We’ve had a good time here,” said Hazlitt, a native of Brownwood, Texas. “We’ve had the chance to meet several unique people and build strong bonds at the same time.

“I think we’ll be able to walk away from this deployment with a great sense of satisfaction and a new group of friends,” he added.

The peacekeeping operations training for U.S, Romanian and Ukrainian troops is slated to run through June 24 and will mark the end of the Black Sea Rotational Force’s training at Babadag. Scout platoon is next slated to report to Novo Selo, Bulgaria, in late June to train alongside Bulgarian forces in the final peacekeeping operation training course of the deployment.

Kandahar Journal: Returning to Afghanistan

This summer Canadian and American troops in Afghanistan will be engaged in one of the largest offensives since the start of the war. Former U.S. marine and war artist Michael Fay, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, will be embedded with American troops this summer. He will be filing illustrations and reports from the front for the National Post throughout the summer.


Michael D. Fay June 16, 2010 – 4:37 pm

I’ve been to war seven times. Tomorrow will mark the start of the eighth trip. A twelve hour flight from Dulles Airport to Kuwait International shoe-horned into an economy class seat will be followed by a shuttle bus ride out to a coalition air base called Ali Al Salem. Depending on the availability of military hops, a day or so might be spent acclimatizing to the heat and getting over jet lag while waiting on a flight to Kandahar Air Field.

My last time in Kandahar was during a frigid January in 2002. The former international airport had been blasted back to the Stone Age. Journalists and Marines spent nights sleeping on concrete floors and days huddled around a fire blazing in a dry fountain in the central courtyard of the main terminal building. Beyond great ovoid windows facing outward behind abandoned check-in counters lay the great expanse of Southern Afghanistan. The windows had the symmetry of a Mondrian painting, with the addition of bullet holes and shattered glass. With each setting sun a crazy quilt of blue and orange light would play through them across arched interior walls.

Life in and around the small coalition forces’ foothold in Kandahar was primitive. Toilets were plywood shacks open to the harsh winter wind. I met the commanding officer of the Marine Expeditionary Unit with trousers around my ankles sharing a lone roll of toilet paper. Off to one side of the ramshackle commodes was the “piss pit”, a shallow ten feet by ten feet depression in the ground filled with rocks and perpetually on fire, yes, on fire. Night time trips to the facilities meant following lines strung with blue chem lights and at least one serious stumble on bits and pieces of the blasted terminal building. Food was strictly MREs. Failing to sleep with water bottles and canteens meant you could look forward to going thirsty. You can’t drink frozen water.

Now, they tell me, the place has completely changed. Something called The Boardwalk offers civilized amenities. However, the old terminal building complex, which included a pocked marked mosque, remains much as I left it and is now fenced off. I wonder if land mines are the reason. In 2002 a day rarely passed without some unlucky guy stepping on a toe popper and losing a foot.

In 2002 I carried weapons to Afghanistan. This time no guns. I do have a good set of body armor and a new Kevlar helmet. A pair of well worn combat boots is joined by fresh pairs of hiking socks, but no guns. My gear has been packed and re-packed a dozen times. The new flak jacket, without a holster and pouches for both a pistol and rifle magazines looks strange. I had a big Velcro patch that says PRESS done up at one of the uniform shops out in Quantico town. We’ll see if it offers the same amount of protection as sixty 9mm and a hundred and eighty 5.56 full metal jacketed 55 grain NATO rounds. I once traveled with the Wall Street Journal writer Michael Phillips in Ramadi, and he had a piece of duct tape on the back of his flak with PRESS written with indelible marker in English. I asked him why it wasn’t in Arabic. His answer was quick and candid, “It’s there for the Marines.”

For the past three months I’ve spent a couple hours each afternoon at the corner gym on a stair climber in a flak jacket with a full Camelback water bladder attached. Nature’s been kind to me, but I’m eight and a half years older since last humping the wilds of Kandahar. The additional weight is about fifty pounds. Out in the field a three day pack will add another thirty or forty pounds. So, at least the battle load, without weapon and ammo, will be down to eighty pounds.

Although no longer in uniform, the hardest part of going to war remains the same; saying goodbye to loved ones and knowing my greatest passion, being a war artist, is the source of their greatest fears. My mother and daughter have been through this before, but they’re as anxious as ever. My fiancée Janis, although she’s been to war herself, is putting on a brave front, but I know she’s scared. She knows that war is far more difficult for those staying behind. Episodes of actual combat are few and far between. Those of us at war know where we are and our level of safety. Folks back home don’t and find their days and nights disturbed by constant uncertainty. Now it’s Janis’ turn to worry. I wish I had more than pat phrases to counter her fears. All I can tell her, as well as my daughter and Mom, is how much I love them, appreciate their support, and that I won’t place myself in too much danger. Unfortunately, one of those three things is a bold-faced lie.

Afghanistan Timeline Not a Withdrawal Date, Officials Say

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's directive calling for the start of a conditions-based drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011 shouldn't be considered as an exit date, but rather the beginning of the transfer of security responsibilities to the Afghans, the top U.S. military commander in the region told a Senate panel June 16.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
Date: 06.16.2010
Posted: 06.16.2010 02:20

U.S. Central Command commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The hearing was a continuation from the June 15 meeting, which was postponed after Petraeus had fainted due to dehydration.

The officials picked up where they had left off, explaining the essence of Obama's Afghanistan strategy and the significance of setting a timeline. They also provided an update on Afghanistan operations.

"As I noted yesterday, I did believe there was value in sending a message of urgency -- July 2011 -- as well as the message the president was sending of commitment -- the additional, substantial numbers of forces," Petraeus said. "But it is important that July 2011 be seen for what it is: the date when a process begins, based on conditions, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits."

Petraeus added that his agreement with Obama's policy was based on projections of conditions in July 2011.

"We're doing all that is humanly possible to achieve those conditions," he said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his experts and leaders in the region will conduct "rigorous assessments" throughout the year to determine progress and, if necessary, make adjustments in the strategy as July 2011 approaches, Petraeus said.

"I will provide my best military advice to the secretary and to the president on how I believe we should proceed based on the conditions at that time, and I will then support the president's decision," the general said. "Providing one's forthright advice is a sacred obligation military leaders have to our men and women in uniform, and I know that that is what the president expects and wants his military leaders to provide."

Although pleased with Petraeus' explanation of the meaning of the July 2011 timeline, some on the committee voiced concerns.

Petraeus attempted to assuage the legislators' concerns, pointing out that some "journalistic accounts" have misconstrued the president's strategy. The July 2011 timeline is subject to conditions on the ground at that time, he explained.

"What I have tried to explain today is my understanding of what July 2011 means and how it is important, again, that people do realize, especially our partners, especially our comrades-in-arms in Afghanistan and in the region, that that is not the date when we look for the door and try to turn off the light, but rather a date at which a process begins," he said.

July 2011 "is an inflection point," Flournoy said. "It is a point at which the end of the surge will be marked and a process of transition that is conditions-based will begin."

Setting a goal to begin the transition U.S. military forces out of Afghanistan shouldn't be considered as detrimental to the U.S. government's long-term commitment there, Flournoy continued, noting a recent strategic dialogue held with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and his cabinet, in which U.S. officials discussed "long-term security assistance, long-term commitments to build capacity, governance [and] development."

And, the participants at that meeting departed with "no questions in their mind about the depth and enduring nature of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan," Flournoy said. "I think that has to be [an] important context in which this conversation happens."

In his opening remarks at the June 16 meeting with the Senate panel, Petraeus noted initiatives, such as the formation of the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan command, that are pursuing greater partnership with Afghan forces. Such initiatives, he said, are intended to help Afghan forces achieve the capability to assume the leading role in operations.

"To that end, I think we should note that Afghan forces are in the lead in Kabul and in a number of other areas and missions," Petraeus explained. "And they are very much in the fight throughout the country, so much so that their losses are typically several times U.S. losses. Our Afghan comrades on the ground are indeed sacrificing enormously for their country as are, of course, our troopers and those of our [international] partner nations."

Afghan Civilians Help Police Repel Taliban Attack

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Afghan civilians helped police to repel an attack by an estimated 50 Taliban fighters against a police checkpoint in Afghanistan's Daykundi province June 14, military officials reported.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
Date: 06.16.2010
Posted: 06.16.2010 01:42

Ten national police officers manning a checkpoint in Kajran came under heavy small-arms and rocket fire just after noon and called for support.

About 250 civilians gathered with personal assault rifles and, along with police reinforcements and International Security Assistance Force aircraft, forced the Taliban fighters to retreat.

U.S. Special Forces soldiers responded and provided medical aid to injured Afghan policemen at the request of the Kajran district security manager. Two of the policemen died of their wounds.

This is the second time this year that residents of Daykundi province have fought the Taliban, officials said. On April 21, residents of Gizab captured several Taliban fighters, and when nearly a dozen insurgents retaliated by attacking the town, the town's local defense force, supported by coalition aircraft, repelled the attack.

In other news, Afghan forces working with international partners recently conducted a large-scale operation against Taliban insurgents in the Shah Wali Kot district, north of Kandahar City in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, officials said.

The intent of this operation, officials said, was to disrupt a key insurgent haven from which attacks against Afghan communities and coalition forces were planned and executed.

The five-day operation saw heavy fighting, with one period of nonstop, close-quarter combat lasting the entire day and resulting in the death of a significant number of insurgents, officials reported, adding that the operation dealt a major blow to more than 100 insurgents and their commanders.

After days of intense operations, the combined force succeeded in taking all key positions in the region and forcing the remaining insurgents to flee the area. Afghan leaders from the combined force then met with members of the local community to plan ways the Afghan government could assist them in keeping the Taliban out.

A member of the combined force said the local population was grateful to the Afghan and international forces for pushing out the insurgents who had levied heavy taxes on residents, occupied their villages and forced them to provide food and shelter to the Taliban.

No civilians were injured in this operation, officials said.

In other news from Afghanistan:
-- A combined Afghan-international force detained several suspected insurgents in Kandahar province last night while pursuing a Taliban commander responsible for suicide attacks against Afghan and international forces in Kandahar City. The combined force found bomb-making materials and automatic rifles during the operation.

-- Another Afghan-international force detained a number of suspected insurgents while pursuing a Taliban commander in Helmand province's Washer district last night. Several insurgents fled and tried to hide in a civilian residence when the combined force arrived, but they were apprehended peacefully. No shots were fired, and women and children present during the search were protected by the combined force. More than 60 pounds of wet opium was found during a search.

-- Afghan and international forces detained two people suspected of insurgent activity in Helmand's Trek Nawa district the night of June 13. The operation was designed to disrupt Taliban leadership in Marja responsible for planning and conducting attacks against Afghan and international forces, and for the funding and purchasing of weapons for Taliban fighters. After surrounding the insurgents' compound, Afghan special police ensured all residents exited safely. Several women and children were protected, no shots were fired and no civilians were injured in the operation.

Recently Activated Afghan Army 215th Maiwand Corps Receives 100 Graduates

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps received 100 newly-trained soldiers after they graduated from the Joint Security Academy Shorabak here, June 16. Graduating class 2010-01 is the first group of soldiers trained since the 215th Corps’ activation, April 1.


I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd)
Story by Sgt. Heidi Agostini
Date: 06.16.2010
Posted: 06.16.2010 09:15

JSAS is designed to train both army and police personnel of the Afghan security forces. The basic training for recruits is designed to ready troops for the security mission lead by Afghan commanders.
During the past eight weeks, the recruits participated in an intense syllabus that has incorporated the full Afghan National Army mandated program of instruction. They also went through an additional 260 hours of combat integration to include the final exercise which included actual combat patrols with 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion.

“This is the only location where the soldier does a live patrol with Marine forces,” said Terry Walker, training advisor, Regional Command Southwest. “Each one of them went out in squads with our instructors and conducted a graduation experience. As a matter of fact they found an equipment cache while they were out there. They were very proud of themselves.”

The final exercise was designed to have the new soldiers demonstrate the advanced technical, tactical and patrolling skills they’ve acquired while attending the basic warrior training course at JSAS.

“I really appreciate all the help from the Marines,” said Afghan Army instructor First Sgt. Hakeen Uallah. “I’m very proud of my soldiers, especially because the Marines taught them how to shoot very well. As instructors, we were with them 24 hours a day and we trained them well and I’m confident they will do well. The future of Afghanistan is now in their hands.”

According to the International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan, there are 119,388 Afghan soldiers as of May 19. The target strength is 171,600 by October 2011. The new soldiers who graduated with class 2010-01 will be assigned to units throughout Helmand province.

Afghan, ISAF Forces Conduct Operation Against Major Insurgent Cell in Shah Wali Kot

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan National Security Forces with ISAF partners successfully conducted a large scale operation against Taliban insurgents in the district of Shah Wali Kot, north of Kandahar City recently. The intent of this operation was to disrupt a key insurgent haven from which attacks against Afghan communities and coalition forces were planned and executed.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.16.2010
Posted: 06.16.2010 08:02

Directly contributing to the ongoing efforts of Hamkari security operations in Kandahar City and nearby districts, the five-day operation saw heavy fighting with one period of non-stop, close-quarter combat lasting the entire day and resulting in the death of a significant number of insurgents. Through this operation, the combined force dealt a major blow to more than 100 insurgents and their commanders.

After days of intense operations, the combined force succeeded in taking all key positions in the region and forcing remaining insurgents to flee the area. Afghan leaders from the combined force then met with members of the local community to plan ways the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan could assist them in keeping out the Taliban.

A member of the combined force said the local population of Shah Wali Kot were grateful to the Afghan and international forces for pushing out the insurgents who had levied heavy taxes on residents, occupied their villages and forced them to provide food and shelter to the Taliban.

No civilians were injured in this operation.

3-star: Caution backfiring in Afghanistan

By Jim Michaels - USA TODAY
Posted : Wednesday Jun 16, 2010 17:40:16 EDT

Commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan have been reluctant to launch more secret operations because of an excess of caution about violating military rules and international law, a top Army officer says.

To read the entire article:


IJC Operational Update, June 16

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international force detained several suspected insurgents in Kandahar province last night while pursuing a Taliban commander responsible for suicide attacks against Afghan and international forces in Kandahar City.


IJC Public Affairs Advisory Team- Regional Command North
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.16.2010
Posted: 06.16.2010 06:18

The security force searched compounds south of the village of Seyved Kalacheh after multiple intelligence sources confirmed insurgent activity, and found a significant amount of imprmaking material, including TNT explosives, IED charges, pressure plates and circuit boards, as well as automatic rifles.

When the security force arrived on scene several insurgents fled and tried to hide in a civilian residence, but were apprehended peacefully. Several women and children were protected by the joint force, no one was harmed, and no damage was done to any of the buildings.

Another Afghan-interThe security force searched a compound near the village of Lar-e Bala, Washer district, after intelligence information confirmed insurgent activity.

Several insurgents fled and tried to hide in a civilian residence when the combined force arrived, but were apprehended peacefully. No shots were fired, and women and children present during the search were protected by the joint force.

Approximately 30 kilograms of wet opium was also found during the search.

Afghan and international forces detained two individuals suspected of insurgent activity during an operation in Trek Nawa, Helmand province Sunday night.

The operation was designed to disrupt Taliban leadership in Marja responsible for planning and conducting attacks against Afghan and ISAF forces, and for the funding and purchasing of weapons for Taliban fighters.

After surrounding the compound housing the Taliban insurgents, Afghan Special police ensured all residents exited safely. Several women and children were protected, no shots were fired and no civilians were injured in the operation.

Assault Amphibious Crewmen ready themselves for upcoming deployment to Latin America, practice MOUT

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune — A dirt road breaks away from the main highway and cuts deep into the North Carolina forest. Suddenly and almost mysteriously, a row of young date palms grow in a patch of earth where tall evergreens once stood. The sound of Islamic prayer resonates off in the distance as periodic exchanges of NATO and 7.62 rounds echo across the tree-line. A full-scale town comes into view – hastily constructed as it would be on the set of a 1960s Spaghetti Western.


6/16/2010 By Cpl. Daniel Negrete, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

Venturing deeper into this make-believe world, one quickly discovers this is neither a war zone nor the set of a box office thriller. It’s a Military Operations in Urban Terrain or MOUT Town, erected aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., to give deploying troops a taste of what may be in store for them when they step into theater.

2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, Company A., is the most recent Camp Lejeune unit to conduct a field exercise in “Combat Town,” here. The exercise lasted from June 2-4.

During the three-day exercise at “Combat Town,” the Assault Amphibious Vehicle company rehearsed drills on dismounted infantry tactics, urban patrolling, room and house clearing operations, as well as manning vehicle check points and entry control points.

Approximately 45 Afghan role players took part in the exercise – acting as insurgents, community leaders, police officers, merchants and townspeople.

The exercise and scenarios were set up in a manner relevant to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, complete with sniper and improvised explosive device attacks, suicide bombers and hasty ambushes.

Marines with Co. A., 2nd AA Bn., trained in MOUT as part of their pre-deployment work-up to support Continuing Promise 2010, a Navy-led humanitarian assistance mission geared at bringing medical, dental and other valuable services to disadvantaged communities in Latin America and the Caribbean over the span of 120 days.

The AAV company will serve as the ground-combat element for the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force slated to launch in conjunction with Continuing Promise 2010.

“It was essential for us to have proficiency in MOUT prior to supporting this deployment,” said Capt. Lynn W. Berendsen, company commander of Co. A, 2nd AA Bn. “Even though CP2010 is more of a humanitarian and civic assistance type of deployment, MOUT is a fundamental skill for all Marines to have, especially when forming part of a Special-Purpose MAGTF.”

“A deployment to Latin America is a completely different ball game than a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Master Sgt. Michael L. Blackstone, logistics and operations chief for Co. A, 2nd AA Bn. “[However], in making sure we could provide effective security in the event of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief during CP2010, we wanted to train in something more difficult first – something with a more kinetic and combat operations feel.

This way, it would be easier for us to revert back to a combat-ready state of mind in the event of disaster relief or providing security for a NEO (Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation) than it would have been if we trained solely to provide humanitarian assistance.”

Countries slated to be visited during Continuing Promise 2010 include: Haiti, Suriname, Guyana, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

A force of approximately 500 Marines will work in close partnership with the Navy during Continuing Promise 2010. In addition to supporting the Navy’s humanitarian assistance mission in the region, the Marines will train bilaterally with the militaries and security forces of the countries visited.

“We’re very thrilled to be part of this Special-Purpose MAGTF,” said Berendsen. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for us Marines to get back with the Navy and do something like this – something we’ve kind of gone away from since we’ve been in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We can really do some great things with the Navy on this deployment and form solid partnerships with other nations and their militaries.”

June 15, 2010

Concern on Capitol Hill about Afghanistan war grows

A series of political and military setbacks in Afghanistan has fed anxiety over the war effort in the past few weeks, shaking supporters of President Obama's counterinsurgency strategy and confirming the pessimism of those who had doubts about it from the start.


By Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The concerns, fed largely by unease over military operations in southern Afghanistan that are progressing slower than anticipated, spurred lawmakers to schedule last-minute hearings this week to assess progress on the battlefield and within the Afghan government.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of the Central Command, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Mich?le A. Flournoy are to appear Tuesday in the Senate and Wednesday in the House to answer questions about the offensives in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, and about what many see as the continuing erratic behavior of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"I think we are all concerned," said Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee who visited Afghanistan last month.

"The hearing is an attempt to find out what is going on in Kandahar," said a Senate Armed Services Committee aide, adding that Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the panel's chairman, "is particularly focused on whether there has been a change in strategy or timetable for the Kandahar campaign."

The White House said it welcomes the opportunity to explain. "We anticipated that as we increased our resources in this effort, that it would be increasingly difficult as well," said Denis R. McDonough, the chief of staff of the National Security Council. "It's absolutely understandable and absolutely justifiable for Congress to ask additional questions."

Much of the pressure for results stems from the timeline that Obama set, and that the military agreed to, when he announced his Afghanistan strategy and the deployment of about 30,000 additional troops in December. U.S. troop strength will be about 100,000 by the end of August; a report on overall progress in the war is due in December. Troops are scheduled to begin withdrawing in July 2011.

The military has clearly announced each major operation, including a Marine offensive in Helmand province launched in February and a combined civil-military campaign in Kandahar that officials said last spring would be fully underway by this month. Strong Taliban resistance and lagging Afghan government participation have slowed progress in Marja, a district at the center of the Helmand campaign, creating the image that things have not been going as well as anticipated.

That image was compounded last week when Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the military operations in Kandahar would not begin in force until September.

Senior military and defense officials, none of whom was authorized to discuss relations with the White House, said congressional questions and a series of negative stories in the media have increased requests for explanations. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen "is certainly aware that there is angst" in the White House, one military official said.

"There has been a continuous drumbeat of requests asking what does this mean, what does that mean regarding timelines and time horizons," a defense official said. "I don't see this as unusual or abnormal, but there's a lot of interest and concern."

In public statements last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sought to tamp down expectations that results would be definitive by December.

"We are going to have to show by the end of the year that our strategy is on the right track and making some headway," Gates said. "I don't think anyone has any illusions that we'll be done or that there will be big victories or something like that.

"But I think General McChrystal is pretty confident that by the end of the year, he will able to point to sufficient progress" to justify continuing the effort, he said.

Benjamin J. Rhodes, head of strategic communications for the National Security Council, said that rough patches are inevitable and that "at different times, different aspects of the strategy will be performing better than others." Early this year, he said, Obama was concerned about recruitment and training issues with the Afghan security forces and "he leaned into that, just as he leaned into alignment with the Karzai government" before Karzai visited Washington last month.

But Obama, he said, is getting all the information he needs. The president receives a weekly interagency report and a monthly briefing from the field, including video conferences with McChrystal, U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and their counterparts in neighboring Pakistan. Obama, Rhodes said, is "confident of the approach we have in place and in General McChrystal's implementation of the strategy."

Others are more doubtful. "It's clear the Marja operation did not go as smoothly as expected," said Frederick Jones, spokesman for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).

Kerry, he added, "is concerned that the Taliban is reestablishing itself there."

The senator, who is planning oversight hearings on the war this summer, also has questions about Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan's former interior minister, and former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh. Jones said both "were well-respected by the Americans and the British" before Karzai fired them last week.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who has traveled to Afghanistan, said he was "decidedly dubious" of the Obama administration's war strategy from the start. "I'm trying to see how a year from now we'll be in any better position than we are today. It's difficult for me to see a way out here."

Obama's war funding requests for this year and next are still awaiting approval, Flake said, and "it's going to be a more difficult sell than it was several months ago."

Even within the military, there are concerns, and "I sense the same division of opinion," said Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations. Although still in the minority, "some folks are very worried that the picture in December is going to look like it's not worth the price," said Biddle, a defense expert who was part of a planning group recruited by McChrystal last year to help formulate a new war strategy.

The "darkness before the dawn" is normal in counterinsurgency operations, and the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is "not all that surprising," Biddle said. "But I don't know that it's a huge cause for optimism, either."

The Real-Life Hurt Locker: Battling IEDs in Afghanistan

Gunnery Sergeant Matthew "Gunney" Small, 32, has a mustache, a thick Boston accent and a tendency to pepper his instructions with curse words. In a single day, Small investigated the site of an improvised explosive device (IED) blast, engaged in a 30-min. firefight with insurgents, blew up a bridge and then swept a road for more IEDs. On the way home, he paused for an intravenous drip — he was dehydrated — and then, after a 12-hour mission, called it a day.


By Abigail Hauslohner / Marjah Tuesday, Jun. 15, 2010

It's not quite The Hurt Locker, the Oscar-winning movie that Small used expletives to express his disapproval of. But Small's men are the kind of guys that the film was based on: an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, heavy on the explosions but without the Hollywood theatrics or astronaut-like bomb suits.

Two- and three-man teams like Small's occupy a unique but critical spot in the Afghan war because, according to icasualties.org, IEDs have already taken the lives of at least 134 NATO forces this year. In Taliban strongholds across Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where a 30,000-strong U.S. troop surge is under way and fighting is intensifying, Small's commander, Warrant Officer Ronnie Wilkins, likens the job to the firefighters of the Marine Corps, with his teams spread out across Marjah, currently one of southern Afghanistan's busiest battle zones. Mostly they're called on to inspect suspected IED sites and dispose of whatever they find. Other times, they're called in to blow up bridges or buildings used by insurgents. "They said if you take this bridge out, the Taliban won't come," explains 1st Platoon commander Lieutenant Carl Quist as Small's team attaches 20 lb. of explosives to a footbridge believed to give the Taliban access to a farming village. "We have all our gear, tools and equipment staged and ready at all times," Wilkins says from his tent at Camp Hanson.

Far too often — about 40% of the time, Small says — they're called on to do postblast assessments. "More so than ever before in Iraq, the guys on the ground have so much more to worry about," Small says. "These guys are walking around, day in and day out, on foot. They have to worry about the small-arms engagements ... [IEDs] are buried, and the key indicators don't stick out as much as they have in the past."

Since its arrival in Helmand province in mid-April, the 1st EOD Company has lost one team member on the job and sent two others home, one of whom had to have both his legs amputated. Four other shrapnel wounds and multiple concussions later, the 12-man platoon still has five months left in its deployment. "Probably the most dangerous part out here is locating the IEDs," says Small. "And that's not always us. It's whoever is out on patrol that day."

To mitigate the risk, EOD units use a varying combination of robots, dogs, metal detectors and sensing equipment built into their vehicles. Even then, efforts are never foolproof. And sometimes, on treks over several miles in 115°-plus heat, the gear just isn't practical. "The areas that we're walking around in — they're not trafficable by these vehicles. So that in and of itself takes away anything with any weight — the robotics, any of the larger equipment, the bomb suit — it's a sheer weight issue," says Small. "We try our best to pack as light as we can and keep up with these guys in their movements. If we travel slow, we put those guys in danger."

Earlier on the day of Small's 12-hour mission, EOD went ahead of the squad to check a bridge — the site of two previous IED blasts — before the rest of the Marines crossed. Twenty meters away, Small was on his hands and knees, scraping at the dirt with no Hurt Locker–style suit on. (The Marines too have only derogatory terms for the outfits.) "I can tell you there is nothing in this hole right now," he told the squad leader, after several minutes of assessment. "But I'm willing to bet it's a predug hole for an IED," he added.

Most of the Explosive Ordnance Marines attached to the 3rd Battalion 6th Marines in Marjah have served multiple tours in Iraq, where, as in Afghanistan, IEDs — often sophisticated in design — have been the largest killer of U.S. troops. Still, they say Afghanistan is different terrain: more rural, more impoverished and presenting far more primitive materials for insurgents to work with. Ironically, Wilkins says, that makes finding and dealing with IEDs here more of a challenge. Dirt roads and plowed fields make IEDs easy to plant. And a heavy reliance on household items like water jugs, fertilizer and saw blades — as opposed to the conventional munitions like the old rockets and artillery shells used in Iraq — make Afghan IEDs difficult to detect. The EOD teams say they're always racing to adapt to evolving insurgent techniques. "It's a constant game of cat and mouse — them trying to beat us and us trying to beat them," says Staff Sergeant Spencer Meyer at Camp Hanson.

The 3/6 gets about half of their IED tips from local sources, and commanders make the call on whether a tip should be investigated. But, says Staff Sergeant Zach Clayton, an EOD team leader in Marjah, "Anywhere from 50% to 75% of the time, a tip is a trap." And, he adds with an ironic smile, "The Taliban are the only ones who use the tip line."

Often IED attacks and IED site investigations are followed by small-arms fire. "They like to initiate the small-arms ambushes with IEDs just because it causes so much chaos," says Small. "Especially if they happen to get a legitimate strike — like they hit one of our guys."

After Small investigated the previous day's blast site, where an IED had killed one Marine and injured two others on foot patrol, the Marines moved into a neighboring compound to question the owner. Like most residents the Marines confront, the man claimed to know nothing of the attack or of a local Taliban presence. But as the Marines trod back into the field, they heard the first pops of gunfire, followed a minute later by an encore, then steady bursts of machine-gun fire from two directions. The ambush sent the Marines running along the edge of a field to take up positions in irrigation ditches and a nearby compound. Two Cobra helicopters had to be called in to provide security before Small could continue with his mission.

At the end of a grueling day, Small's team hadn't found or defused any IEDs. But Small had investigated three suspected sites and surrounding areas. "I would rather do a thousand false calls that yield no find than do that one postblast."

Statement on Death of Arghandab District Governor Statement on Death of Arghandab District Governor

KABUL, Afghanistan – The murder of the Arghandab District Governor Haji Abdul Jabar, his son and a member of the governor’s staff, June 15, claimed the life of a dedicated public servant.


International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.15.2010
Posted: 06.15.2010 01:06

“Governor Jabar was working to improve the lives of the people in Arghandab. This attack shows the insurgents’ cannot offer a better alternative for peace and security. Their actions will only increase the suffering of those who seek a better future for Afghanistan,” said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, International Security Assistance Force Commander.

“We offer our sincere condolences and sympathy to the family of Governor Jabar and to the people of Arghandab. We will continue to stand by our partners in the Afghan government and security forces who are bravely serving their country each day,” said McChrystal.

While Afghan authorities are working to determine the perpetrator of this attack, ISAF is ready to assist in any way possible.

There were no ISAF service members involved in the incident.

A Tale of Three Commanders – a Reintegration Parable

KABUL, Afghanistan - Three battalion level commanders in Afghanistan had very different views on their roles.


International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.15.2010
Posted: 06.15.2010 07:56
By Col. Christopher D. Kolenda

The first battalion commander saw his task as killing or capturing the enemy. Issues such as governance, development, and interaction with local leaders and people were someone else’s problem.

The ISAF counterinsurgency guidance and other directives were mildly interesting. Reintegration was a waste of time. He was taking the fight to the enemy with the conventional tools at his disposal.

The second commander saw his task differently. He understood how governance, development, and engagement with local leaders and people, if done well, could help improve security in his area. He also knew that, if done poorly, those factors could feed the insurgency.

He was seeing striking evidence of the latter. He repeatedly asked for Afghan government programs to improve the situation. These were always discussed but never delivered. He heard some examples of ISAF commanders being criticized for dealing with those issues themselves, so asked for permission to take action.

He was told to wait for the Afghan government. He wanted to talk to interlocutors from the insurgent groups who presented themselves to him, but believed he had no permission to do so.

He sent them instead to the corrupt officials the insurgents were fighting. He wrung his hands over lack of guidance and programs.

The third commander saw his task and situation similar to the second. While he understood his lane, he also was the type to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission.

When he saw the district governor marginalize social groups, he took careful action to ensure they were included in decisions that affected their communities. When he saw abuse of power and theft of development funds, he quietly confronted the governor and police chief with the evidence – stating that he did not want to report it but would be compelled to do so if the behavior continued.

He actively combined CERP and other economic capabilities with creative efforts toward social mobilization to develop local ownership and support. He spoke with local insurgent interlocutors, understood grievances and reasons for fighting, and coordinated action with his Afghan counterparts to deal with them.

He rolled up his sleeves to deliver results in ways that did not undermine the government or forthcoming programs – which he knew the ISAF leadership was pushing the Afghan government to enact. He found informal, common-sense ways to achieve desired outcomes at the local level.

The first and second commanders killed plenty of insurgents, but nonetheless saw violence rise in their areas. The first commander reveled in the violence, celebrating the bravery of his soldiers in large firefights.

The second came away frustrated and disillusioned – he knew what to do but never felt he had explicit permission to do it. Once enacted, reintegration was limted due to failed expectations.

The third commander killed plenty of insurgents as well, but saw violence drop significantly in his area. Communities banded together, abuse of power was curtailed, and the commander worked carefully with local leaders and his Afghan counterparts to redress grievances and create different choices for local insurgents.

Hundreds of fighters came off – and stayed off – the battlefield. He simply called it good counterinsurgency, or “setting conditions” for reintegration. When the Afghan reintegration program finally came on line, various former insurgents enrolled. Others simply carried on with their lives. The area remained secure.

IJC Operational Update, June 15

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international force killed several armed insurgents in Kapisa province while pursuing a Taliban commander last night.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.15.2010
Posted: 06.15.2010 04:19

The combined security force went to a compound west of Adiza'i in the Tagab District, after intelligence information confirmed insurgent activity. Fleeing insurgents armed with automatic weapons and grenades fired on the security force which returned fire killing the insurgents.

The Taliban commander was responsible for attacks against coalition forces, and was believed to be planning more attacks.

Several women and children were protected by the security force during the operation.

Gen. James Amos, Marine aviator, in line to become next Corps commandant

In a major break with tradition, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is planning to recommend that the president select a career aviator as the next commandant of the Marine Corps, a military official said Monday night.


By Greg Jaffe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If nominated and confirmed, Gen. James F. Amos would be the first Marine commandant with a background as a jet pilot -- at a time when the Corps is fighting a ground-dominated war in Afghanistan -- and his selection reasserts Gates's willingness to shake up established service bureaucracies.

Amos, who is the service's assistant commandant, would also become the first Marine general promoted from that position to the Corps' top job. He served in Iraq in the early days of that conflict, but he has not led troops in Afghanistan. He has relatively less experience in waging counterinsurgency warfare than other candidates considered for the job.

Gates has said that, in selecting the commandant, he wanted someone who would help the Marine Corps chart a course beyond the current wars. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps has taken on the role of a second land Army and moved away from its amphibious roots.

Gates has expressed particular concern about how the Marines would continue to attack from the sea as increasingly lethal cruise missiles push Navy ships farther from the coastline.

"What differentiates [the Marine Corps] from the Army?" Gates asked in a speech this year. "We will always have a Marine Corps. But the question is, how do you define the mission post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan? And that's the intellectual effort that I think the next commandant has to undertake."

Amos has developed a reputation among Marines as an innovative thinker about future combat, said military officials. As the Corps' assistant commandant, he has also been a passionate advocate for finding additional resources to treat Marines diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

In choosing Amos for commandant, Gates passed over Gen. James N. Mattis, who is widely considered one of the military's best minds when it comes to waging war on insurgents.

Amos would replace Gen. James F. Conway, whose four-year term as commandant ends this fall. Gates is expected to recommend Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who is an infantry officer, to serve as the assistant commandant.

Gates is expected to formally submit Amos's name to President Obama in the coming days. The military official who confirmed Gates's intent Monday night spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision is not official.

The selection of Amos to lead the Marine Corps wouldn't mark the first time that Gates has broken with tradition in choosing a service chief. In 2008, he selected a cargo pilot to lead the Air Force. Previously, all Air Force chiefs had been fighter or bomber pilots.

June 14, 2010

Marines, family members pack Camp Pendleton chapel to honor sergeant

The Texan was one of five Marines from Camp Pendleton to die in Afghanistan in the last nine days.

Reporting from Camp Pendleton — Sgt. Brandon Bury was remembered Monday as a big-hearted Texan, described by an aunt as "a Marine and a sweetie pie all in one wonderful person."


By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
June 14, 2010 | 6:08 p.m.

Bury, 26, was one of five Marines from Camp Pendleton to die in Afghanistan in the last nine days — part of a mounting death toll as the Marines continue their mission to wrest control of Helmand province from the Taliban.

Since the beginning of April, 28 Marines from Camp Pendleton and other bases have died in Helmand from roadside bombs, gunfire and vehicle crashes.

Family members, friends and Marines gathered for a farewell to Bury complete with readings from the Bible, mournful poems, country-western music, and a slide-show montage tracing his life from rambunctious childhood through his years as a high school athlete, a student at the University of Texas, a loving husband and father of two boys. He died in a vehicle crash.

"I'm not going to say goodbye," Bury's wife, Heather, said tearfully as she looked at his flag-draped casket. "I know you'll be watching over us. But I will miss you every moment of every day."

Heather Bury was among those Marine family members who met privately Sunday with Michelle Obama before the first lady's speech to 3,500 Marines and family members. Obama paid tribute to the sacrifice borne by Camp Pendleton Marines and families since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"In the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, no Marine base — and few bases anywhere — has sacrificed more for America, more lives, more wounded warriors, than your families and your colleagues," Obama said.

The audience for Obama's speech fell silent as she called out the names of Bury, Lance Cpl. Derek Hernandez, Cpl. Donald Marler, Sgt. John Rankel and Lance Cpl. Michael Plank — all killed since June 6.

The Marines account for less than 20% of the total U.S. dead in Afghanistan — in part because the Marine Corps played only a minimal role in the years between the toppling of the Taliban government in 2001 and a return of the force in 2008.

In recent months, under a troop buildup approved by President Obama, the Marines have nearly 20,000 troops in Helmand province, long a Taliban stronghold and where more U.S. troops have been killed (182) than in any other province in Afghanistan during the nearly nine years of U.S. involvement.

Except for a few hundred troops, the Marines have largely departed from Iraq and its Anbar province, once the center of the Sunni insurgency.

But the cost in lives was sizable. Among U.S. bases, only the Army's Ft. Hood (with 485) in Texas has had more troops killed in Iraq than Camp Pendleton, with 351.

Bury had served two combat tours in Iraq, receiving a Combat Action Ribbon. Several of the montage pictures were of Bury and other Marines in Iraq.

The ceremony was punctuated with occasional crying of small children. Many adults had tears in their eyes. Some of those adults were Marines.

Patricia Mills, wife of Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the top Marine in Afghanistan, was among those who packed the Memorial Chapel to honor Bury. Her husband has said there will be more fighting and more casualties until the Marine mission is complete; Patricia Mills has attended numerous memorial services.

"It never gets easier," she said

General: Artillery ops to become smaller

By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 14, 2010 18:01:04 EDT

Large-scale operations requiring artillerymen to lay down blankets of fire across wide swaths of enemy-held territory are likely a thing of the past, according to a Marine three-star general.

To continue reading:


From Concept to Reality: MV-22 "Osprey" Proves Itself in Combat, Takes Place As Corps' Premiere Medium-lift Asset

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The MV-22 Osprey, after more than 20 years of development, testing, failure and success, is wrapping up its first combat deployment in Afghanistan, with solid proof it is ready to replace the Corps’ aging fleet of CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters as the maritime forces’ go-to medium-lift aircraft.


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs
Story by Cpl. Ryan Rholes
Date: 06.14.2010
Posted: 06.14.2010 01:00

The U.S. government first realized the need for an aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and fast flying in the early 1980s and developed the Joint-Service Vertical Take-Off/Landing Aircraft Experimental program in 1981. Bell Helicopter partnered with Boeing Vertol and submitted a plan for an enlarged version of a Bell prototype. Officials designated the JVX aircraft the V-22 Osprey a few years after the initial proposal.

Pilots completed successful helicopter-style, airplane-style and sea-trial flights with the Osprey in 1989 and 1990, but lost two prototypes in the following two years, casting doubt over the program. After a year of redesign, the Osprey reemerged with several new safety features and returned to the sky. The program progressed without incident until another two fatal crashes in 2000 that again grounded the revolutionary aircraft. The resilient bird underwent heavy improvements and eventually received approval from the Pentagon in 2005 to get into action.

Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 deployed with the aircraft for seven months to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq in 2007, where it flew more than 2,500 successful missions in Al Anbar province. Although skepticism remained that success in Iraq would translate to success in Afghanistan, the aircraft would have a chance to prove itself sooner than most expected.

In 2008, most of the Marines serving with VMM-261 had never actually seen an Osprey, according to Lt. Col. Anthony Bianca, the squadron’s first commanding officer. In 2009, the squadron taxied an Osprey down their runway in New River, N.C., for the first time and just a few months after that, the squadron was on its way to war.

On Nov. 6, 2009, under the command of Bianca, several VMM-261 Ospreys flew nearly 600 miles in groups of three from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan in the Indian Ocean to the air field aboard Camp Bastion. Since arriving, the Osprey has filled a myriad of roles. From troop transport and routine cargo drops, to participating in clandestine special operations drops, this bird has taken on its fair share of tasks.

“The way an aircraft is used anywhere is going to depend on the theater and needs of the theater commander,” said Lt. Col. Ivan Thomas, the current commanding officer of VMM-261. “We have been used, very effectively, in a general support role for a lot of the long-range missions that require coming in and out of landing zones verses runways. We have been to Bagram, the eastern border with Pakistan, the Western border with Iran and the southern border with Pakistan.”

Thomas is an experienced pilot who has flown both the Sea Knight and the Osprey in operational environments. He flew “Phrogs” in Kosovo, Africa, Albania and Iraq. Although a diehard fan of the older aircraft, he readily admits that its replacement is bringing some very useful assets to the fight, especially its increased range.

That increased range is due in part to the aircrafts ability to fly higher than the CH-46. The Osprey’s increased altitude – flying at an average height of 10,000 feet compared to the Sea Knight’s average 1,000 feet – helps reduce fuel burn rate and allows pilots an opportunity to fly above bad weather and dust storms, according to Thomas. It also keeps the aircraft outside the range of small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. And although the Osprey usually soars around 10,000 feet, it can reach altitudes of up to 25,000 feet.

However, the Osprey’s ability to level off in the clouds is not the only leg up it has on the CH-46. The aircraft is also capable of hauling heavier loads for longer distances, which means more armed Marines or more much-needed cargo delivered farther away or to higher mountain posts.

“The Osprey can fly twice as far, twice as fast and with three times the payload,” said Thomas.

And those stats may be outdated. Since arriving in Afghanistan, the MV-22 Osprey has received a software upgrade and changes to operational guidelines that have seriously increased its capabilities. The aircraft’s new software boosts its already impressive speed from 245 knots to between 270 and 275 knots, or more than 300 miles-per-hour, while flying straight and level. The Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization program now allows Osprey pilots to take off at 30 degrees of angel, which provides a 50-percent increase over its previous 20-degree cap. Although these changes allow the Osprey to get off the ground faster and cut down on travel time between destinations, the increased capabilities have not caused any changes in the squadron’s doctrine.

“These are great improvements and great capabilities, but it has not dictated that we change the way we fly our aircraft. This deployment has really validated the training [tiltrotor] squadrons receive at Mojave Viper,” said Thomas. “We are definitely going to concentrate on and reinforce our techniques, tactics and procedures before our next deployment because they have proven effective.”

The squadron has flown about 30 named missions since arriving, in addition to their daily grind of fulfilling assault support requests – all without any serious mishaps. Operating at such a high capacity and in such an austere, harsh environment has also given the squadron ample time to develop and adapt their maintenance routines. The increased heat, high winds and fine dust of Afghanistan cause increased wear on all types of aircraft. The Osprey, which has hundreds of miles of wire running through it, has experienced a few unique problems here.

“The MV-22 is fly-by-wire…it’s a computer,” said Thomas. “Rather than use a push-pull rod that might be hydraulically actuated, you are feeding information to a computer that tells flight controls where to go, which means there is a lot of communication going through a lot of wires. So with the MV-22, there are a lot of wiring issues.”

VMM-261’s avionics technicians have, in the words of their commander, become “experts,” with the aircraft’s wiring system. They can quickly “shoot” wires, which means they can check wires from start to finish for the tiniest breaks and rubs that could potentially cause future issues.

However, the avionics Marines are not the only Marines putting in overtime to keep the aircraft up. The squadron performs an average of 7,500 maintenance man hours each month on its fleet of aircraft. It takes the full maintenance team to keep this squadron at its high rate of readiness.

“The real heroes are the Marines who work on the aircraft,” said Thomas. “They are the ones who figure out how to adapt the maintenance and to ensure the aircraft are ready to go.”

Keeping this aircraft “ready to go,” isn’t as easy as it sounds because pilots, even though fly these aircraft well, do fly them hard.

“One thing I make sure I tell people is that we are not babying [the Osprey] at all,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew W. O’Donnell Jr., the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) commanding general who is now in charge of all aviation assets in Regional Command (South West) in southern Afghanistan. “That aircraft is landing in the dustiest zones, it flies at night, it flies in low light and it does everything everyone else is doing, if not more, because of its capability.”

Although the environment places increased strain on the aircraft and causes accelerated engine wear, the problems are not exclusive to the Osprey.

“The environment is extremely tough on all the gear that’s out here and it’s the same across the entire MAGTF,” said O’Donnell. “Whether you’re talking about a generator, an MRAP or even tents, we have these storms come in, constant extreme temperatures and the moon dust is taking its toll on everything.”

However, the Osprey and its crew have more than increased maintenance requirements to worry about while operating in such a hostile environment.

The Marines of VMM-261 have often found themselves on the front lines, dropping NATO forces into hostile zones or flying holding patterns above conflicts waiting to swoop in with quick reaction forces.

“Everywhere we go where the threat has dictated, we have had escorts,” said Thomas. “Whether it was Harriers or Hornets, Hueys or Cobras, those guys are dedicated to observing objective areas prior to our arrival, and will clear the zone and provide security for us to come in.”

Afghanistan has been a learning curve for the still young airframe. However, it is undeniable that the Osprey is performing on par with the other aircraft on the flight line. Although it had a rocky beginning, the Osprey has settled into a groove and is performing at an exceptional level in one of the toughest regions in the world.

Marines are America’s force in readiness and will find themselves called upon to go into the toughest places on the shortest notice and the Osprey will follow, dropping personnel and supplies into the most dangerous and devastated regions in the world. According to Thomas, the aircraft is ready to fulfill that role and has shaken its stigma as an oddity. It has taken its place as the Corps’ premiere medium-lift aircraft.

Regional Command Southwest Stands Up

KABUL- ISAF's new Regional Command Southwest took command of international forces in southwestern Afghanistan today.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.14.2010
Posted: 06.14.2010 02:17

The new organization provides improved oversight of ISAF forces operating in Helmand and Nimroz provinces. With the majority of ISAF forces based in southern Afghanistan, the formation of the new headquarters permits commanders in the south to focus on geographically smaller areas, ensure greater partnering between the Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF and deliver the levels of security required for governance and development to continue to spread in the region.

Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, commanding general of the new command leads a combined force of approximately 27,000 personnel, with units drawn from eight nations. None of the troops have realigned during the formation of this new command.

"It is a distinct privilege for all of us to stand up Regional Command Southwest," said Mills. "We are truly building on the outstanding work of all who have served here in Helmand and Nimroz provinces. This is a natural military progression based on the number of troops serving here and the priority placed on Helmand and Nimroz provinces."

Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of ISAF Joint Command, said, "The establishment of Regional Command Southwest significantly increases the ability of the Afghan National Security Forces to partner with the coalition."

Regional Command South, led by Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, will continue to direct ISAF operations in the provinces of Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan, and Daykundi. Approximately 30,000 forces continue to operate in RC-S.

IJC Operational Update, June 14

KABUL- A joint Afghan-international force detained several suspected insurgents in Kunduz province last night while searching for a facilitator responsible for planning and coordinating attacks against Afghan and international forces.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.14.2010
Posted: 06.14.2010 03:30

After intelligence information confirmed insurgent activity, the security force searched a compound near Kunduz City and detained six males for further questioning.

One individual was killed after he reached for his weapon and displayed hostile intent.

In the Charkh and Baraki Barak districts of Logar province last night, a joint Afghan-international force detained a Taliban facilitator responsible for improvised explosive device emplacement and attacks against international forces.

After intelligence information verified insurgent activity, the security force searched a compound northeast of the village of Naebkhel in Baraki Barak district and detained two insurgents, one of whom was the focus of the search by the joint force.

No damage was done to the compounds during these operations; women and children present during the searches were unharmed.

Afghan, International Force Clears Haqqani Stronghold

KABUL- ISAF has confirmed a Haqqani network commander, Fazil Subhan, known to facilitate foreign fighters, was killed along with multiple insurgents by Afghan and international forces in a two-day offensive in Khost province last week.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.14.2010
Posted: 06.14.2010 05:06

The Haqqani fighters were in fortified fighting positions in an area known for ambush attacks against international troops, southwest of Kowte Kheyl in the Shamul district.

The Afghan-international force also discovered and destroyed a building used to store ammunition, heavy weapons and explosive materials.

Despite enemy fire, no coalition forces were killed or injured during the operation.

Haqqani network commanders continually seek to establish strongholds in Khost province to disrupt local governance and facilitate the movement of fighters, explosives and weapons into the country.

They have ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban, and claimed responsibility, along with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan militants, for a deadly suicide attack against intelligence officers in Khost last December.

Afghan and international forces are currently working to eliminate insurgent threats and enable expanded governance and development in the area.

‘Life Is Only As Good As the Road You Live On’: Marine Engineers Improve Roads in Marjah

MARJAH, Afghanistan – Marine engineers are hard at work in Afghanistan repairing roads in Marjah to make it easier and safer for Marines and Afghans to travel through Helmand province.


1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs
Story by Lance Cpl. Jerrick J. Griffin
Date: 06.14.2010
Posted: 06.14.2010 11:01

Marines with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), who touched down in Afghanistan in May, spearheaded a route-repairing mission that began, May 23.

For their most recent project, dubbed “Route Marcie,” they filled potholes and resurfaced the road, improving trafficability for Afghans and coalition forces.

“The mission 9th ESB has been tasked with is to conduct route repair to some of the more heavily traveled roads around Marjah,” said Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Boone, staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the Route Marcie project, 9th ESB, 1st MLG (FWD). “Right now we’re working on Marcie as it’s a heavily-traveled road. It has bazaars, and a lot of local nationals live off of this road,” said Boone.

First, the Marines used a bulldozer to cut and push the uneven portion of the road away and create an even surface. Afterward, they laid down gravel. The Marines were able to accomplish their mission, even when presented with challenges.

“The process has been going really well,” said Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Lovely, officer in charge of the Route Marcie project, 9th ESB, 1st MLG (Fwd). “The hardest part about it is it’s a very narrow area, we don’t have a lot of room to maneuver.”

The Marines worked on the road strictly at night so as to not impede the Afghans’ movement. During the day the road is buzzing with locals purchasing items from the bazaar.

Many local Afghans appeared to be excited and receptive of the Marines’ road-repairing efforts, pointing to the ground, making leveling gestures and giving a thumbs up signal as Marines worked in the area, a Marine heavy equipment operator reported, according to Lt. Col. Ted Adams, commanding officer of 9th ESB.

Road repair projects like this are a “win-win,” said Adams. They reduce the threat of IEDs, increase mobility for friendly forces, demonstrate the government’s capacity to improve infrastructure and improve the economic potential for many Afghans.

“That’s why we say: ‘Afghanistan: Where life is only as good as the road you live on,’” said Adams.

Road improvements for “Route Marcie” are scheduled to be completed by the end of the week.

From kinetics to culture: 26th MEU Marines learn valuable lessons

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. — A long gravel road paved in heat waves led to a small village with only a handful of people milling around dressed in foreign clothing, all of which could be found in countries of the middle east and southwest Asia.


6/14/2010 By Staff Sgt Danielle M. Bacon, 26th MEU

Music filled the air in a bright, colorful market where fresh fruit and trinkets were offered for sale. A black, homemade kite soared through the air, its tether leading to a middle-aged man with weather-worn hands and face.

Marines from Company K, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, came across this scene as they conducted a cultural awareness exercise during Realistic Urban Training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., June 10.

Village role-players speaking in a foreign language met the Marines as they made their way up the lane into the township. The Marines' goal: meet with the elders.

"We participated in key leader engagement in which the Marines went into the town to meet with the village elders," said 1st Lt. Arthur Crocker, platoon commander for 1st Platoon, Company K. "The elders typically have a lot of power in the village, and we let him know of our involvement in the area. We were there to find out the needs of the village and gain intelligence. We definitely took away a lot of good learning points."

After their arrival, Marines were offered fruit and cold juice. This came shortly after finding out the village had water issues. The platoon commander explained that he would see what they could do to get skilled Marines to help. Part of the training is to establish and build rapport with local communities because these small gestures pay great dividends toward strengthening partnerships and increasing security and stability.

"We had two interpreters. One went with me and the other went with my platoon sergeant," said Crocker. "He was able to get information from the people as well. While meeting with the village elder, he explained that the well was dirty or dry at times. It was very realistic in the fact that we didn't understand what they were saying. I had my interpreter, so when I was speaking with one person I could understand what that one person was saying. They spoke very quickly and I was trying to focus on what the interpreter was saying while still maintaining eye contact, so that I wasn’t rude to the village elder."

One evaluation point for the Marines was when approaching a city to not look hostile yet still provide security.

"When we go into a village like this, we don't want to present ourselves as hostile to the village people," said Crocker. "The Marines did a good job of keeping two hands on the weapon but not flagging or scaring the people in the village. They go in and talk to the villagers while I am talking with the elders and find out exactly what this village is dealing with. They did a very good job."

It was a definite change from other types of training the Marines were used to conducting.

"We did a soft knock on the village," said Lance Cpl. James Chapman, an infantryman with 1st Platoon. "It's going in and knocking on the doors and meeting with the villagers, asking them questions and they show you around. We asked if they need anything and if the Taliban has been threatening them to see if we can set up security or help them in any way. There is a big language barrier and going into a village that is unknown, you need some security even though you are to be kind and gentle with the villagers. You're just trying to be yourself with them. You want to help them out as soon as possible. They are people who have needs and you want to get it to them because they are suffering."

As the Marines left the city, shots were fired from a tree-line a few hundred yards away. The Marines had to respond.

The Marines’ shift from assistance to firefight illustrates the modern battlefield in which Marines could provide humanitarian assistance on one street and conduct combat operations on another.

"If all we train for is kinetic operations, then we are selling ourselves short and really hindering what the MEU was designed to do," said Capt. David Bell, Company K commanding officer. "It's an opportunity to dust off Gen. Krulak's three-block war concept. We are here doing the second block by helping the people, meeting with the leadership of the village to find out what their needs are. If we can help them, then we will build a relationship with them and more importantly they will help us. They can tell us where the bad guys are. Then we can go kinetic."

Most Marines said they considered the village and training to be very life-like.

"The training here has been very realistic and it’s a great opportunity for us to train in a new environment as well as conduct these urban operations," said Crocker. "What we did today was a good experience for all of us."

Aviation Marines engage Taliban in ground fight

By Amy McCullough - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 14, 2010 9:55:42 EDT

Every Marine is trained first and foremost as a rifleman, but many who work in fields like aviation will never find themselves locked in close-quarters combat with the enemy.

To continue reading:


A surge of problems in Afghanistan

Bad news from Afghanistan came in a steady stream last week, filling the back end of newscasts preoccupied with the gulf oil spill and primary elections. At least 23 NATO soldiers were killed; a U.S. helicopter was shot down; a suicide bomber killed dozens at a Kandahar wedding.


By Jackson Diehl
Monday, June 14, 2010

It is the good fortune of the Obama administration that these stories aren't getting much attention. The White House hasn't had to do much defending of its Afghan policy since President Obama announced it in December. While that's a welcome change from the poisonous polarization of the Bush-era Iraq debate, it is also lamentable in one important way: Not many people are noticing the growing problems in the president's surge strategy.

The biggest surprise is not the increasing casualties, which had to be expected with the arrival of summer and U.S. reinforcements in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. The more unexpected -- and avoidable -- setbacks were broadcast in three off-the-battlefield announcements last week.

First was the dismissal by President Hamid Karzai of two of the three ministers in his cabinet most closely allied with the United States: Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh. Next was the revelation by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, at a NATO conference in Brussels, that the alliance is still short of 450 trainers for the vital mission of expanding the Afghan army -- without which there will be no exit strategy.

Finally came the concession by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, at that same NATO conference that the much-anticipated campaign to secure Kandahar, the homeland of both the Taliban and the Karzai family, will begin later and proceed more slowly than planned, because of what he described as difficulty in winning local support.

What these fragments of news revealed is that three disabilities that have hobbled Obama's surge all along not only remain unfixed but seem to be getting worse. One is the failure of European governments to follow through on pledges to contribute in crucial areas such as training. Gates also said that McChrystal hadn't figured out how to replace Canadian and Dutch combat troops that are withdrawing from Afghanistan this summer.

A second is the divergence between U.S. interests and those of Karzai, despite a make-up session between the two governments last month in Washington. The Afghan leader had reasons to fire the two pro-American ministers, including their resistance to negotiations with the Taliban. But U.S. sources said he had been gunning for the two men, along with Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, ever since Washington insisted they be included in his cabinet after his reelection last year. Karzai seems determined to minimize American influence.

Most seriously, McChrystal's announcement reflected the continued absence in the U.S. command of a clear and coherent plan for pacifying southern Afghanistan -- one that seamlessly blends civilian and military initiatives. A first effort, in the Helmand town of Marja, has been faltering, in part because of a failure to fill the governance gap left when the Taliban was driven out.

In Kandahar, the U.S. command may be suffering from a failure of nerve. It has stepped back from an initial push to challenge the entrenched and corrupt local power structure headed by Karzai's half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai. It has decided not to deploy U.S. troops in the city itself, other than military police working with Afghans. It has not moved to disarm, or even to cut off the Western funding of local militias -- some of them controlled by the Karzai family. The result is that U.S. forces are seen by many Afghans as merely reinforcing what amounts to a local mafia that is not necessarily preferable to the Taliban.

Hanging over all these complexities, and driving some of them, is Obama's imposition of a timeline on the Afghan surge: first a review of its progress this December, followed by the beginning of troop withdrawals in July 2011. The perception that the clock is ticking on the U.S. mission pushes Karzai toward building and defending his own family network, and favoring aides who can talk to Pakistan -- and maybe the Taliban -- over those close to the United States. It forces McChrystal to focus on producing easier and positive-looking results in the next few months, rather than committing to harder and longer-term solutions. It fuels continuing acrimony among military commanders, who believe the timetable is folly, and State Department and White House civilians, who regard it as the key to Obama's policy.

None of this means the war is lost. Thanks to Obama's commitment of 30,000 more troops and billions in economic aid, success remains entirely possible. But as the summer comes on, and Washington occupies itself with other issues, the trend lines in Afghanistan do not look good.

June 13, 2010

Gov. Nixon orders flags to half-staff on June 15 in honor of fallen Marine from St. Louis

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered that the U.S. and Missouri flags on all state buildings in St. Louis County be flown at half-staff from June 16 to June 21 to honor the bravery and sacrifice of Corporal Donald M. Marler, age 22, of St. Louis. Corporal Marler was a United States Marine who died on June 6 while serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.


June 13, 2010

In addition, Gov. Nixon has ordered that the U.S. and Missouri flags at state buildings in all 114 counties and the City of St. Louis be flown at half-staff for one full day on June 15, the day funeral services for Corporal Marler will take place.

Corporal Marler was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. His awards and decorations include the Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Meritorious Mast and the Presidential Service Badge.

U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.


Published: June 13, 2010

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.

American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.

“No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces,” observed Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits.

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. “The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible?” Mr. Brinkley said. “No one knows how this will work.”

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.”

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon task force has already started trying to help the Afghans set up a system to deal with mineral development. International accounting firms that have expertise in mining contracts have been hired to consult with the Afghan Ministry of Mines, and technical data is being prepared to turn over to multinational mining companies and other potential foreign investors. The Pentagon is helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall, officials said.

“The Ministry of Mines is not ready to handle this,” Mr. Brinkley said. “We are trying to help them get ready.”

Like much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war.

In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

“There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war,” said Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country.

The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted.

The handful of American geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing.

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.

Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mr. Karzai.

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers.

“On the ground, it’s very, very, promising,” Mr. Medlin said. “Actually, it’s pretty amazing.”

Karzai, McChrystal in Kandahar to sell military operation

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, say they've secured backing from local leaders for an upcoming military operation in the province.


From Nic Robertson, CNN
June 13, 2010 4:33 p.m. EDT

McChrystal took Karzai and some of his security chiefs to Kandahar, considered the heartland of Taliban country.

With McChrystal in the front row, Karzai delivered a full-court press to a group of about 300 tribal leaders Sunday, in a bid to get their support.

The group sat on carpets and cushions on the floor as they listened to Karzai passionately talk about increasing security and ending corruption.

He also had a stong message for the Taliban.

"First I call on the Taliban for peace. Do not kill your country men and children. Do not kill innocents," Karzai said. "Separate yourself from al Qaeda and the terrorists."

McChrystal and Karzai believe they got approval for the coming offensive, which has already been delayed once. About a month and a half ago, another military plan presented to locals by Karzai was rejected.

McCrystal said securing support from Afghan leaders before the start of a new offensive was critical to success. He added that this is a lesson learned from previous offensives in the country.

Tribal leaders had mixed reviews for the plan. Some doubted Karzai's government was capable of mounting such an offensive. Others expressed faith in the president, but objected to the involvement of U.S. troops.

Karzai did not say when the upcoming military operation would take place. But initial reports indicate that Afghan troops will take the main role in the center of Kandahar, while U.S. troops will be mainly on the perimeter.

IJC Operational Update, June 13

KABUL- An Afghan and international security force detained several suspected insurgents in Zabul Province last night.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.13.2010
Posted: 06.13.2010 03:53

The security force detained the men for further questioning while searching a compound near the village of Daftani in the Shah Joy district. The team was pursuing a Taliban commander responsible for coordinating and assisting in direct fire attacks and complex ambushes against coalition forces.

An Afghan-international patrol discovered illegal drugs, weapons and ammunition, and detained several suspected insurgents in Kunduz province Friday.

The patrol discovered 128 kilograms of opium, 2,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, and several assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades in a compound near the village of Emam Shahib, north of Kunduz city.

Village elders convinced the individuals to surrender peacefully, and the opium and ammunition were destroyed on site.

Afghan National Security Forces with ISAF partners conducted an operation in the village of Chardah, Helmand province, Friday to disrupt a Taliban network responsible for planning and conducting attacks against Afghan and ISAF forces, and for supplying materials used in constructing roadside bombs.

After surrounding the compound where the Taliban insurgents were suspected to be, Afghan Special Police ensured all residents of the compound exited safely. Multiple women and children were protected while several suspected insurgents were detained.

No shots were fired and no civilians were harmed during these operations.

Standardized tourniquet, new bandages for IFAK

By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Jun 13, 2010 11:10:23 EDT

The Marine Corps is following the Army’s example by including two new items in the individual first aid kit carried by every Marine downrange: A CAT II tourniquet and a blood-clotting bandage.

To continue reading:


Karzai seeks local support for Kandahar mission

By Deb Riechmann - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Jun 13, 2010 15:38:44 EDT

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave the green light to a major security crackdown in the Taliban birthplace of Kandahar on Sunday, assuring residents the operation was aimed at battling corruption and bad government as much as insurgents.

To read the entire article:


June 12, 2010

26th MEU Marines, EOD blast through training

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. — "If you put this charge along the beams of a bridge, you can weaken the bridge. The first time a tank rolls over it … kurplunk … now you’ve taken out a bridge and the tank."


6/12/2010 By Staff Sgt Danielle M. Bacon, 26th MEU

The air was charged with excitement as Combat Logistic Battalion 26, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Marines cut and shaped explosives during Realistic Urban Training at Fort Pickett, Va., June 9.

Engineer Marines experimented with these explosives, keeping notes and pictures to document what worked and what didn’t, while explosive ordnance disposal Marines supervised and assisted with safety precautions.

"One of the training standards is overcoming obstacles to increase mobility and counter-mobility," said Staff Sgt. Justin Westmoreland, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Engineer Detachment. "Today we are experimenting, doing the mathematics and recording data." The training is essential to ensuring 26th MEU maintains the ability to shape any challenging environment in its upcoming deployment.

They used several different types of obstacles that Marines might encounter – steel beams, chain-link fences, doors and cement. One Marine also used charges to build a fighting hole.

"The Marines are testing the ability to identify targets and assess how to remove or destroy them," said 1st Lt. Mitchel Spidel, the engineers' officer-in-charge. "We are here to increase the MEU commander’s mobility by eliminating, destroying or overcoming obstacles that can hinder his overall mission."

Master Sgt. Randall Scwandt, EOD staff noncommissioned officer in charge, explained that sometimes the goal is not to destroy an obstacle, but make it possible to go through it. For example, while a large vehicle could overrun a fence, sometimes it's not a good idea to go blazing over it because the fence could get caught in and under the vehicle, Scwandt said..

The engineer Marines said they found this training extremely important.

"This is a great learning experience," said Cpl. Ethan Tobias, a combat engineer. Tobias and his fellow engineers will support 26th MEU operations when the unit deploys in the fall.

Tobias added that having the EOD Marines present was also key.

"They deal with this more often and have way more experience," he said. "They can teach us the tricks of the trade."

One trick was crimping the blasting cap onto the fuse while holding it behind their backs. Because too much pressure could set off the blasting cap, the technique is dangerous, but would be less damaging than if it went off in front of them. The exploding cap can burn the eyes and throw shards of metal into the Marines' faces.

"If it goes off, it's better to burn the rear than the eyes," said Gunnery Sgt. Brad Rickabaugh, an EOD Marine.

Once the Marines had their charges built and fuses inserted, they walked down the range to find adequate targets.

The 10-acre range is tiered to give a better view of the targets and allows for more safety, said Tim Casey the range control inspector.

Once the Marines arrived on the second tier they began looking for their targets. One Marine found a battered door that was perfect for his explosive, shaped to take off the door handle.

Another Marine found a section of a chain link fence, which he used a string of explosives to rip it in half.

After each Marine found what he was looking for, they linked the charges together to set them off simultaneously.

"I think this was a very productive training evolution," said Spidel. "Everything went pretty smooth and I think all of the Marines are walking away from here a little bit more confident in their abilities."

June 12: This Week's Operational Update on Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – Tony White, spokesman, NATO Senior Civilian Representative, and German Army Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, spokesman, International Security Assistance Force, provided an update June 12 on recent partnering operations in Central Helmand River Valley and Kandahar.


International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs
Story by Staff Sgt. Lucelia Ball
Date: 06.12.2010
Posted: 06.12.2010 08:48

Blotz concentrated on operations in Kandahar.

“In terms of the insurgency, the rural area of Zhari is at the moment contested space,” he said. “In much the same way as Marja was, you’ll find in Zhari, insurgents have freedom of movement and the ability to control, suppress and oppress the population. The same applies to the southwestern part of Panjawa’i.”

“It is estimated that there are between 500 and 1,000 insurgents who regularly operate in the Arghandab and in the areas of Zhari and Panjwa’I,” Blotz added. “The cities have a thriving commercial environment, with bazaars and businesses, but little investment, electricity, sanitation or health care.”

“It’s pretty challenging in terms of productivity and in terms of quality of life,” said Blotz. “But for the average Afghan who lives in the city, what bothers him most is the level of criminality. And it’s a problem more of criminality and disorder than it is a problem of Taliban and insurgency.”

Blotz also spoke of the need to improve the governance to help bring order and administration to the city.

“We will do this using the resources that begin to come online with the second force package of U.S. Army reinforcements that arrive in and around Kandahar, because that provides us with the capacity to train additional policemen and to partner with them,” he said.

After Blotz spoke, White commented on the non-military aspects of the joint effort in Kandahar.

“This effort is more about the people of Kandahar province than it is about the insurgents,” he said.

The effort started several weeks ago, with the political phase, together with a gradually increasing security presence, which will continue to the point where the Government can start delivering basic services and better governance and eventually development.

“There is no planned military offensive and to report only on the anticipation of major fighting is missing the bigger picture and alarming an already fearful public,” said White.

The main effort in the Province of Kandahar continues to be the longer-term governance and development strategy to enhance the public’s confidence in its Government, White added.

“The Government, led by President Karzai, is determined to strengthen governance and ultimately deliver civil assistance and sustainable development to the people of Kandahar and the rest of the country,” said White. “NATO is supporting this transition to Afghan responsibility. The Government is already focusing development and reconstruction resources at the district level to establish or enhance district centers, where the community can engage the government and the government can better serve the community.”

White also talked about plans after the security situation improves.

“Plans are in place to enhance the presence of Kandahar government’s key line ministries including agriculture, education, health and justice with the resources necessary to operate at the district level,” he said. “This effort will repair roads, open schools, and improve healthcare services and more.”

White concluded by saying, “Progress in Afghanistan will not be measured by the level of the insurgency or their ability to intimidate progress, which is their goal. It will be measured by the Afghan people and the way they view their Government and how it deals with poverty, justice and security, but more importantly, their ability to understand how they want to live.”

Blotz provided a general update on operations in Central Helmand.

Operation Moshtarak, where approximately 600,000 people live in central Helmand including the districts of Nahr e Saraj, Nad e Ali, the municipality of Lashkar Gar, and the districts of Marja and Nawa, is now about three months into the operation.

“Operations focused principally on the district of Nad e Ali, where around 100,000 people live,” said Blotz. “In Marja, we have conducted a relief in place with the original Afghan National Army troops that did the operation, and replaced them with new Afghan National Army Kandaks in full partnerships with the U.S. Marine Corps.”

Afghan National Civil Order Police are stationed in Marja to provide protection for the population.

“What is also striking is that we now have freedom of movement throughout central Helmand,” Blotz said. “Before the 12th of February, it wasn’t possible for (Provincial Governor) Mangal to travel from Lashkar Gar to Nad e Ali or to Marja or to Nawa. He can now do that on his own, with his own security detail. So we’re making progress. We’re going in the right direction.”

Blotz added some comments on events that took place earlier in the week: an attack on a wedding party in Arghandab and a roadside mine blast in Kandahar that killed eight civilians and wounded eight others.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of those who were lost in this horrible attack against a wedding party in Arghandab,” said Blotz. “The recent casualties are a result of confrontations as Afghanistan and ISAF forces clear the Taliban from areas that were previously under their control. Over time, Afghanistan and ISAF forces will establish the security Afghanistan wants, and there will be a reduction in the frequency of violent incidents as the Taliban are defeated or forced to retreat. These cowardly attacks against innocent civilians reflect the Taliban’s lack of vision for a peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan. All this will not deter the overall campaign or process to secure the Afghan people – we will continue with our mission.”

As Afghan Fighting Expands, U.S. Medics Plunge In

MARJA, Afghanistan — The Marine had been shot in the skull. He was up ahead, at the edge of a field, where the rest of his patrol was fighting. A Black Hawk medevac helicopter flew above treetops toward him, banked and hovered dangerously before landing nearby.



Published: June 12, 2010

Several Marines carried the man aboard. His head was bandaged, his body limp. Sgt. Ian J. Bugh, the flight medic, began the rhythms of CPR as the helicopter lifted over gunfire and zigzagged away. Could this man be saved?

Nearly nine years into the Afghan war, with the number of troops here climbing toward 100,000, the pace for air crews that retrieve the wounded has become pitched.

In each month this year, more American troops in Afghanistan have been killed than in any of the same months of any previous year. Many of those fighting on the ground, facing ambushes and powerful hidden bombs, say that as the Obama administration’s military buildup pushes more troops into Taliban strongholds, the losses could soon rival those during the worst periods in Iraq.

Under NATO guidance, all seriously wounded troops are expected to arrive at a trauma center within 60 minutes of their unit’s calling for help. In Helmand Province, Afghanistan’s most dangerous ground, most of them do.

These results can make the job seem far simpler than it is. Last week, a Black Hawk on a medevac mission in the province was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, and four members of its crew were killed. And the experiences in May and early June of one Army air crew, from Company C, Sixth Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, showed the challenges of distance, sandstorms and Taliban fighters waiting near landing zones.

It also showed crews confronting sorrows as old as combat. In a guerrilla war that is turning more violent, young men in nameless places suffer wounds that, no matter a crew’s speed or skill, can quickly sap away life.

For Company C’s detachment in Helmand Province, the recent duty had been harried.

Over several days the crews had retrieved a Marine who had lost both legs and an arm to a bomb explosion; the medic had kept that man alive. They had picked up two Marines bitten by their unit’s bomb-sniffing dog. They landed for a corporal whose back had been injured in a vehicle accident.

And day after day they had scrambled to evacuate Afghans or Marines struck by bullets or blasted by bombs, including a mission that nearly took them to a landing zone where the Taliban had planted a second bomb, with hopes that an aircraft might land on it. The Marines had found the trap and directed the pilots to a safer spot.

A few days before the Marine was shot in the skull, after sandstorms had grounded aircraft, another call had come in. A bomb had exploded beside a patrol along the Helmand River. Two Marines were wounded. One was dying.

For hours the airspace had been closed; supervisors deemed the conditions too dangerous to fly. The crews wanted to evacuate the Marines. “I’ll go,” said Sgt. Jason T. Norris, a crew chief. “I’ll walk.”

A crew was given permission to try. Ordinarily, medevac flights take off with an older, experienced pilot in command and a younger aviator as co-pilot. The two take turns on the controls.

From Kandahar, the brigade commander, Col. William K. Gayler, ordered a change. This flight demanded experience. Chief Warrant Officer Joseph N. Callaway, who had nearly 3,000 flight hours, would replace a younger pilot and fly with Chief Warrant Officer Deric G. Sempsrott, who had nearly 2,000 hours.

Afghan sandstorms take many forms. Some drift by in vertical sheets of dust. Others spiral into spinning towers of grit. Many lash along the ground, obscuring vision. Powdered sand accumulates like snow.

This storm had another form: an airborne layer of dirt from 100 to 4,000 feet above the ground. It left a low-elevation slot through which the pilots might try to fly.

The Black Hawk lifted off in dimming evening light. It flew at 130 knots 30 to 40 feet above the ground, so low it created a bizarre sensation, as if the helicopter were not an aircraft, but a deafening high-speed train.

Ten minutes out, the radio updated the crew. One of the Marines had died. The crew chief, Sgt. Grayson Colby, sagged. He reached for a body bag. Then he slipped on rubber gloves and sat upright. There was still a man to save.

Just before a hill beside the river, Mr. Callaway banked the Black Hawk right, then abruptly turned left and circled. The helicopter leaned hard over. He looked down. A smoke grenade’s red plume rose, marking the patrol.

The Black Hawk landed beside dunes. Sergeant Bugh and Sergeant Colby leapt out.

A corporal, Brett Sayre, had been hit in the face by the bomb’s blast wave and debris. He staggered forward, guided by other Marines.

Sergeant Bugh examined him inside the Black Hawk. Corporal Sayre’s eyes were packed with dirt. He was large and lean, a fit young man sitting upright, trying not to choke on blood clotting and flowing from his mouth.

The sergeant asked him to lie down. The corporal waved his arm.

“You’re a Marine,” the sergeant said. “Be strong. We’ll get you out of here.”

Corporal Sayre rested stiffly on his right side.

Sergeant Colby climbed aboard. He had helped escort the dead Marine to the other aircraft. The Black Hawk took off, weaving through the air 25 feet off the ground, accelerating into haze.

The corporal was calm as Sergeant Colby cut away his uniform, looking for more wounds. Sergeant Bugh suctioned blood from his mouth. He knew this man would live. But he looked into his dirtied eyes. “Can you see?” he asked.

“No,” the corporal said.

At the trauma center later, the corporal’s eyes reacted to light.

A Race to Treatment

Now the crew was in the air again, this time with the Marine shot in the skull. Sergeant Colby performed CPR. The man had no pulse.

Kneeling beside the man, encased in the roaring whine of the Black Hawk’s dual engines, the sergeants took turns at CPR. Mr. Sempsrott flew at 150 knots — as fast as the aircraft would go.

The helicopter came to a rolling landing at Camp Dwyer. Litter bearers ran the Marine inside.

The flight’s young co-pilot, First Lt. Matthew E. Stewart, loitered in the sudden quiet. He was calmly self-critical. It had been a nerve-racking landing zone, a high-speed approach to evacuate a dying man and a descent into a firefight. He said he had made a new pilot’s mistake.

He had not rolled the aircraft into a steep enough bank as he turned. Then the helicopter’s nose had pitched up. The aircraft had risen, climbing to more than 200 feet from 70 feet and almost floating above a gunfight, exposed.

Mr. Sempsrott had taken the controls and completed the landing. “I was going way too fast for my experience level,” the lieutenant said, humbly.

No one blamed him; this, the crew said, was how young pilots learned. And everyone involved understood the need to move quickly. It was necessary to evade ground fire and to improve a dying patient’s odds.

Beside the helicopter, inside a tent, doctors kept working on the Marine.

Sergeant Colby sat, red-eyed. He had seen the man’s wound. Soon, he knew, the Marine would be moved to the morgue. Morning had not yet come to the United States. In a few hours, the news would reach home.

“A family’s life has been completely changed,” the lieutenant said. “And they don’t even know it yet.”

Barreling Into a Firefight

A few days later, the crew was barreling into Marja again. Another Marine had been shot.

The pilots passed the landing zone, banked and looked down. An Afghan in uniform crawled though dirt. Marines huddled along a ditch. A firefight raged around the green smoke grenade.

The Black Hawk completed its turn, this time low to the ground, and descended. Gunfire could be heard all around. The casualty was not in sight.

“Where is he?” Mr. Sempsrott asked over the radio.

The sergeants dashed for the trees, where a Marine, Cpl. Zachary K. Kruger, was being tended to by his squad. He had been shot in the thigh, near his groin. He could not walk. The patrol had no stretcher.

A hundred yards separated the group from the aircraft, a sprint to be made across the open, on soft soil, under Taliban fire. Sergeant Bugh ran back. Sergeant Colby began firing his M-4 carbine toward the Taliban.

Inside the shuddering aircraft, the pilots tried to radiate calm. They were motionless, vulnerable, sitting upright in plain view.

The Taliban, they knew, had offered a bounty for destroyed American aircraft. Bullets cracked past. The pilots saw their medic return, grab a stretcher, run again for the trees.

They looked this way, then that. Their escort aircraft buzzed low-elevation circles around the zone, gunners leaning out. Bullets kept coming. “Taking fire from the east,” Mr. Sempsrott said.

These are the moments when time slows.

At the airfield, the crews had talked about what propelled them. Some of them mentioned a luxury: They did not wonder, as some soldiers do, if their efforts mattered, if this patrol or that meeting with Afghans or this convoy affected anything in a lasting way.

Their work could be measured, life by life. They spoke of the infantry, living without comforts in outposts, patrolling in the sweltering heat over ground spiced with hidden bombs and watched over by Afghans preparing complex ambushes. When the Marines called, the air crews said, they needed help.

Now the bullets whipped by.

A Hot Landing Zone

Cobra attack helicopters were en route. Mr. Sempsrott and Lieutenant Stewart had the option of taking off and circling back after the gunships arrived. It would mean leaving their crew on the ground, and delaying the patient’s ride, if only for minutes.

At the tents, Mr. Sempsrott had discussed the choices in a hot landing zone. The discussion ended like this: “I don’t leave people behind.”

More rounds snapped past. “Taking fire from the southeast,” he said.

He looked out. Four minutes, headed to five.

“This is ridiculous,” he said. It was exclamation, not complaint.

His crew broke from the tree line. The Marines and Sergeant Bugh were carrying Corporal Kruger, who craned his neck as they bounced across the field. They fell, found their feet, ran again, fell and reached the Black Hawk and shoved the stretcher in.

A Marine leaned through the open cargo door. He gripped the corporal in a fierce handshake. “We love you, buddy!” he shouted, ducked, and ran back toward the firefight.

Six and a half minutes after landing, the Black Hawk lifted, tilted forward and cleared the vegetation, gaining speed.

Corporal Kruger had questions as his blood pooled beneath him.

Where are we going? Camp Dwyer. How long to get there? Ten minutes.

Can I have some water? Sergeant Colby produced a bottle.

After leaving behind Marja, the aircraft climbed to 200 feet and flew level over the open desert, where Taliban fighters cannot hide. The bullet had caromed up and inside the corporal. He needed surgery.

The crew had reached him in time. As the Black Hawk touched down, he sensed he would live.

“Thank you, guys,” he shouted.

“Thank you,” he shouted, and the litter bearers ran him to the medical tent.

The pilots shut the Black Hawk down. Another crew rinsed away the blood. Before inspecting the aircraft for bullet holes, Sergeant Bugh and Sergeant Colby removed their helmets, slipped out of their body armor and gripped each other in a brief, silent hug.

U.S. service member among dead in Afghan blasts

By Rahim Faiez - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Jun 12, 2010 11:41:07 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — Five Afghan police officers and two NATO service members died Saturday in separate roadside bomb blasts in Afghanistan, which has seen an uptick in violence in recent weeks.

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The Two, the Proud: Marine Siblings Attack USMC Careers, Afghanistan Together

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - Just a few short months ago, Lance Cpl. Yahaira Cosme, a supply warehouseman with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group, was making final preparations for her first deployment: a combat tour to Afghanistan.


1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs
Story by Sgt. Justin Shemanski
Date: 06.12.2010
Posted: 06.12.2010 06:18

Just down the road her younger brother Lance Cpl. Jovanny Cosme, an intelligence specialist with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, was busy doing the same thing.

Though they are currently based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., the pair, the youngest of four children, began their journey to Helmand Province long before the thought of earning their Eagle, Globe and Anchors even crossed their minds. As siblings growing up in their hometown of Lynn, Mass., they were inseparable and their Marine Corps careers are proving to only strengthen this bond.

“Whether it was sitting back and watching television together or going out with friends on the weekends, growing up, we did everything together,” said 21-year-old Jovanny.

This trend continued as they grew into young adults. Prior to enlisting, Yahaira spent time working her way through college with sights set on a criminal justice degree, like her brother who was also pursuing the same career path. The two also dabbled in boxing, but busy schedules and hobbies aside, something was still missing.

At this point, enlisting in the Marines Corps became a serious consideration - for both of them, of course.

“As a female, I wanted to prove I could make it in the toughest branch of service – the Marine Corps,” said Yahaira. “I wanted to earn the respect that comes with being a Marine, so I went for it.”

According to his sister, Jovanny was a bit reluctant to enlist at first, but eventually made his decision and swore in to the Corps shortly after her.

“My sister and I had always talked about it; we spent almost a year contemplating our decision,” said Jovanny. “My biggest issue was leaving our mom alone, but when we actually talked to her about it she said she would support us one hundred percent. We thought if we joined together, not only would [it] be something unheard of by most people, but [we would] have the motivating thought of going through the same experience together at [recruit training].”

“Knowing she was on the island, going through the same [thing] I was would be a good way to keep me going,” he added.

The pair reported to recruit training on December 8, 2008, an experience Jovanny said he will never forget.

Their drill instructors had a little fun with both of them by arranging a few short meetings throughout the training cycle while earning the title of Unites States Marine. The two agree that it was all the more amazing because they were able to graduate together.

“It was nice to know he was going through the same thing I was,” said 22-year-old Yahaira. “It made things a lot easier to keep pushing through – I didn’t want to get dropped; graduating with him was all the encouragement I needed.”

“It was probably one of the best feelings I’ve felt, knowing we had accomplished our goal together,” said Jovanny.

Following recruit training the siblings moved on to Marine Combat Training together, then parted ways. After a brief period of time away from one another during their respective Military Occupational Specialty schools, they reunited at their first permanent duty station.

Unknown to Yahaira, her brother received orders to MCB Camp Lejeune as well, and broke the news to her with a surprising phone call.

“He needed a ride to base,” said Yahaira with a laugh. “He had gotten orders to Lejeune and decided he was going to surprise me when he got to the area. It was definitely nice having him around. It always makes things easier knowing you have family around, having someone to talk to.”

“I was hoping I would have the chance to be stationed at Lejeune,” said Jovanny. “She had gotten there almost three months before I did and around week nine of twelve during MOS school I received my orders there. It seemed like we couldn’t get away from each other, which is how I hoped it would be.”

As the next couple of months passed, the two settled into their respective units and around the same time, they both received the news that they would be deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Jovanny would touch down in country January 5, and his sister just a few weeks later on January 26.

Yahaira settled in aboard Camp Leatherneck, and Jovanny headed to Marjah where at the time, Marine forces were gearing up for their initial assault.

Though Yahaira had her worries about her younger brother deploying to such an unstable area, Jovanny couldn’t think of a better way to spend his time in country, knowing his sister was here too.

“I still can’t believe we are both deployed here together,” said Jovanny. “The way we keep ending up at the same place is beyond me, but I can only hope it stays this way throughout our careers.”

Following their deployments and a little more rank on their collars, the two have a plan in place to continue their careers together. As it stands now, the two have their sights set on drill instructor duty together aboard MCRD Parris Island and beyond that, only time will tell.

“We have this vision of taking over Parris Island,” said Jovanny. “Our plan is to enter Drill Instructor School at the same time and become part of the Marine Corps’ finest.”

IJC Operational Update, June 12

KABUL- An Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban sub-commander and another individual suspected of insurgent activity in Ghazni province last night.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.12.2010
Posted: 06.12.2010 04:38

The sub-commander is responsible for planning and conducting operations against coalition forces, including improvised explosive device (IED) emplacement and intelligence gathering.

The security force captured the individuals while searching a compound outside the village of Nowabad Khanehdorha, Muqer district, after intelligence information confirmed insurgent activity.
A separate Afghan-international security force detained a number of suspected insurgents while pursuing a Haqqani network IED facilitator in Khost province last night.

The combined force detained the suspected insurgents in a compound in a rural area of Sabari district after intelligence verified militant activity.

There were no shots fired and no one was harmed during the above operations.

An Afghan-international force conducted a number of operations against the Taliban in southern Helmand province over the past week. The operations took place in multiple locations in and around Baram Chah, Reg-e Khan Neshin district, and were designed to disrupt and restrict the movement of Taliban fighters and the supply of weapons into central Helmand province.

Taliban fighters engaged the Afghan-led combined force on numerous occasions, and several of the insurgents who engaged the combined force were killed. The team seized four assault rifles and a sniper rifle with ammunition, and a mortar and rocket during the operations.

No civilians were injured in the operations.

Gates: Countering IEDs top priority for NATO

By Julian Hale - Defense News
Posted : Saturday Jun 12, 2010 10:00:00 EDT

BRUSSELS — Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that countering improvised explosive devices has become a high priority for NATO and that the United States has already begun to put training for IED detection high on its list.

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June 11, 2010

Family Members of "Thundering Third" Show Courage, Grace

The Vietnamese say that every bullet that kills a soldier first passes through his mother's heart.


Posted by Terry McCarthy
June 11, 2010 1:18 AM

I was reminded of that phrase this week when I received a phone call from Karen May, the mother of Sergeant Kenneth May, from Kilgore Texas.

Sgt. May was one of two Marines from 3/1 battalion who was killed on May 11th by an IED explosion in southern Helmand province in Afghanistan. The other man who died was Corporal Jeffrey Johnson.

My producer/cameraman and I happened to be staying at the same base as Sgt. May and Cpl. Johnson, and we filmed the aftermath of the explosion.

Understandably tensions were high at the scene of the explosion. Initially some of the Marines were not entirely comfortable with having a television crew there, but we kept a respectful distance and in the end the Marines understood we were not trying to sensationalize nor intrude on the somber scene. But in our minds we had even greater concerns about how the families of the two fallen Marines would react to having footage of the aftermath of the explosion shown on national television.

When I got back to the U.S. last month, I got in touch with the May family directly - Sgt. May's wife Krystal, who in turn talked to his parents, Ken and Karen.

I also contacted a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) who was assigned to the Johnson family, and asked both families how they felt about having the stories of the two Marines told on television. Both families readily gave their assent, and even said we were free to use their pictures. I cannot presume to know all that went through the minds of the Mays and the Johnsons, but my sense is that neither family wanted the sacrifice of the two young men to be forgotten or passed over. That is why we call it Memorial Day, after all.

Our story on the incident ran earlier this week on CBS Evening News, and Karen May's call came just minutes after the broadcast. Her voice was choked up. She said it had been emotionally difficult for her to watch the story, but she said she was very thankful that her son's story was told. Krystal May had told me earlier that day that she was confident that the story would honor her husband's name. The Johnson family had similarly said they were open to full media coverage of their son's death.

Marines in the field are expected to be brave. It is what distinguishes their service. But I am humbled by the courage of the families back home, particularly those like the Mays and the Johnsons who have to mourn a loved one who didn't make it back. In some ways those invisible bullets are the hardest ones to endure.

Steuben County native killed in Afghanistan

Marine is 2nd from county to die in combat this year

A U.S. Marine who grew up in Steuben County has become the county's second victim this year of the war in Afghanistan.


By Roger Neumann
June 11, 2010, 7:30 pm

Lance Cpl. Michael G. Plank, 25, who was born in Corning and lived in nearby Rathbone, was killed Wednesday, "while supporting combat operations" in Afghanistan's Helmand province, the Department of Defense reported.

Military and DOD sources did not release any details of his death or the operation because the incident is still under investigation.

But Lance Cpl. Plank's brother, Jerry Plank of Elkland, said Friday that the family was told the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest.

Lance Cpl. Plank, a combat engineer, was assigned to the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Second Lt. Rebecca Burgess, a public affairs officer with the 1st Marine Logistics Group, said he entered the Marine Corps on Feb. 23, 2009, and was sent to Afghanistan in late March this year for his first overseas assignment.

Lance Cpl. Zachary Smith, a 19-year-old Marine from Hornell, was Steuben County's first war casualty this year. He was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Jan. 24.

Lance Cpl. Plank grew up in Cameron Mills and Rathbone and attended Addison schools before he transferred in August 2003 to Elkland High School for his senior year.

His mother, Kathleen Parker, still lives in Cameron Mills, Jerry Plank said. He said their father, Gerald Plank, lives in Lawrenceville.

Lance Cpl. Plank and his brothers -- Jerry, 23, and Dominic, 24, of Westfield, were close, Jerry Plank said. He said all three loved to hunt and fish.

"We were a smaller family, ...," Jerry Plank said, "and we were just a year apart, too, each of us."

He said Lance Cpl. Plank will be buried in Rathbone, but plans were incomplete as of Friday evening.

"There's a small cemetery a few hundred yards from where he lived," Jerry said.

"He told me he loved it there, in Rathbone. He was always hunting and fishing and stuff. He loved the spring water there."

He said Lance Cpl. Plank, who was single, hoped to buy land and build a home there some day.

Jerry Plank said his brother was proud to serve.

"He didn't want to go (to Afghanistan), but he was pretty good at what he did and he was confident," he said. "He was dedicated to the core to the Marine Corps."

Jerry Plank said he and other relatives sent Lance Cpl. Plank letters and packages but hadn't heard from him since he went to war.

"Nobody I talked to received any letters from him, but we've been sending him stuff," he said.

"He would write when he was in training, but he must have been real busy. It must have been chaotic over there."

2 Camp Pendleton Marines Receive Bronze Star

Sgt. Joseph Giardino, Sgt. Matthew Duquette Honored

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Two Camp Pendleton Marines were honored Friday for displaying courage under fire during a recent combat mission in Afghanistan.


POSTED: 6:26 pm PDT June 11, 2010
UPDATED: 6:47 pm PDT June 11, 2010

Sgt. Joseph Giardino received his second Bronze Star during a Friday ceremony, and he told 10News it is something he can never get used to.

"We were more nervous waiting on this event than when we were boarding helicopters in Afghanistan," said Giardino.

While under attack, Giardino helped other squads and his quick thinking helped them get out of ambush situations.

Giardino shared the honors with his friend, Sgt. Matthew Duquette. Duquette protected his squad while they were under attack more than 65 times.

Giardino and Duquette said it is all about the team and were surprised to be getting the honor.

"It was humbling to know I was going to get this award," said Lt. Col. Tom Savage.

The two men were the center of attention Friday as they shook hands with their fellow Marines.

"It takes a lot to get a Bronze Star. They certainly earned it," said

The ceremony was bittersweet as five Marines from Camp Pendleton were killed in Afghanistan this week. But Savage said Marines continue to make improvements on the ground.

"Compared to the bad days in Iraq in 2005-2006, you don't see it as terribly significant," said Savage.

Giardino recently returned from his fourth deployment. He has been to Iraq three times and said he knows what it's like to lose a friend.

"For us it's part of our job. It's the bad side, the downside and we understand the risk when we join," said Giardino.

Giardino and Duquette said they were a little nervous when they received their Bronze Star. They said the ceremony was a little bit overwhelming, but they were just doing their job.

Gates: More Trainers Would Speed Afghanistan Transition

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Support for the mission in Afghanistan from allies and partners has increased steadily in the past year, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here June 11.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
Story by John Banusiewicz
Date: 06.11.2010
Posted: 06.11.2010 07:46

At a news conference following the conclusion of two days of meetings with his fellow NATO defense ministers, Gates said the alliance's defense leaders generally agree that the effort in Afghanistan is moving in the right direction and that they realize the road ahead will be long and hard.

They also believe the elements of success – troops, civilians, strategy, growing Afghan security forces' capacity – are in place or moving forward, and that the coalition has regained the initiative and progress is being made slowly, steadily and sustainably, Gates said.

Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, briefed the defense ministers June 11.

"Gen. McChrystal told the ministers that he is confident that he'll be able to show progress in the south and across the country, and that the strategy is working, by the end of the year," the secretary said.

More trainers are needed in the effort to train Afghan security forces, Gates noted, an issue he said is directly tied to the pace at which international forces will be able to transition security responsibility to the Afghans.

"It seems to me that particularly for those countries that do not have a large combat presence in Afghanistan," the secretary said, "providing trainers is another way to serve."

In a news conference earlier today, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reaffirmed the alliance's commitment to the Afghanistan mission, and noted McChrystal's straight-forward assessment of progress and challenges.

"What Gen. McChrystal heard from all 46 nations around the table was equally straight-forward," the NATO secretary general said. "ISAF will stay as long as it takes to finish the job, because ... an unstable Afghanistan where terrorists can find safe haven is a menace to us all, and because a stable Afghanistan means a safer world."

Rasmussen said he pushed the alliance's defense ministers to "dig deeper" to help the NATO training mission's 450-trainer shortfall.

Afghan officials: insurgency growing in southwest

KABUL, Afghanistan - The governing council of a once peaceful province in southwestern Afghanistan has fled to Kabul after the Taliban killed one of their members and threatened the others with death. They fear U.S.-led offensives to the east may simply be pushing insurgents into new areas.


The Associated Press
6/11/2010, 12:29 p.m. EDT

The council members from Nimroz province talk of a rising tide of violence and intimidation as Taliban fighters who have been forced out of neighboring Helmand province, which includes Marjah, shift operations to Nimroz. They say other militants have been crossing into Nimroz from Iran, where they trained at desert camps.

A spokesman for U.S. Marines based in Nimroz insists security has improved in the remote province along the border with Iran and Pakistan.

But Afghan provincial officials say the approximately 2,000 U.S. Marines and 1,000 Afghan soldiers operate primarily in the northeast-130 miles from the provincial capital, Zaranj-and are unaware of conditions elsewhere in the province.

Nimroz had generally been regarded as peaceful until May 5, when nine suicide bombers disguised as police stormed the provincial council office in Zaranj, about 500 miles southwest of Kabul, killing a woman council member, two policemen and a visitor. All the attackers died. Police said it was the worst attack in Nimroz in two years.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the council was trying to turn Afghans against the militants.

After the assault, the remaining eight council members began receiving death threats-some as letters slipped under doors, some as phone calls and some by text message.

Council member Shren Azizi said she had just returned home from visiting the family of her murdered colleague when her mobile phone rang.

"Your previous job as a teacher was good for you," the middle-aged male caller said sternly. "So go back to that if you want to stay alive. Think about your children."

Afghan law reserves at least a quarter of the seats on each provincial council for women.

About five days after the bombing, the council members gathered at their blown-out headquarters. The chairman, Sadiq Chakhansori, decided they'd had enough.

"I put a lock on the door and said, 'OK, we're going to Kabul,' " Chakhansori told The Associated Press.

Since the roads were too dangerous, the group flew to the western city of Herat and took another plane to Kabul. Only one council member stayed behind-too elderly and ill for the trip.

Provincial Police Chief Gen. Abdul Jabar Pardeli said insurgent activity picked up in Nimroz after each major NATO operation in neighboring provinces. He said he needs more police and troops.

"We don't have any district wholly out of control of the government, but there are remote areas outside of government control," said Pardeli, who spoke with the AP over the telephone from Nimroz. "If they do not help, our security will go from bad to worse."

Lt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for the Marines in Nimroz, said the U.S. had no evidence of significant militant forces coming into the area from neighboring Farah and Helmand province. He said Marines on patrol in Delaram feel safe enough to stop into shops and buy carpets.

Nevertheless, council members interviewed this week in Kabul don't share that view-perhaps because they are not used to the intense threats faced by their counterparts in flashpoint areas such as Kandahar, Helmand and Khost.

Nimroz has long been the most stable part of southern Afghanistan even though it is a major trafficking route for Afghanistan's huge opium trade. Goods flowing across the Iranian border made the provincial capital relatively prosperous.

But now, Taliban appear to be threatening that border as well. Afghans returning from years as refugees in Iran describe training camps in the Iranian desert used by the Taliban, and say weapons trafficking is prevalent, Chakhansori said.

NATO forces recently confirmed that Taliban are training on Iranian soil. In late May, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said that there was "clear evidence" of Taliban training and weapon smuggling in Iran.

Squeezed from all sides, the council members are trying to meet with government officials to plead for help. Since arriving in Kabul, they have managed meetings only with the minister of transport and the minister of water and energy, Chakhansori said.

For now, the council members are staying at a government rooming house in Kabul and keeping in touch with their constituents by phone. They say they don't know what they'll do if they don't get any pledges of help.

Though they're elected, provincial councils have little influence within the top-heavy Afghan central government. Governors are appointed by President Hamid Karzai.

"We have no executive power. President Karzai has kept us symbolic. All we can do is raise our voices," council member Shakila Hakimi said.


Associated Press Writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.

Arnold man killed in Afghanistan

Marine Lance Cpl. Gavin Brummund, a former Bret Harte High School athlete and nearly lifelong Arnold resident, was killed in Afghanistan this week, family members learned late Thursday.


Written by Craig Cassidy
The Union Democrat
June 11, 2010 12:26 pm

Brummund, who was based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., was on patrol in Marjah, in the Helmand province in southern Afghanistan when he stepped on a primitive explosive, commonly called an IED.

He was treated on site and then taken to a hospital, where he later died, said his mother, Debbie Morris, of Arnold, reached by phone this morning.

The incident happened Thursday night Afghanistan time, she said.

Morris and her ex-husband, Gregg Brummund, who operates Arnold’s Chevron service station and deli, were scheduled to leave today for the Air Force base in Dover, Del., to claim his body.

Brummund, 22, served in the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, and was the leader of his team.

He was born in Van Nuys and moved to Arnold with his parents in 1994, when he was 6.

He attended Hazel Fischer Elementary School, Avery Middle School and Bret Harte High School, where he played football and excelled at wrestling. He graduated in 2006.

He briefly attended College of the Redwoods, a community college in Humboldt County.

Morris said he left college and joined the Marines three years ago. He had one year left on his enlistment.

He was first deployed to Iraq. He liked the Marines, but had grown weary of the war in Afghanistan, Morris said.

“When he was in Iraq, they didn’t really have any battles,” she said. “That was easy. But this one was taking a toll on him.”

He was deployed to Afghanistan in January, Morris said. He was scheduled to finish his tour at the end of July or early August, she said.

Brummund was married two years ago to Michaela Brummund, with whom he lived in North Carolina. He had no children, but had two dogs, eight puppies and a cat, Morris said.

My week embedded with US Forces in Afghanistan

Photographer Gary Ramage has spent the past week embedded with US Forces. He has watched a man die; he has been present at the evacuations of several others. This is his extraordinary story.

This has been one of the deadliest weeks on record for coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan.


Gary Ramage
Herald Sun
June 11, 2010 5:50PM

Two Australian soldiers were killed in Tarin Kowt on Monday; seven US soldiers and one contractor were also killed.

Two more US Marines died the following day in Southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province, when seven Marines were brought down by an IED blast.

Two of those casualties were later confirmed to be the result of ''angels'' - the call sign for friendly KIA (Killed In Action) incidents.

The remains of one of the dead Marines were unable to be located. It is assumed that he took the brunt of the blast.

To date, a total of 1814 NATO soldiers have died whilst serving on the frontline in Afghanistan since 2001, 1022 of whom were US service personnel. Australia has lost 13 men.

I was in Southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province on Monday, embedded with the Dustoff crews from Charlie Company 6th Battalion Combat Airmobile Brigade (CAB) of the 101st Airborne Division.

I had arrived with the Blackhawk helicopter that flew first into the battle to pick up the injured US soldiers.

It was about 9am. I had just collected my breakfast, which consisted of a boiled egg, a hamburger patty, a pastry egg roll and some slices of cooked ham.

Oh yeah, and a very good smelling cup of coffee: my first in four weeks. I went outside to the dinner table and sat down.

I had just taken my first bite of the egg pastry thingy when the radio started bellowing, "Medivac, medivac, medivac''.

I dropped everything, took a final gulp of coffee and ran to the helo. I was the second one out there.

The pilot in control (PIC) of the aircraft, Warrant Officer Joseph Wonacott, started to get his gear on.

I did the same thing. The engine started to turn over.

The Crew Chief, sergeant Ryan Hara, medic-sergeant Adam Montavon and co-pilot Rob Ware joined the aircraft and also started dressing in their gear. We were up and gone in well under 15 minutes.

The timing was, and is, essential. If the medivac aircraft is not airborne in 15 minutes or less, the crew is required to send a "please explain'' letter to the US Secretary of Defence.

The crews need to launch within that time to give the injured people the best chance of survival. The men based at FOB Dwyer usually do it in seven or less.

The Blackhawk helicopters are used as the primary vehicle and are largely unarmed, as the Geneva Convention dictates.

The crews only carry sidearms and M4 rifles for self-preservation, in case they have to defend themselves.

When airborne, the Blackhawks are escorted by a chase helicopter and/or US military Cobra attack helicopters, which are heavily armed to repel any type of attack against the Blackhawk during its vital life-saving missions.

The helicopter crew is commonly referred to as Dustoff, which means "Dedicated Unhesitating Service To Our Fighting Forces'' and as such, the men and women of Charlie Company risk their lives every time they jump in the aircraft to go and save some poor Marine who has been blown up or shot.

Their motto is, "Never refuse a mission, never return with an empty helicopter and the needs of the patient come first''.

The role of the Dustoff is to evacuate wounded personal from coalition outposts - Forward Operating Bases (FOBs); Patrol Bases (PB) and Combat Outposts (COP).

Their task is to not only pick up wounded military personnel, but also civilian casualties, including the people who are trying to kill them.

The Dustoff have three levels of priority: Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. Alpha denotes "urgent'', Bravo is "serious but not life-threatening'' and Charlie is "not urgent''.

Their main mission is to reach casualties with the "golden hour'': the window of time before it is generally accepted that victims go from being treatable to fatalities.

On Monday, the Nine Liner - a coded system used by the military to call and rate the priorities of casualties - came over the intercom.

"One injured marine, sucking chest wound,'' we heard.

The boys started prepping the medical gear for the patient.

The radio sounded again and then came the message I had been dreading, "Hot LZ [Landing Zone], enemy in tree line, have Marines are pinned down, taking accurate fire on position, break''.

This was it; I was on my way into a shitfight, along with the Dustoff crew. Call sign Dustoff 66 was flying into a hot LZ.

We arrived over the area but there was mass confusion about where the enemy were firing from.

The Marines were still pinned down and taking fire. The Cobras were trying to confirm the enemy positions so they could "light them up'' and kill them.

Another call over the radio: "Patient is crashing''.

After a minute or two, we were given approval to go in.

The engines roared as we came in quick. Nose up, and then we were on the ground.

The side doors flew open and the medic raced out towards a group of Marines.

He had run about 200m when he finally them, struggling under the weight of their badly-injured comrade.

As Sergeant Adam Montavon recalled, "By the time I reached him on the ground, I could see he was in trouble and told the Marines to get him to the bird.''

They all raced back to the helo and placed him inside.

The Marines jumped out, the doors were slammed shut and we were back in the air. The medic started work on the injured man straight away.

He was in a very bad way. He had taken a round to the upper left side of his chest.

He was bleeding profusely. The medic quickly began treating him.

"I went to work on him straight away, trying to get a pulse, but there was none. I began compressions and Ryan started squeezing the bag to get oxygen into him. He wasn't responding'', Sgt Montavan said.

Even so, the crew chief and the medic did not stop CPR during the whole flight.

They tried everything in their power to save that boy's life.

I could see Sgt Montavon kneeling upright in the back of the helo, pressing down on the Marine's chest, trying to get his heart to start. We were still a good 15 minutes out from the hospital.

We came in fast and low to the Role 3 Hospital.

The door flew open and the medic frantically waved towards the waiting staff to get to the aircraft.

It was a slow process.

The medical staff tried to get him onto a wheeled litter but it had got stuck in the makeshift hard stand.

I dropped my cameras, grabbed both stretcher handles and pulled upwards.

I took his weight so the medics could untangle the trolley. They eventually unengaged it and took him towards the hospital.

When the boys returned we lifted off and flew back to the Dustoff hardstand. The back of the aircraft was a real mess.

There was blood and used medical supplies everywhere.

"The Marine was gone - he most probably left us before being placed on the Blackhawk - but I still had to try and save him, that's my job'', Sgt Montavan said.

Once the engines were shut off, the rest of the detachment came out and started to help strip the armour platting from the floor so they could wash out all of the blood.

They handed out plastic gloves and began to scrub. I put my cameras down again, and started to help with the cleanup. After we had finished, Sgt Derek Costine called my name.

"Gary...catch.'' He threw me the unit patch and said, "Welcome, thanks for helping out''.

The time now was about 10.30am.

This was day two of my embed with Dustoff. It is going to be a busy two weeks.

The following day I went to bed at about 2am. I sat up with the first up crew in case there was a call-out. There wasn't, but then at 6am we were woken by "Medivac, medivac, medivac'' over the radios.

This time, seven Marines had been caught in an IEDs blast.

Two were confirmed "Angels'' - the call sign for friendly Killed In Action.

All birds launched.

Travelling at 30m above the deck at a speed of 225km/h, we reached the LZ in a matter of minutes.

We picked up three injured priority B patients in our helo and another Blackhawk got the rest.

We took the walking wounded. Two had blast or shrapnel injuries to their heads and the other boy had copped shrapnel in the left side of his face.

The medic, Sgt Bradley Robbins, went to work. Crew Chief Jason Norris (who hates the nickname "Chuck'') looked out for incoming rounds.

Pilot in Charge Warrant Officer Adam Stratton and co-pilot Steve King got the bird in the air and we made our way back to Dwyer to drop the patients at the Role 3 hospital. We returned to the helo pad.

A few hours later we were off again. This time to pick up a local little boy who was showing symptoms of poisoning.

As it turned out he had ingested quite a lot of diesel fuel. He was taken to the Role 3 as well.

The hospitals are starting to appear at various locations around Afghanistan - now that the fighting season is well and truly under way, the medics and hospital staff have their work cut out for them.

The evacuation process is to get the casualty back to a Role 3 facility for treatment and then evacuate to the US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and later the Walter Reid Army medical facility in Washington DC.

On the frontline, the US Army medics are highly-trained and equipped for any medical emergency.

They administer life-saving first aid to the wounded men and women unfortunate enough to end up in the back of their bird.

They do their basic training at the Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia.

During the 18-week course, they are taught how to control bleeding and other basic medical skills. The helo medics do another four weeks of intensive training before joining their unit.

The medics can administer drugs and keep patients stabilised, all in the confined space of the back of a Blackhawk helicopter travelling at speeds of up to 320km/h at ground level.

The Blackhawk has twin 1600hp engines, which enable it to achieve its outstanding power and speed. The current models are due for a refurbishment by 2013.

Each is equipped with anti-missile capabilities, or decoy systems.

They have magnesium flares that trick the guidance system of incoming heat-seeking missiles, which would otherwise down the aircraft.

The war in Afghanistan is indeed an unbalanced one that sees 21st centuary weapon platforms pitted against a dedicated insurgency whose whole aim is to kill Coalition soldiers.

They are succeeding with alarming accuracy.

Whether it by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) planted on some roadside or track, a sneak ambush utilising old captured soviet era weapons or sickening suicide attacks, they are taking the fight to the NATO forces.

The Taliban watch the soldiers and they attack them when they choose. They drop their weapons in the fields when soldiers get close and act other normal Afghani man working their fields.

"It is f...... hard for us to fight an enemy that we can not easily identify, especially with the current rules of engagement that we are bound by'', a Marine said this week.

So is the current Counter Insurgency (COIN) policy - to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people - working? That's yet to be determined.

The generals and the politicians would have you believe it is, but when you speak to the soldier on the ground whose blood is being spilled, it is a totally different story.

They believe in the cause but say they are fed up fighting an enemy with one hand tied behind their backs.

For all that though, they continue to return to the frontline. As long as soldiers and Marines continue to fall victim to the horrible injuries of war, they will continue to fly to their sides.

Local Marine dies in Afghanistan

An e-mail he received in Afghanistan gave Sgt. Zachary J. Walters of Palm Coast the answer he had been hoping for.


Posted: June 11, 2010 - 12:12am

Thomas Zoblisien wrote the 24-year-old Marine last week, giving him permission to marry his daughter, Victoria Falcon.

She was ready to say yes, but the proposal would never come.

Walters, 24, died Tuesday in the desert of Afghanistan before being able to ask her.

He was killed by a roadside bomb alongside Sgt. Derek L. Shanfield, 22, of Hastings, Pa. Both men were part of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Officials from the Camp Lejeune base called the accident "a result of a hostile incident." Walters' grandmother, Bobbie M. Walters, called it an act of heroism.

She said her only grandson was leading his platoon through a training exercise along with the Afghan army when Walters stepped on the bomb. It was during his third week of what was meant to be a seven-month mission.

"When (officers) came to my door, it was, like, 'Are you sure this is not a mistake? This can't be happening,'" she said by phone from her home in Irving, Texas.

She said even knowing the dangers of war, Walters never doubted his dedication to the military.

He joined the U.S. Marine Corps the day after he graduated from Flagler Palm Coast High School in 2005. Although not from a military family, Walters passed up college scholarships and job offers to serve his country.

"He just knew he wanted to be in the service," she said. "He felt like he was doing what he thought was right. He loved the Marines, and the Marines loved him."

Walters received boot camp training in North Carolina before his first deployment overseas in 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. From August 2008 to March 2009 Walters helped protect the American Embassy near Somalia, his grandmother said.

His deployment May 20 was his first trip to Afghanistan but one that his grandmother said Walters was more than ready for. He e-mailed often and promised to call his grandmother's house in Texas sometime next week.

That house was Walters' home base throughout a life of constant travel. He was born in Saudi Arabia on May 24, 1986, when his father's contracting work took the family overseas.

Walters lived in Texas, Mississippi and Indiana before moving to Palm Coast for high school.

Once there, he immediately joined the Junior ROTC program, where his instructor, Chief Master Sgt. Jim Wainscott, said he showed a natural talent.

"Right from the start that's what he wanted to do," Wainscott said. "He always took seriously wearing the uniform, whereas many other students don't. ... He was just a good solid kid that did well."

Besides life in the military, Walters liked to surf on Daytona Beach, climb mountains out of state and read about aviation. Falcon said her boyfriend had a sarcastic sense of humor and a passion for fast cars.

Waiting for him in Texas is a dark blue 2008 Mustang and a black 1987 Mustang.

"He was really proud of that," Falcon said.

Back in Texas, Walters' family said they never expected his homecoming would be so hard. His mother, Regina, traveled to Dover, Del., Thursday to collect her son's body for his burial at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery next week.

It will be a homecoming his grandmother said Walters had prepared himself for all along.

"When he left in May, I told him, 'Zach, I'm worried about you,'" she said. "He said, 'Nana, please don't worry about me. ...If it's my time to go, I know where I'm going to spend eternity.'"

Kandahar offensive will take months longer than planned, U.S. says

When the Obama administration decided last fall to accept Hamid Karzai as the legitimate president of Afghanistan for the next five years, there were no illusions that working with him and his government would be easy. It has been even harder than many U.S. officials anticipated.


By Karen DeYoung and Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 11, 2010

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that the civilian-military offensive scheduled to begin in the southern city of Kandahar this spring would take months longer than planned. The Afghan government has not produced the civilian leadership and trained security forces it was to contribute to the effort, U.S. officials said, and the support from Kandaharis that the United States was counting on Karzai to deliver has not materialized.

"When you go to protect people, the people have to want you to protect them," Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Thursday in explaining why the Kandahar operation has been pushed back until at least September.

"It's a deliberative process. It takes time to convince people," he told reporters at a meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels.

But time is short. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said this week that the U.S.-led coalition has until the end of the year to prove to the United States and its allies that their forces have broken a stalemate with the Taliban. President Obama has said he will begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011.

In Marja, in western Helmand province, where Marines launched a major operation this year, U.S. efforts have been hindered by the absence or incompetence of Afghan officials and security forces and by the Taliban's enduring resistance.

After Karzai emerged triumphant from last year's chaotic and fraud-riddled presidential election, the administration decided there was nothing to be gained from trying to marginalize him and sought to repair what had become a tattered relationship. While the two sides demonstrate improved rapport in public, however, many officials are despairing behind the scenes.

"Washington is making nice with him, but what good has that done?" a U.S. official in Afghanistan said of Karzai. "We need him to step up and take a leadership role, to get his government to support what we're doing. But he's either unwilling or unable to do it.

"If he can't be a partner, how can any of this work?" said the official who, like others interviewed about Karzai and U.S strategy, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Karzai's promises to stem corruption have yielded few results. Last week, he fired Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, two top cabinet officials whom the United States considered among the few who are competent and honest, in the culmination of long-running feuds with both. Karzai spokesmen said the two were let go because they did not prevent an attack on a reconciliation meeting in Kabul last week. But they had also strongly objected to Karzai's plans to seek reconciliation with the Taliban.

Afghan and U.S. sources cited additional issues, including their anger at Karzai's refusal to sign execution orders for convicted terrorists, as well as ethnic rivalries. Saleh is a Tajik from northern Afghanistan, who made clear during the election campaign that his sympathies did not lie with Karzai. One Afghan analyst speculated that Atmar, like Karzai a Pashtun from the south, was "sacrificed" to show the president was not playing ethnic politics.

During previous clashes with the two, particularly with Saleh, U.S. officials had forcefully intervened with Karzai. This time, they were conspicuously silent except to say that they respected Karzai's right to run his own government.

In Kandahar, U.S. military officials said a complex web of official and unofficial power brokers stands to lose if efficient government and rule of law are imposed. "There are generations of families that have lived off corruption," said 1st Lt. James Rathmann, 31, of Palm Beach, Fla., who leads a platoon in Kandahar city focused on police training.

The leading power broker is the president's half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who is widely considered to wield more authority than the governor of Kandahar province. U.S. officials argue that he impedes the emergence of more-representative leaders.

Congressional investigators are completing a report on corruption, including payoffs to the Taliban, among Afghan security firms, many with ties to senior government officials. Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, working with U.S. investigators on other corruption cases, has at times been obstructed by "interference at senior levels of government," a U.S. official in Washington said. He cited the case of Mohammad Siddiq Chakari, a former minister charged with taking bribes who has left the country for London.

The Americans are reluctant to blame Karzai and his government directly for the delays in Kandahar. But the Marja experience, with troops fighting to provide political space for government officials who still have not appeared, taught them that their efforts must be matched by the Afghans.

"You've got to have the governance part ready to go," Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges, one of the top U.S. commanders in southern Afghanistan, said in an interview last week. "We talked about doing that in Marja, but didn't realize how hard it was to do."

"Ultimately, it's up to the Afghans to step forward," he said.

The operational plan drawn up for Kandahar last spring began with U.S. Special Operations forces raids against individual insurgent leaders within the city and in the Taliban-heavy "bands" in surrounding districts. At the same time, U.S. civilians were to help organize shuras, or meetings of local leaders and elders, to offer development aid and encourage them to take political control. By June, more than 10,000 newly deployed U.S. troops were to begin clearing the Taliban from the outlying districts, up to 80 percent of which the military estimates is controlled by insurgents.

The kickoff was a regional Kandahar shura in April led by Karzai, with McChrystal at his side. "Are you happy about this operation?" Karzai asked more than 1,000 tribal leaders at the gathering. In response to their loud murmurs, he answered the question himself. "No? Listen to me carefully. Until you're happy and satisfied, we will not conduct this operation."

At the time, U.S. officials were pleased with Karzai's deference to local sensibilities. Since then, especially in the absence of emerging local leadership, they have wondered at his apparent inability or unwillingness to lead.

McChrystal said Thursday that in the next few days he would make another trip to the city with Karzai for additional shuras that would focus "on all things to improve in Kandahar: security, governance, reducing corruption."

He acknowledged that winning support from local leaders was tougher than expected. Some see the Taliban fighters as their Muslim brothers rather than oppressors; others are afraid of assassination by Taliban hit squads that target government supporters or see no advantage in challenging the existing political power structure.

"There's no point in clearing an area until you have the capacity to do the hold, to bring governance" that does not now exist, one military official in Afghanistan said. "Without the Afghan government civilian capacity -- without a district government that can provide some basic services -- you'll end up with what we're experiencing in Marja right now."

Taking more time was not necessarily a bad thing, McChrystal said. "It's more important that we get it right than we get it fast," he said, adding that he did not intend to hurry.

Asked whether the delay leaves time for a decisive outcome by the end of the year, McChrystal was noncommittal. "It will be very clear by the end of the calendar year that the Kandahar operation is progressing," he said. "I don't know whether we'll know whether it's decisive. Historians will tell us that."

IJC Operational Update, June 11

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force detained several individuals suspected of insurgent activity in Logar province last night.


ISAF Joint Command
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.11.2010
Posted: 06.11.2010 01:58

The individuals were detained as the combined force searched a compound in Padkhvab-e Shaneh, Pul-e ‘Alam district, after intelligence information revealed militant activity.

Another Afghan-international force used aircraft and ground forces to stop two vehicles and detained multiple individuals suspected of insurgent activity in Zabul province yesterday.

The security force was pursuing a Taliban commander in the village of Zakuri, Shah Joy district, after intelligence information revealed insurgent activity.

The vehicles were stopped without incident, and several women and children in the vehicles were protected.

Individuals suspected of insurgent activity were detained by a separate Afghan-international force in Zabul province yesterday.

The combined force detained two suspected insurgents while searching a compound in the village of Jonubi Garay, Shah Joy district, after intelligence information found insurgent activity.

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

An Afghan-international security force found a large amount of explosives and detained an individual suspected of insurgent activity in Kandahar province last night.

The security force searched a series of compounds near the village of Zarif Kheyl, Zharay district, after intelligence information verified militant activity.

A Russian-made anti-aircraft weapon, several artillery rounds used for making improvised explosive devices, completed IED's and automatic rifles were found.

A number of insurgents were killed and large weapons caches were found by a separate Afghan-international security force during a two-day clearing operation that ended in Khost province last night.

The operation took place southwest of Kowte Kheyl, Shamul district, after intelligence reports confirmed insurgent activity in an area known for extensive Haqqani network involvement and facilitation.

The security force came under fire several times over the course of the operation and returned fire, killing a number of insurgents.

Several of the insurgent strongholds were mined with IED's and precision air strikes were used to eliminate weapon storage areas. The security force also recovered multiple rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, hand grenades, automatic rifles and IED components.

June 10, 2010

Hastings Marine killed in Afghanistan

It seemed like Sgt. Derek L. Shanfield was born to be a Marine.


By Michael Hasch
Thursday, June 10, 2010

The 22-year-old Cambria County native, who joined the Marines shortly after graduating in 2006 from Cambria Heights High School and recently was given a meritorious promotion, was killed Tuesday during combat operations in Afghanistan.

"He was truly amazing. He rose up through the ranks very high in a very short time. He was basically a picture of perfection when it comes to being a Marine," said Shanfield's brother, Marine Sgt. Sydney David Lee Shanfield.

Derek Shanfield and his twin brother, Marine Cpl. Devin L. Shanfield, joined the corps together and were stationed with different units in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"I felt very compelled to take part in everything going on in our country, and both of my brothers were very proud to follow and do their part as well," said Sydney Shanfield, who joined the corps in 2001 and has served three tours of duty in Iraq.

"Derek believed in it wholeheartedly, believed in taking care of his Marines. He believed in everything he was doing."

The three Marines are the children of David and Pamela Shanfield of Hastings, 35 miles north of Johnstown.

"He was a squad leader. He deployed to Afghanistan earlier than the rest of his unit," Pamela Shanfield said. "He left May 21 and was just over there for two weeks. Devin was set to deploy later."

She said she didn't know all the details of what happened to her son.

"All I know is he was out on patrol."

The Department of Defense said Shanfield and Marine Sgt. Zachary J. Walters, 24, of Palm Coast, Fla., who also was based in Camp Lejeune, were killed in action in Helmand province. Both were members of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Shanfield last talked to her son after he landed in Bangor, Maine, while en route to Afghanistan.

"He said the Freeport Flag Ladies took a bunch of pictures and put them on their website," Shanfield said, speaking of the group of women from a coastal Maine village who drive weekly to the airport in Bangor to see the soldiers off or greet them upon their return.

"He said not to worry, 'I'll be fine. I'll be coming home just as good as new.' I told him, 'Keep your head down and come on home.'"

She said her son -- who has two sisters, Jessica Petro of Maryland and Allison Shanfield, at home -- enjoyed running cross country and swimming.

"He was a good person. He made people laugh. He was just the kind of person who would make jokes or do something foolish. He had a lot of friends."

Better armor, helmets expected soon

By Amy McCullough - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jun 10, 2010 8:45:10 EDT

Marines downrange could be wearing tougher, better fitting helmets and body armor by Spring 2011, a top acquisitions officer told members of the defense industry outside Washington on May 25.

To continue reading:


Attack kills 40 at Afghan wedding party

NADAHAN VILLAGE, Afghanistan — A suicide bomb ripped through a wedding party for a family with ties to police in the Taliban's heartland in Afghanistan, killing at least 40 people and wounding dozens more, officials said Thursday.


By Mirwais Khan - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Jun 10, 2010 8:35:28 EDT

The Taliban denied carrying out the attack, but strong suspicion fell on the insurgent group because of previous attacks and killings of people seen as allied with the government or Afghan security forces.

The blast hit in an area that is largely considered a Taliban haven, and village residents said they believed they were attacked in an air bombardment. Mohammad Rassool, a cousin of the groom, said helicopters were circling above the compound before the explosion.

NATO said no service members from the alliance were involved or operating in the area at the time of the explosion. U.S. military spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said the deaths were not the result of an airstrike.

New British Prime Minister David Cameron — making his first visit to Afghanistan since being elected last month — joined President Hamid Karzai in condemning the attack. The two talked in Kabul on Wednesday about the progress of the nearly 9-year-old war.

Cameron, whose nation is the second largest contributor of NATO forces in Afghanistan with some 10,000 troops, said 2010 was "the vital year" for showing that the U.S.-led counterinsurgency was working.

"This is the year when we have to make progress — progress for the sake of the Afghan people, but progress also on behalf of people back at home who want this to work," Cameron told a joint news conference with Karzai.

Cameron, whose coalition government is considered less invested in the war than its Labour predecessor, flatly ruled out sending more British forces.

"The issue of more troops is not remotely on the U.K. agenda," he said.

The bomb blast late Wednesday almost completely flattened the outer wall of a compound in the Arghandab district of Kandahar where male wedding guests had gathered for a meal. The windows and walls of the mud-brick dwellings were shattered and cracked. Women guests at the party were in another compound that was not hit by the explosion, witnesses said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said children were among the dead and wounded, and that it was a suicide attack. He said at least 40 people were killed and 74 were wounded. The groom was among the injured.

The family that was attacked included a number of Afghan police officers. The groom's brother and two of his cousins were in the police force, according to another cousin, Mohammad Alkozay.

"This is a crime of massive inhuman proportions against civilians," Karzai told the news conference.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi denied the group carried out the attack.

The area is largely considered a Taliban haven, and village residents said they believed they were attacked in an air bombardment. Mohammad Rassool, a cousin of the groom, said helicopters were circling above the compound before the explosion.

NATO said no service members from the alliance were involved or operating in the area at the time of the explosion. U.S. military spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said the deaths were not the result of an airstrike.

Kandahar — and particularly districts like Arghandab that ring Kandahar city — are the focus of an upcoming major NATO military operation to squeeze the Taliban out of their southern strongholds.

The Taliban have launched a counteroffensive that has included killing government officials and attacking anyone seen as allied with the government or Afghan security forces.

On Wednesday, the Taliban hanged a 7-year-old boy in public in Helmand province, neighboring Kandahar, for alleged spying, a local official said. Also Wednesday, insurgents dragged a Kandahar provincial council member, Amir Mohammad Noorzai, from his house and fatally shot him, said local government spokesman Zalmai Ayoubi.

Agha Mohammed, who survived the blast, said the guests were all seated and having a meal when the explosion occurred, sending a huge fireball and smoke into the sky.

He said the scale of the destruction caused by the blast was more than was common in a suicide attack.

At a news conference in Kandahar city, provincial Gov. Tooryalai Wesa held up a chunk of metal he said was from a suicide bomb used in the attack, and rejected the insurgents' claim of innocence.

"The Taliban are doing two things at once," Wesa said. "On one side they target people who are in favor of the government, then at the same time they don't want people to know their real face."

Associated Press writers Amir Shah, Heidi Vogt and Rohan Sullivan in Kabul contributed to this report.

IJC Operational Update, June 10

KABUL, Afghanistan- A Haqqani network weapons facilitator and several suspected insurgents were captured by an Afghan-international security force in Khost province last night.


ISAF Joint Command
Date: 06.10.2010
Posted: 06.10.2010 05:57

The suspects were captured in a series of buildings in the village of Zemica, Shamul District, after intelligence confirmed insurgent activity. The assault force had to call for the individuals to surrender several times before apprehending them peacefully and no shots were fired and no one was harmed.

The facilitator operated mainly out of the Shamul and Nadir Shah Kot Districts. He is responsible for acquiring IED materials and small arms for attacks against coalition forces, and has also supported suicide bombing operatives.

June 9, 2010

Petraeus: Afghan mission will fail without UK

By Raphael G. Satter - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 9, 2010 16:55:07 EDT

LONDON — Gen. David Petraeus warned Wednesday that the effort to quash the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan would fail without British support, making his case to U.K. leaders facing painful choices over what kind of military commitments the country can afford.

To continue reading:


Gates: Afghan progress must come this year

By Anne Gearan - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 9, 2010 10:58:27 EDT

LONDON — Public support for the war in Afghanistan will evaporate unless the nations leading the fight against insurgents can show by the end of this year that the eight-year war is not locked in stalemate, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.

To read the entire article:


Britain Reaffirms Support for Afghanistan

LONDON — Faced with what it sees as a crucial six months to show that its strategy in Afghanistan is working, the Obama administration has reached out in recent days to its closest military ally, Britain, in a bid to head off any weakening of allied resolve.


Published: June 9, 2010

In a three-day diplomatic offensive in London, a trio of top Pentagon figures — Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in the region, and Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army — have sought assurances from Britain’s new coalition government that Britain will remain steadfast in its Afghan commitment.

Mr. Gates said Wednesday that the United States and its allies were under pressure to show progress in the war by the end of the year, and that American voters would not accept an open-ended “stalemate.”

“All of us, for our publics, are going to have to show by the end of the year that our strategy is on the right track and making some headway,” he said.

As Mr. Gates headed for a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels, it seemed clear the Americans had achieved the reaffirmation they had sought after Mr. Gates and General Petraeus met separately with the new prime minister, David Cameron, and in talks both men had with the new British defense minister, Dr. Liam Fox.

Dr. Fox, a Scottish physician, had aroused doubts when he traveled to Afghanistan soon after the new government took office last month and said Britain was in Afghanistan to defeat Islamic extremists there so they could not mount new attacks in Britain, not for the purpose of rebuilding what he called “a broken 13th-century country.”

That appeared to question an important part of the American strategy, which has hinged on combining military pressure on the Taliban and Al Qaeda with a reconstruction program aimed at winning the backing of Afghanistan’s population. But other senior ministers in the new government said Britain remained firmly behind the American approach, and that was the message that Mr. Cameron and Dr. Fox appeared keen to transmit this week.

After Mr. Gates met Mr. Cameron on Monday, the prime minister’s office issued a statement saying that he had “reiterated U.K. support for U.S. strategy,” but tellingly singled out as the strategy’s main element the $20 billion plan to build up Afghanistan’s own forces so they can take over security responsibilities and allow allied troops to leave.

At a news conference with Mr. Gates on Tuesday, Dr. Fox said the first question he had asked when he became defense minister was “Should we be in Afghanistan?”

“I’ve seen the human costs to our armed forces themselves and the sacrifices that they’re making, and when I did ask the question, the answer had to be ‘yes,’ of course,” he said. “I believe that we cannot afford Afghanistan to lapse back into a failed state.”

The renewed British commitment was expected. Mr. Cameron and Mr. Fox are Conservatives, who strongly supported the British role in Afghanistan while in opposition, before they joined the left-of-center Liberal Democrats in a coalition after the inconclusive May 6 general election. The Conservatives’ differences with the former Labour government, which committed 10,000 British troops to the war, second only among the 46 alliance nations to the United States, with about 94,000 troops deployed, centered less on whether the war should be fought than on whether the British troops had been adequately equipped.

American officials regard a bolstering of Britain’s support as especially important at a time when many European countries with troops in Afghanistan, including Britain and Germany, are committed to sharp cuts in defense spending as part of their drive to reduce huge government deficits. With Britain reaffirming its backing for the Afghanistan effort, the American hope is that other European nations will be hesitant to back out.

Mr. Gates said in London that he hoped the European allies would follow the Pentagon’s example in seeking $100 billion in spending cuts by reducing overhead costs and spending on new weapons programs. “I would hope that our allies, before they consider force structure reductions, and reductions more broadly in capabilities, will look overall at how they spend their money,” he said.

In a concession to Britain, American officials said they had abandoned plans to move many of the 8,000 British troops who have been fighting in the southwestern province of Helmand to the city of Kandahar as part of a mission realignment. Many of the additional 30,000 American troops ordered into Afghanistan by President Obama will be sent to Helmand.

British officials had argued that many of the nearly 300 British soldiers who have been killed in the war died fighting in Helmand, and that giving way to the Marines would amount to surrendering territory that had been won with British lives.

General Petraeus, who has overall responsibility for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as head of the United States Central Command, said in a speech in London on Wednesday, after meeting with Mr. Cameron, that Britain was America’s “most trusted and important coalition partner,” and he described the security ties between the countries as closer than at any time since World War II. “As was the case in Iraq, the scale of the British contribution is such that the coalition cannot succeed without you,” he said.

Fallen Marine called 'an exceptional person'

Speedway native enjoyed stories about heroes, friends say

Even in high school, Johnny Rankel already showed signs of taking life seriously.


By Dan McFeely
Posted: June 9, 2010

He was a star athlete but also liked to read about heroes who stood their ground against great odds.

Joining the Marines and serving in the Middle East did nothing but enhance that passion, friends said in remembering Sgt. John Rankel, who died Monday, apparently from enemy fire on a bloody day in Afghanistan.

"I remembered him as an exceptional person," said Ryan Smith, Indianapolis, a close friend who played football with Rankel at Center Grove before Rankel moved to Speedway.

"Just a year ago, we were at dinner, and I remember thinking that he was an almost completely different person. He was incredibly stronger, more passionate and even more caring than before. He loved being a Marine, and it showed."

The 23-year-old Speedway native had enlisted in the Marines right after high school and after briefly considering playing football at Franklin College.

"We went down there and talked to the coach, but Johnny said, 'My heart is in the Marines,' and he was off to California," said Speedway football coach Denny Pelley. "He was a quiet leader for us, not a rah-rah guy. There was nothing false about him at all."

Rankel is the 30th Hoosier to die in Afghanistan. According to Department of Defense statistics, 112 have been killed in Iraq.

Details about his death were not clear Tuesday evening. But Rankel's parents, Trisha and Don Stockhoff and Kevin and Kim Rankel, who were on their way to Dover Air Force Base on Tuesday, said in a statement that their son was "struck in the chest by enemy fire." His remains were expected to arrive at Dover today.

Rankel had been stationed in Southern California. After two tours in Iraq, he had re-enlisted and was on his first tour in Afghanistan.

Lonny Medina, a fellow Marine, was one of many friends who posted condolences Tuesday on Facebook. In an interview with The Star, he said Rankel had a successful career in the military, earning promotions quickly.

"We were in the same platoon together during our tour to Iraq in 2007," Medina said. "We also got promoted to corporal at the same time. In Iraq, we did many missions together, but nothing too intense.

"He was liked by everyone he came into contact with, and it was easy to accept him as a good friend the moment you met him. John made no enemies."

Another fellow Marine, Matt Turner, Grand Rapids, Mich., had been Rankel's roommate for the past three years.

"We were both in the same platoon in weapons company, where he taught me everything I know," Turner said. "Then, when we got back from deployment, I got put into a sniper (platoon) and knew John would like it, so I asked him, and he came over to the sniper platoon, too.

"We were always together, day and night. He was a guy I could count on for anything. He was the greatest guy I knew, and the best friend anybody could ask for," said Turner, who completed his military service April 2. "I still can't believe (he) is gone, and I'll never get to talk to him again."

On Rankel's Facebook page, he had listed as his favorite book "Gates of Fire," the epic novel that recounts the heroic last stand of the Greek Spartans against invading Persians at the battle of Thermopylae.

Such courage and honor were what friends say Rankel was all about.

"He was the kind of young man we needed, we need, in our country," said Gary Raikes, a friend of the family. "He exemplified what the Marine Corps is all about -- a sense of family, country and God."

Raikes, a Speedway town councilman who served as a family spokesman Tuesday, said a memorial service is being planned but might not happen for 10 to 12 days.

"The parents and other family members truly appreciate the prayers, care, concern and love their friends and others in the community have shown them since learning of John's death," the family said.

Rankel has two younger brothers, Tyler, who is a student at Center Grove Schools, and Nathan, who recently graduated and enlisted in the military.

Sgt. John Rankel
» Born: July 28, 1986.

» Hometown: Speedway.

» Graduate: 2005, Speedway High School.

» Enlisted: U.S. Marines, 2005.

» Current residence: Vista, Calif.

» Parents: Trisha and Don Stockhoff, Speedway, and Kevin and Kim Rankel, Greenwood.

» Brothers: Tyler and Nathan.

» Favorite quotes: "Live outside your comfort zone." "What man is a man who does not make the world better?" "Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result." -- Winston Churchill

» Favorite books: "Gates of Fire," "The Afghan Campaign," "Lord of the Flies," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "A Bear Went Over the Mountain," "Lone Survivor," any Mitch Rapp book.

Sources: Family, John Rankel Facebook page

Gates: Recruiting May Ease Afghan Forces' Attrition

LONDON - With recruiting on pace to exceed goals, the increased numbers may help to ease attrition problems that have plagued the Afghan army and police, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here, June 9.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
Story by John Banusiewicz
Date: 06.09.2010
Posted: 06.09.2010 01:52

Gates met with U.S. and British reporters as he wrapped up a two-day visit during which he met with leaders of the new British government.

Recruiting for Afghanistan's army and police is exceeding goals, Gates said, and recent pay increases have helped with police retention. But although retention for the Afghan army has been good, attrition has been an issue for the both the police and the army, he acknowledged.

"While the numbers are growing," the secretary explained, "too often, units are sent into battle and there's no plan for them to rotate back home for a period of rest and recovery. So they're just in the fight indefinitely.

"So in a way," he continued, "the only way to get any R&R;, the only way to get out of combat, is to desert. And so I think the recruiting rates and the attrition rates are very much tied to getting enough numbers in the forces that they can have a regular rotational process that allows them to get home and see their families."

But while recruiting may increase numbers for Afghanistan's army and police, Gates said, the NATO training mission in Afghanistan needs 450 more trainers to get the new recruits ready for duty. The secretary said he'd like to see NATO allies – especially those that are not contributing combat forces to the effort in Afghanistan – to step up to relieve the trainer shortfall.

"I've tried to provide a bridging capability over about a six- or seven-month period by sending a couple of Marine detachments and an Army unit to provide training," he said, "but I see that as a temporary bridge until the European trainers and other trainers can get there."

The secretary predicted a "tough summer" in Afghanistan as the troop surge continues and coalition forces go into more areas where the Taliban have been in control or have been intimidating local people and government officials. But he added that he expects sufficient progress will be evident by year's end to show that the strategy in Afghanistan is on the right track.

Many of the 30,000 additional U.S. troops President Barack Obama authorized for the troop surge have only recently arrived in Afghanistan, Gates noted, and about 12,000 more have yet to deploy.

The secretary also expressed his pleasure that Toshimi Kitazawa has remained in place as Japan's defense minister in Prime Minister Naoto Kan's new government.

"I think stability and continuity is of value," Gates said. "I've also had the opportunity now to meet with him a number of times, and I feel like we have a good relationship."

Gates also applauded Kan's announcement that he will stand by an American-Japanese government agreement made in 2006 to relocate a U.S. Marine Corps air base on Okinawa. Kan's predecessor had wanted to move the U.S. base off Okinawa entirely.

"I think now we have an obligation to work with our Japanese partners to see how we can together mitigate the impact in Okinawa of our military presence, whether it's having more training outside of Okinawa [or] whether it's noise abatement procedures," he said. "I think there are some things that we need to look at in terms of how we can be helpful, and I think that's what we'll be doing going forward."

After the meeting with reporters, Gates left London for Brussels, Belgium, where he will attend two days of NATO meetings.

Casualties Show Tough Week in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON - It has been a tough week in Afghanistan with 23 servicemembers killed in attacks since Monday, including four killed when their helicopter was shot down in Helmand province, June 9.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
Story by Jim Garamone
Date: 06.09.2010
Posted: 06.09.2010 03:55

Operational tempo for NATO International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan is at an all-time high.

"There are more ISAF forces [in Afghanistan] than at any other time, so the level of activity is high and I think as we conduct our operations and engage with the enemy, obviously the opportunities for hostile contact have gone up," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, June 9.

There now are about 94,000 U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan with 48,000 allies. The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will grow to about 98,000 by September. The number of NATO and other allied troops also will increase.

NATO troops are entering areas in Afghanistan where they previously have not been. In cases such as in Marja, Helmand province, the Taliban had established a shadow government to rule the area and intimidate the people.

The oncoming summer season is the traditional battle time in Afghanistan. Winter is over and snow has melted in the passes. Crops have been sown and – in the case of poppies – harvested.

"We have active operations going on in Afghanistan and we have more forces there than we've ever had," Whitman said. "It is a period of time in which you'll see the Taliban try to conduct their own operations. While we conduct our operations carefully and try to mitigate the risk in all our operations, the fact of the matter is that we have taken casualties and we've taken quite a few this week. It's been a tough week."

U.S. and NATO commanders have stressed the importance of the civilian component in operations in Afghanistan. Civilian experts are key to economic and governmental progress.

The number of civilian experts in Afghanistan has risen and they are providing the advice and guidance the country needs. For example, the U.S. State Department has more people in Afghanistan than it ever has, Whitman said.

"If you talk to our military commanders, they are having a significant impact," he said. "We finally have some much more robust resources in that regard and they are having an effect."

The strategy in Afghanistan takes into consideration the differences among the different parts of the country. For example, Kandahar is a large city with a diverse population. It was the spiritual home of the Taliban and the home of Mullah Omar, the Taliban chief. Marja is a rural agricultural center.

Consequently, there are differences between the kinds of actions conducted in Marja, and those underway in Kandahar. Each operation is assessed by battlefield commanders and the actions they take are dictated by the situation on the ground.

However, the overall strategy of clear, hold and build applies to operations conducted in both Kandahar and Marja. This means that in both places the idea is to clear the area of the Taliban, hold the area so the group cannot get back in, and build the economic structure.

How this occurs will be tailored to the specific area. Officials continue to say there will not be a "D-Day" for military operations in Kandahar. In fact, the offensive against the Taliban there is underway.

Afghan Journal: Marines try to build trust


Far from the flagpole. That's what they say about places like this, a gritty compound of Marines bedded down in Marjah - the heart of Afghanistan's poppy fields in Helmand province and the hub of the Taliban.


By Joanne Kimberlin
The Virginian-Pilot
© June 9, 2010

There's a certain pride in being far from the flagpole. It means you're out there on the edge, in the thick of the war. It also means hard living. The farther from the flagpole, the leaner the accommodations.

Life is harsh in this part of the country anyway, an agricultural belt long under the heel of not just the Taliban but drought, poverty and the relentless desert sun. Camp Hansen has been here for less than four months. In February, the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines were among the forces that fought their way into Marjah, a bloody and fearsome arrival that drove the Taliban underground but trapped locals in the crossfire.

The Marines have been trying to make friends ever since - no easy task when they're taking daily fire and dodging improvised explosive devices.

Casualties occur with numbing regularity. The news comes over the radio or by word-of-mouth or from a boom in the distance. It takes the shape of an empty cot or the charred hulk of an armored vehicle towed into camp.

But make friends they must, if America hopes to ever go home. The people of Marjah are desperate and vulnerable. Shoring them up is considered the best way to get and keep them on our side.

So, with M-4s slung over their shoulders, the uniforms of Camp Hansen attempt good deeds. They build schools, dig wells, help distribute seeds and fertilizer, pay out battle damage claims, wave at kids and duck the occasional rock throw that follows. They patrol with the Afghan army, trying to instill their own spirit into its ranks.

The camp itself is a landscape of browns and grays - rows of hump-backed tents, bare plywood and coils of razor wire. An earthen berm protects the perimeter, fortified by stacks of HESCOs - dirt-filled containers made of a fabric-lined wire mesh that can be rapidly assembled to wall in an outpost.

"Moon dust" permeates the camp - a thick layer of fine, fluffy sand that covers the ground and puffs under each boot step like a plume of smoke.

Luxuries are few and far between. Cuisine in the chow hall is limited to group-size MREs and a lethal brew of coffee. Drinking water is plentiful, but finding a cool bottle is a treasure. A row of PVC pipes driven into the ground serve as urinals. Anything more requires a trip to the outhouse and a WAG - a Waste Alleviation and Gelling kit - a system of plastic bags that are used, sealed and later burned.

All around are young faces, the peach fuzz of high school boys now on a battlefield. Their hair is shaved close, their bodies are trim from foot patrols - long, hot humps in the field wearing 60 or 70 pounds of gear and guns.

They fall asleep wherever and whenever they can, sitting up with helmets nodding, or laid out in the dirt under the thin shade of a camo net. They make couches out of sandbags, chairs out of HESCO wire and barter smokes from the Afghans. Girlie magazines litter their MRAPs - Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles - but so do books about the country they're fighting in.

They dream of cold beer, beam when they talk about home and family, and swagger a bit when they tell their war stories - the way that only youth really can.

Worries here don't dwell on deprivation, or even really the enemy. Riding in a convoy last week, three lance corporals counted up eight IED encounters between them since February.

They were concerned that the next one might put them over the limit for "blow-ups," a status that would keep them off patrol and confined to camp.

None of them mentioned the fact that the next IED could kill them.

Apparently, they feared boredom more than death - the way that only youth really can.

Joanne Kimberlin, (757) 446-2338, [email protected]

NATO helicopter shot down in Afghanistan

The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 9, 2010 8:12:32 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — A NATO helicopter was shot down in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing four troops, the alliance said.

To read the entire article:


Marines, Locals Celebrate New Government Center

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MUSA QAL'EH, Afghanistan – Every government needs a government building, a designated space to conduct business and enforce laws. Today, the construction for that building begins here.


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: 06.08.2010
Posted: 06.09.2010 06:38

Elders of Musa Qal'eh and elected officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new government building, June 8.

"The building will be the district governor's compound and will house several government offices," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Marker, a corpsman and civil affairs team member attached to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2.

The Helmand provincial governor, the commanding officer and sergeant major of 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, and local officials attended the ceremony.

The ceremony consisted of a speech by Helmand's provincial governor, a prayer, and the ceremonial placing of bricks packaged in wrapping paper.

"This is important because we will have all of the government in one place," said Kulab Mangal, the Helmand provincial governor. "This will allow the government to enforce laws and establish security."

The governor also commented that a centralized government will improve its ability to stabilize the area.

A local Afghan contractor will be leading the team efforts on this project, which has been in the planning phase for nearly a year.

"We have learned that if an Afghan man sweats over something, he will protect it," Marker said.
This project is not like some projects where Marines have helped build, according to Marker.

"This is planned by the Afghan people and will be done by the Afghan people because they want law and government here," said Marker.

Though the building will be similar to many others surrounding it, its presence will represent much more.

"This is the first step in turning over the local government to the people without the influence of International Security Assistance Forces," said Marker, a 25-year-old native of Germantown, Wis.

This may be the first step for Musa Qal'eh, but it will also be a big push in the right direction for the surrounding areas.

"Musa Qal'eh is the 'city in a hill,'" Marker said. "We have seen places like Habib and Karimanda improved because of the progress made here."

The importance of this building in Musa Qal'eh is vital for more than just government.

"This area is very kinetic and dangerous," Marker said. "But this building represents the complete opposite of all of that."

"We will continue to provide the means and security for the Afghan people to build their own stability," Marker said. "In the end, they are the ones who must take ownership and responsibility."

The project may take up to two years, Marker said, but the stepping-stone is in place and there are more projects to come.

Brothers Reunite in Afghanistan After Five-month Separation

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHER WALI, Afghanistan – Like many twin brothers, Lance Cpls. Aaron and Adam Voelker do everything together.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde
Date: 06.09.2010
Posted: 06.09.2010 06:27

As children and throughout high school, the two played on the same sports teams. When one joined the Marine Corps, the other decided he was going to do the same. They are both machine gunners. The brothers even deployed to Helmand province, Afghanistan within weeks of one another to partake in Operation Moshtarak with their respective battalions.

Unfortunately, this deployment has also separated the close-knit brothers from Wantage, N.J., for almost five months.

Aaron, with the Combined Anti-Armor Team, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and Adam, with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, had not seen each other in several months despite the fact that their battalions' areas of operations are both in Marjah and border each other.

"This deployment has actually been the first time we've ever been apart from each other," said Aaron. "We were rack mates at boot camp and [the School of Infantry]. At SOI, they didn't want us in the same platoon but we both ended up going machine gunner so we got put together — again."

Even after Adam left for Afghanistan in December, the twins met up again at Camp Dwyer, Helmand province in January as both battalions were preparing to push into Marjah.

Then, Operation Moshtarak began and the 19-year-old brothers separated as 1/6 cleared southern Marjah and 3/6 took care of the north. The twins would think of each other as they heard gunfire and explosions in the other battalion's area of operation.

"I'd be on a patrol or on post and hear stuff popping off in 3/6's AO all the time," said Adam. "It's nerve-racking but kind of cool to think, 'hey, that's my brother."

The brothers continued to do missions with their respective battalions and remained separated for almost five months. Then, a unique opportunity presented itself.

"Convoys are always going back and forth between our FOB and 3/6's," said Adam. "My first sergeant knows that I have a brother [with 3/6] and he basically just said, 'if you want to jump on the convoy your brother's going to be [at Forward Operating Base Sher Wali.]' He really hooked it up for me."

Finally, the twin brothers reunited June 6 in Marjah at FOB Sher Wali for the first time since January.
"I was sleeping when I heard somebody come into my tent this morning and start calling my name," said Aaron. "I opened my eyes and saw that it was my brother standing there. I got up and dressed faster than I had ever before."

"In five months, a lot has happened. I wanted to get all the stories out," added Aaron. "I wanted to see how he's been, find out what's been going down in southern Marjah, tell him what's been going on in northern Marjah."

Despite being separated for the majority of their deployments, the brothers feel blessed to have both taken part in the push of Marjah.

"After being over here, going home and seeing family is going to be great, but you can only tell them stories and they can only listen," said Adam. "They're not going to know how things really were. [It will be cool] to be able to go to my brother and say, 'hey remember that one time?' and he's going to be able to relate.

IJC Operational Update, June 9

KABUL, Afghanistan - An ISAF patrol discovered approximately 900 kilograms of marijuana in the Reg-e Khan Neshin District of Helmand province yesterday.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.09.2010
Posted: 06.09.2010 06:29

The patrol found 37 bags of the drugs in a truck and detained the driver.

A Taliban improvised explosive device commander and several other suspected insurgents were captured by an Afghan-international security force in Kandahar province last night.

The Taliban commander was responsible for bringing together IED experts to construct the devices, and was also a member of a Taliban assassination cell in Kandahar City. He and the other suspects were captured in a compound in a rural area of Arghandab District after intelligence information verified militant activity.

There were no shots fired and no one was harmed during the above operations.

Grandmother says Marine killed in Afghanistan had wanted to go

ST. LOUIS COUNTY — A Marine who died in an accident in Afghanistan over the weekend had requested assignment there and had just arrived in the country in April, his grandmother says.


By Greg Jonsson

Cpl. Donald M. Marler had served in Washington and at Camp David in Maryland. But when he was moved to Camp Pendleton in California, he sought assignment to Afghanistan so he could use his training, said his grandmother, Vallie Marler.

"He was afraid he wasn't going to get to go," she said. "He was over there doing what he wanted to do."

Marler, 22, was among three Marines who died Sunday in what a Marine spokesman described as a "single vehicle accident" during combat operations in Helmand province in southwestern Afghanistan. The spokesman, 1st Lt. Ken Kunze, said the accident was under investigation.

Donald Marler was a 2006 graduate of Oakville High School, and he enjoyed sports including football, basketball, swimming and track, his grandmother said.

Somewhere, he got the idea he wanted to be a Marine, she said. Some in the family worried for his safety, and others suggested other branches.

"No one could talk him out of it," Marler said. "I think he figured that was the most honorable (branch of the military). He was Marine gung-ho."

Marler's brother later followed him into the Marines and recruited some of his high school friends to join up, his grandmother said.

Marler, who was awarded a number of commendations and medals, was a natural leader, she said. She said she often watched a gaggle of grandkids when they were little, and "he was a little leader of the group. He had a very good, bright mind."

Some family members are on the East Coast to bring Marler's body back for burial. Services have not been scheduled.

Marler's large extended family members are trying to deal with his death as well as they can.

"We're extremely proud of him," Vallie Marler said. "It's just a shame. We're just so broken up."

Local Marine Wife Speaks Out

Three Camp Pendleton based Marines died Sunday when their armored vehicle flipped over and landed in a canal in the Helmand province.


Updated 10:31 AM PDT, Wed, Jun 9, 2010

Killed in that incident while on his third combat deployment was Sgt. Brandon C. Bury, 26, a native of Kingwood, Texas.

Bury lived in Oceanside with his wife, Heather, 27, and two young sons, Cole, 3, and Cade, 1.

Heather Bury was born and raised in San Diego.

The couple met at a party at San Diego State University in 2005 and married a year later. ”When you know, you know. He was the right person for me, he was the love of my life,” Heather Bury said.

When he left for Afghanistan on April 19 as part of a team training Afghan police, it was his first overseas assignment since his children were born.

Heather last spoke to her husband on Friday. “We were on the phone for about a minute and a half, but he wanted me to know how much he loved me and how lucky he felt to have me as his wife ...and that was the last time I talked to him.”

Also killed in that accident were Lance Cpl. Derek Hernandez, 20, of Edinburg, Texas; and Cpl. Donald Marler, 22, of St. Louis. Both were on their first combat assignments.

Marine Corps officials have said the three men were trapped inside the vehicle and drowned.

Part of her husband's job, Heather Bury said, was to train Marines on proper swim techniques and to rescue people from a submerged vehicle. “He always worried about others before himself and that was the man he was. He was the best man I ever knew, I feel honored that he was my husband.”

Donations through Wells Fargo Bank can be made to the Brandon Bury Memorial Fund; account number 2094633795.

Pat & Oscar’s restaurants will be holding a fundraiser for the Brandon Bury Memorial Fund on Monday, June 21.

June 8, 2010

Tankers train tenaciously in Moroccan desert during AFRICAN LION 2010 combined exercise.

TAN TAN, Morocco — In close tandem with three others, the tank rocks back on its haunches as a massive ball of flame leaps from the barrel. A split second later, the tank lurches forward, settling, as a “BOOM!” reaches the ears of bystanders, the press of the concussion is felt, and a slow cloud of dust appears in the wake of the shell. Grins cover the sunburned faces of Marines from Fox Company, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division.


6/8/2010 By Sgt. Lydia M. Davey , Marine Forces Africa

“This job has its moments,” smiles Lance Cpl. Justin Nolan, a tank crewman with 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 4th Tank BN, 4th MarDiv. “Usually we only see one tank in action, so to see them together is pretty cool.”

For the past week, Nolan, a reserve Marine and full-time college student, has been living in the field with 32 other deployed Marines from his company. Their mission is simple, according to Maj. John Knapp, commanding officer for Fox Company, 4th Tank BN, 4th MarDiv.

“We’re providing a tank platoon for the AFRICAN LION final exercise with U.S. and Moroccan troops,” he said. “We’re also conducting annual training based on mission essential task lists to include live fire, platoon gunnery and maneuver training.”

The training tests a platoon’s ability to work as a cohesive unit as they engage targets, according to 2nd Lt. Peter Heiman, platoon commander for 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 4th Tank BN, 4th MarDiv.

“We’re accomplishing everything we’re scheduled to, and then some,” said Heiman. “Working with the Moroccans gives these Marines the opportunity to experience another way of doing things, and the challenge of working with another country. They’re demonstrating their maneuvers and methods, and we’re doing the same. We’re excited to be out here.”

The challenge of working in new terrain also provides good training, according to Nolan.

“This is definitely nothing like North Carolina,” said Nolan. “You have to be careful when you’re driving out here, otherwise you can pop track. Aside from that, I’d say adjusting to the climate has been the biggest challenge.”

Reserve units, which are required to remain combat ready, also face the unique challenge of accomplishing set training and education goals in very short amounts of time. The unit meets that challenge by pushing off-duty education and maintaining consistent contact with other Marines in similar occupational specialties.

“At home, I read up,” said Sgt. Travis Odell, tank commander with 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 4th Tank BN, 4th MarDiv. “I do a lot of studying, and MCIs [Marine Corps Institute] help a lot. The junior Marines here have been great when it comes to learning new information. While we’re out here, we’re teaching them how to bore site a tank, call for fire, and how to deal with possible problems when conducting operations. They’re totally motivated, which is not hard to be when you get to shoot guns.”

Nolan agrees.

“This job is interesting,” he said. “It’s pretty technical, so there’s always something to learn. You can never have too much knowledge about this tank, and I’ve been trying to absorb as much information as I can.”

Fox Company, which stood up in 2006, is a relatively young command, so mastering the essential tasks of shooting, moving and communicating in order to be combat ready is constantly emphasized.

“My goal is to make sure these Marines optimize their time while they’re out here,” said 1st Sgt. Frank Gerraughty, company first sergeant with Fox Company, 4th Tank BN, 4th MarDiv. “We have so much training to do in such a short amount of time, so we have to use our time effectively.”

However, the company’s driving pace of training in the dust and sleeping or standing watch under the open sky has been peppered with interactions with Moroccan troops. In addition to training with their Moroccan counterparts, the Marines have spent off-duty time with them, sharing meals and stories, and exchanging uniform items.

“It’s good to see we have friends out there,” said Gerraughty, a 26-year veteran of the Marine Corps. “The Moroccans have been excellent to us – very hospitable. For our young Marines who maybe have never been out of the country, this exchange might well be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Being out here refines your perspective on life and interaction, and it’s great to have the chance to be an ambassador of the U.S.”

AFRICAN LION 2010 is the largest exercise within U.S. Africa Command’s area of activity, and is coordinated by U.S. Marine Forces Africa. It is an annually scheduled, joint, combined U.S.-Moroccan exercise. AFRICAN LION ‘10 brings together nearly 1,000 U.S. service members from 16 locations throughout Europe and North America with more than 1,000 members of the Moroccan military. The exercise is scheduled to end on or around June 9. All U.S. forces will return to their home bases in the United States and Europe at the conclusion of the exercise.

"Thundering Third" Sees Deadly Action

CBS News' Terry McCarthy Reports on Marines' Battle With Taliban

(CBS) June is off to a deadly start in Afghanistan. 15 Americans died in the first eight days, including two killed today by a roadside bomb in the south. CBS News correspondent Terry McCarthy was embedded with the Third Battalion, First Marines and followed them into battle.


By Terry McCarthy
CAMP KARMA, Afghanistan, June 8, 2010

In broad daylight, the Taliban attacked Patrol Base Karma in southern Afghanistan. These Marines have only been here two weeks - for some of the younger men, this is their first ever firefight.

After a lull in the fighting, more incoming shots came into the base. The Marines gathered on the roof to see if there will be a second wave of that attack.

But the Taliban melted away in the face of the firepower of the Marines. Instead they generally resort to a different weapon: the improvised explosive device, or IED, which is harder for the Marines to fight.

Marines face continued ambushes around Marjah

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jun 8, 2010 18:05:30 EDT

NAD ALI, Afghanistan — With the sun dropping lower on the baked horizon, two squads of Marines pushed north into the countryside here, uncertain what dangers were ahead.

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Mother of Marine Killed in Afghanistan Speaks Out Publicly

EDINBURG - The mother of a Marine who died in Afghanistan spoke out for the first time publicly. Lance Corporal Derek Hernandez died over the weekend.


Reported by: Polo Sandoval
Last Update: 6:04 pm June 8, 2010

His mother, Virginia Reyna, said, "We're going to miss you, Derek… so much. You will always be in our hearts forever, mijo. Always. Don’t you forget it. Papasito, I love you.”

Reyna’s children were by her side, as well as Ricardo Rodriguez, a family friend. We’re told friends like him have made the last few days bearable for the family.

"Without you, I would know what we would do. God bless you and thank so much. I love you all,” said Reyna.

The 20-year-old Marine’s room has been untouched since his last visit. Shoes sit in a pile under a wooden dresser. A map of Afghanistan and family pictures overlook a neatly-made bed.

"There's no better honor. There's no better patriotism than what LC Hernandez has done for his country and all those who have fallen in the past,” said Rodriguez.

Family, friends, and strangers alike are feeling the loss. The grieving family is waiting for their hero to come home again. The lance corporal’s body is now at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. His remains will likely be flown back to the Valley in the next four to six days.

The Marine's family is inviting the community to celebrate his life with a prayer and memorial service on Thursday. The service will be at the Edinburg Municipal Auditorium from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Bloodshed rises in Afghanistan as bomb kills 2

By Rohan Sullivan - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Jun 8, 2010 14:00:08 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two American troops were killed by a roadside bomb and a British soldier was shot dead on patrol Tuesday, raising the NATO death toll in Afghanistan to two dozen in little more than a week.

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British troops to stay in Helmand

British troops are to stay in Helmand, the Defence Secretary has said, indicating that he had all but ruled out a move to Kandahar after so many lives had been lost.

Dr Liam Fox said he had discussed the issue with General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander of the Nato mission in Afghanistan, during a visit to the country two weeks ago.


By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent
Published: 5:50PM BST 08 Jun 2010

The move has been proposed by senior Nato commanders as part of a scheme to replace the Canadian troops in the key southern city.

Sources had suggested that the fight in Kandahar, the spiritual homeland of the Taliban, would be as tough as Helmand, where 292 British troops have lost their lives, but Dr Fox made it clear it would not be acceptable.

Speaking during a press conference in London with his US opposite number, Robert Gates, Dr Fox said the 9,500 British troops, most of them in Helmand, had “carried a high cost to life and limb” as well as developing expertise in the terrain, politics and governance.

Dr Fox said the move would also be expensive and added: “I think it would be quite a leap for us to leave Helmand to be redeployed in Kandahar.”

Dr Fox said it was important to give flexibility to commanders on the ground but added: “I think it is highly unlikely that that will happen. And it is certainly not something that we will be proposing.”

In the end, it appears Gen McChrystal did not ask for the move but even if he had, Dr Fox said: "It is highly unlikely that we would want to accede to that particular change."

Mr Gates said British troops in Sangin, in the north of Helmand, were “in the middle of the thick of the fight” adding: “This is one of the toughest areas in all of Afghanistan.”

He said he had not discussed a move to Kandahar with Dr Fox but the pair had talked about whether British troops needed more support on top of the 20,000 US Marines recently deployed there.

Major General Richard Mills, of the US Marine Corps, assumed control of Nato forces in Helmand on June 1, while British commander, Maj Gen Nick Carter, took command in Kandahar.

Dr Fox said the build up of troops in Kandahar was “one of a number of operations that are important, happening at different paces in different parts of the country” but it was important not to see “any one thing as key” to progress.

The US Defence Secretary paid tribute to British troops who had “more than done their bit” and called Britain “one of our oldest and closest allies.”

Dr Fox said the “special relationship” was not a “doey-eyed, Disney love-in” but one in which they were able to tackle a range of international challenges, including Iran.

“Having got to the end of the Cold War, we want to do more than leave the next generation a new nuclear arms race in the world’s most unstable region,” he added.

Kosovo-born Marine Becomes US Citizen in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – With just a few dollars in his pocket, a Kosovo native came to the United States to chase his dream of providing his family with a better life.



1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs More Stories from 1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Khoa Pelczar
Date: 06.08.2010
Posted: 06.08.2010 09:32

Lance Cpl. Betim Neziri, supply clerk with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), became a U.S. citizen in a naturalization ceremony at Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan, June 3.

"On June 14, 2005, I came to the U.S. with 20 dollars in my pocket," said Neziri, 29, from Prishtina, Kosovo. "I had nobody, I had nothing. I bought a calling card so I could call home to let my family know that I'm okay. I also bought a pack of cigarettes and a hot dog. And that was it, I was flat broke."

Arriving in New York City, he was a long way from home, he explained. He had nothing and nowhere to stay, but he was determined to achieve his goal. He went to the YMCA and stayed there for a while. They offered him a job as a summer camp counselor for three months in Rhode Island.

Neziri's boss, Gunnery Sgt. Michael J. Baird, supply chief with H&S; Company, 1st MLG (FWD), is amazed at how far he's come.

"It gives me chills to hear him talk about his life up to this point, about the Marines and becoming a United States citizen, about what he's done, what he's accomplished," said Baird.

With enough money saved up from being a counselor, Neziri bought a cell phone and contacted his cousin in Houston, Texas. He went to stay with her for a year and enrolled in college. The high tuition cost made it hard for him to financially support his family back in Kosovo, so he dropped out and moved to Dallas, where he met and married his wife. They moved to Reno, Nevada to be near his wife's family.

Neziri witnessed Marines help liberate the war-torn country of Kosovo in 1999, and he was grateful for everything the Marines had done for his country and family, he said. He decided to give back, and he joined the Marine Corps, July 13, 2009.

"I wanted to give back for what they've done for me, my family and my nation," he said.

According to Baird, 37, from Aransas Pass, Texas, Neziri is mature and focused on his job, overseeing all of the gear and equipment in the 1st MLG (FWD) supply warehouse here. He knows exactly what he wants out of life and he's determined to get it, his boss observed.

"It makes me proud to be an American," said Baird, who is humbled to see Neziri, who had nothing, become a U.S. Marine and a U.S. citizen. "To see that we're allowing good people to have the opportunity to come here and become better…I'm honored to witness it all. It gave me chills just listening to it all and imagining what it would be like to be in [his] shoes."

The naturalization ceremony for service members is held twice a year, Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, explained Petty Officer 1st Class John M. McBroom, noncommissioned officer in charge of Client Services and Legal Assistance at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. Seventy service members were naturalized at the ceremony on June 3, said McBroom, 36, from Los Angeles. He said he's never experienced anything like this in his 10 years of service.

"It's a special experience," said McBroom. "It means a lot that people who came from other countries want to be part of America. I have guys who lost their [arms] and legs from IED attacks and they're apologizing to me because they can't be here. They're not even Americans yet and they're putting their lives on the line for me. I'm proud of them and I hope they can live their dreams in America."

Neziri is happy knowing he can finally live "The American Dream," alongside his Marine Corps brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.

"As I am holding the certificate in my hands, I still [can't] believe that it's true," said Neziri. "It's an honor and a privilege to be a United States citizen. It's a dream come true. It doesn't get any better than this. I just wish my wife and family were here to share this moment with me."

Marjah: Like ‘petting zoo in hell’

KABUL, Afghanistan — The slower pace of things here in the last few days have given me a chance to reflect on some of the more unexpected things that I’ve seen in the last six weeks while reporting from the southern half of this country.


Posted by Daniel Lamothe
June 8th, 2010

One of those things is just how prevalent animals are — and how differently they are treated than in the U.S.

Marines on patrol regularly pass sheep, goats and cattle grazing through the area. When we were in Marjah with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, several things caught me off-guard. Some were sad, while others were simply a jarring reminder that we weren’t in the U.S. anymore. Consider the following:

** On my first patrol outside the wire with 3/6, the Marines I was with searched a deserted compound after finding spent AK47 rounds on a road in front. A note was left by its apparent owner saying that the compound was abandoned ahead of the initial February assault on Marjah, but a dog, chained to a pillar, had been left behind. It looked miserable, and probably didn’t make it through the week.

** On another occasion, Marines patrolling through a farm compound came face to face with snarling dog. Baring its teeth, it snapped against its chain, clearly trying to defend its turf and take a chunk out of a Marine’s leg — or worse — in the process. The Marines’ preferred option was to avoid it, but they trained their rifles on the dog in case it broke its chain. Children nearby saw the scenario playing out, and responded by pelting the dog with stones until it yelped repeatedly and laid down.

** Not long after a group of Kilo Company 3/6 Marines we were traveling with east of Marjah were ambushed, I was surprised to see a 6-year-old girl slit the throat on a chicken, assumedly to prepare it for dinner. Five minutes later, she stepped on her pet dog’s head to keep it from moving as Marines patrolled by.

I assume many of these situations struck me due to the cultural differences between Afghanistan and the U.S. They’re certainly striking sights for Americans, however. For the Marines, they can also be distracting: In addition to worrying about the Taliban and any number of other problems, they must also watch for herds of goats that get in the way, flocks of sheep that block roads and strange breeds of dogs that frequently seem to approach 100 pounds.

As one frustrated squad leader described Marjah: “It’s like a petting zoo in hell.”

Add it to the list of difficulties that Marines face.

Helping Now Zad Locals Help Themselves

NOW ZAD, Afghanistan – The population of Now Zad is growing at a rapid rate. However, if the towns' medical facility doesn't grow with the population, the people won't be able to get the care they deserve.



Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Daniel Blatter
Date: 06.08.2010
Posted: 06.08.2010 07:42

Navy personnel from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, and Afghan medical professionals are working on ways to keep up with the high demand for medical support in this growing area by building on the facilities they have now.

"There is virtually no health care here," said Chief Eric Motz, the senior department medical representative for Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2. "They only have one doctor and a pharmacist, and when I went through their medicine, over three quarters of their medication was expired."

Motz is in the process of getting the word out about the condition of the medical facilities here.

"I am doing a medical assessment so the [senior officers] can get Now Zad what they need to survive," said Motz, from Pigeon, Mich. "The medical clinic they have here has only one trauma room and a female area with only one bed."

With the population of Now Zad climbing, Alpha Company is working tirelessly at expanding the town's medical capabilities.

"Right now the Now Zad area has more than 2,000 populous, and it is growing daily," said Motz. "My goal is to give them a solid foundation, a solid foundation they can build from. It is one thing to give them everything they need and say 'go fourth and do great things,' but if you give them a solid foundation and let them take ownership of it, they will turn around and build from it. I am just giving them a leg to stand on."

Motz and his team have spent the past two weeks clearing and working on a storage space next to the old clinic, which now houses two extra trauma beds to be used by local women.

"There is a big cultural issue with treating the males with females in the same clinic," said Maj. Richard Graham, the civil affairs team leader with Alpha Company. "It is important to create separation so the females will feel safe and not worry about getting harassed."

The new clinic area is now an area for females only. It will allow them the opportunity to be segregated and feel more secure.

"I dedicated the [women's medical center] to the female patients," said Motz. "That will open up the space for another trauma room in the old clinic as well."

"The ultimate goal here is to get the people to trust the doctor and the health care here, and to get to where they don't rely on us for medical care," Motz continued.

The Navy team will soon be starting reconstruction on the old clinic as well. They envision turning the old, two-bed clinic into a four-bed clinic and supplying both the women's and men's' clinics with all the equipment and supplies required to treat all patients in need.

Marines Near End of Deployment Continue to Patrol Amidst Taliban Attacks

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MARJAH, Afghanistan – Waking up in the early morning, the Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, mark down one more day until they can return home to wives and children, their families and friends and perhaps most importantly, leave the past several months behind them.



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: 06.08.2010
Posted: 06.08.2010 03:37

For some of the men, they can count the days they have left in Marjah, Afghanistan, on their fingers, for others it's a bit longer, but until they leave, they must continue to wake up, don their gear and head out on patrol.

The past month has been riddled with sporadic firefights and ambushes, frequently initiated by the blast of an improvised explosive device or by sudden insurgent sniper fire.

"With the last several weeks, these Marines have seen increased small-arms-combat, where the enemy isn't sticking around to fight," said Staff Sgt. Nelson Adames, platoon sergeant for the 81 mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 1/6. "The enemy is testing us, learning our tactics. They try to get mobility kills on vehicles or target foot paths and bridges in an attempt to hit dismounted Marines.

"They're attempting to coax us into firing when civilians are here, so the progress that has been made with locals will be lost," said Adames.

The increase in Taliban activity can be seen as a sign that they've begun their spring offensive. During this time, it is paramount that the Marines continue to place the safety of civilians as a top priority, lest they undue the months of work they've accomplished since the initial days of fighting to take the city from Taliban control.

"Taking contact this late into the deployment brings morale down, mainly because we haven't seen any proof from our enemy that we've made a change," said Cpl. Joshua T. Hurst, a section leader with 81 mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 1/6. "With it being as hard as it is now, all we can really do is keep pushing, keep going out, and keep bringing the fight to the Taliban. We're just trying to wrap, but keeping the people on our side is still the greatest challenge."

Staying focused and maintaining their momentum can be trying, but sometimes the little things can make the difference.

"Since the push and up until now, it can be hard to keep morale up, especially when you're counting the days until you go home, but you do whatever you can," said Adames. "Hot chow, cold water during the day and getting mail from home goes a long way. Try to keep them focused so they can do the little things and look out for their buddies.

"Their strength is tested day in and day out," said Adames. "A lot of times these Marines don't get the praise they deserve, but these are the best guys I've served with. Their families and friends back home should be very proud of them."

Even with the end so close, the Marines must maintain the same measure of professionalism they started the deployment with. They must continue to meet with locals, continue to forge bonds and win their trust, because although the Marines will return home, the city's residents won't be leaving, but they will be left with an impression.

Marine Mechanics Repair Life-saving Vehicles in Afghanistan

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – In the blazing Afghanistan heat, Marine mechanics can be found turning wrenches, fixing the vehicles that help keep Marines alive.



1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs More Stories from 1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Khoa Pelczar
Date: 06.08.2010
Posted: 06.08.2010 01:49

Marines with Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15 (Forward), 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), keep tactical vehicles up and running at the Intermediate Maintenance Activities lot and repair those that are damaged during operations in Afghanistan.

"We repair vehicles that got blown up when they're out on [combat logistics patrols] and we send them back out to the units once they're fixed," said Sgt. Daniel L. Lawton, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle floor chief with Maintenance Company, CLR-15 (FWD), 1st MLG (FWD).

Once a vehicle is damaged and brought to the IMA lot, it must go through an inspection process, explained Sgt. Jin Liu, quality control non-commissioned officer for the IMA lot, Maintenance Company, CLR-15 (FWD), 1st MLG (FWD). This is where the vehicle gets an initial inspection when it arrives and a final inspection before it is returned to its unit.

"These inspections are to ensure vehicles are up to standard before they go back out to the fight," said Liu, 26, from Sacramento, Calif.

The IMA lot is divided into three sections – M-ATVs, MRAPs and miscellaneous tactical vehicles – to speed up the repairing process, explained Master Sgt. Christopher R. Martinez, senior non-commissioned officer in charge of Maintenance Company, CLR-15 (FWD), 1st MLG (FWD).

Lawton, 25, from Norman Park, Ga., is in charge of the M-ATV repairing section. "Ninety-seven percent of the M-ATV's that come in here [have] IED-related [damage]," he said. "It's hard to look at the trucks when they come in because they were broken down to nothing. Our guys, they work really hard on these trucks to get them back out to the units. These Marines, they built it back to a finish product like it was before it was damaged."

"I feel really good about my job," said Lawton, who added he's seen mangled vehicles damaged by IED blasts come in for repair. "But when we asked the Marines that were in the trucks how they were; well, they walked away fine. So I feel good about putting the trucks back out there."

These mechanics work hard to get vehicles back out to operational readiness because they know that these vehicles can save the lives of their fellow Marines.

"I love my job," said Sgt. Illustrious S. Campbell, MRAP floor chief with Maintenance Company, CLR-15 (FWD), 1st MLG (FWD). "Our mission is very important because, hands down, MRAPs save lives. We've seen it first hand. We've seen it when it first comes in, see how big the damage was and the Marines walk out alive."

Replacing a vehicle can be costly – they can cost upwards of $1 million each – so the mechanics are able to save a lot of time and money by fixing the vehicles on-site.

"It costs [a lot] to ship an MRAP out here," said Campbell, 28, from Dinwiddie, Va. "We can fix these trucks in country and get them back out to the fight."

The mechanics are doing everything they can to get these trucks back out to their units and keep the mission going.

Sgt. Robert R. York, 27, from Hartwell, Ga., miscellaneous vehicles floor chief with Maintenance Co., CLR-15 (FWD), 1st MLG (FWD), is in charge of fixing vehicles such as wreckers, Logistics Vehicle System Replacement, and 7-ton tactical vehicles. His Marines work day in and day out to fix broken vehicles.

"It's inspiring to see my Marines come in here and do this everyday 14-18 hours a day," said Martinez, 42, from Port Arthur, Texas. "They understand the bigger picture, so they always push the envelope."

According to Martinez, IEDs are the number one threat to vehicles in Afghanistan, but the mechanics keep the Marines rolling in life-saving vehicles. The mechanics might not hear "thank you" in person very often, but Martinez knows their job is important to the mission, and keeping Marines alive.

"Even though they don't hear it," he said, "they know that someone is grateful."

IJC Operational Update, June 8

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force detained a number of individuals suspected of insurgent activity in Helmand province last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.08.2010
Posted: 06.08.2010 02:26

The combined security force detained the individuals while searching a series of compounds west of Marjah, after intelligence information discovered militant activity.

Another Afghan-international security force detained two individuals suspected of insurgent activity as the force tracked a Taliban weapons facilitator in Kandahar province last night.

The suspected insurgents were detained by the combined force at a compound north of the village of Mollakalo Nikeh, Zharay District, after intelligence information revealed insurgent activity.
Approximately 45 kilograms of wet opium was also found on site.

A joint Afghan-international patrol found three weapons caches in Tarin Kot District, Uruzgan province, yesterday.

The cache consisted of 23 rocket propelled grenades, five 82mm mortar rounds, 17 rocket propelled grenade fuel cells, 2,000 7.62mm rounds, a number of artillery fuses and a number of weapons parts. The cache was destroyed.

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

Afghan national security forces along with their ISAF partners conducted an operation south of Rowzeh Bagh, Herat province, Saturday afternoon, to disrupt a Taliban network responsible for supplying improvised explosive device material, weapons and supplies in Helmand province.

After surrounding the compounds where members of the insurgent network were suspected to be, Afghan special police called for the individuals to surrender. One insurgent was killed when he exited a compound and presented an imminent threat with a weapon to the combined force. The combined force ensured the rest of the compound residents exited the compound safely.

Afghan police took possession of the insurgent who was killed, and several men were detained by the combined force. No civilians were injured in the operation.

June 7, 2010

12 foreign troops killed on deadly Afghan day

Associated Press Writer
Jun 7, 10:25 PM EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Twelve foreign soldiers, including seven Americans, were killed in separate attacks on the deadliest day of the year for Western forces in Afghanistan. A U.S. civilian contractor who trains Afghan police also died in a brazen suicide assault.

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Afghanistan: Looking for a Few Good Cops in Marjah

No one showed up for start of official recruitment for Marjah's first local police force. No one showed up until the third and last day at a U.S. Marines base in North Marjah, the Afghan district invaded by American and Afghan military forces in February. Locals told the 3rd Division 6th Marines that they had reservations about joining the force — they were too scared or too intimidated by the Taliban to risk allying themselves with foreign forces in a landscape that the Marines are still struggling to bring under control.


By Abigail Hauslohner / Marjah
Monday, Jun. 07, 2010

Set in the rural desert farm country west of the Helmand River, Marjah is unremarkable but for its reputation as a major poppy cultivation district, and the site of the February offensive by the Marines, the largest one by NATO in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. More recently, it has gained notoriety among the war's critics for the slow pace of achieving security here, and for NATO Commander Stanley McCrystal's characterization of the area as a "bleeding ulcer," a remark reported by McClatchy Newspapers.

Indeed, Marjah's local government remains primitive at best. Firefights between the Marines and insurgents occur daily. And the 77 square mile swath of territory in Helmand province wasn't even defined as a district until the Marines' push four months ago. The district governor is Haji Zahir, a man who Marines Commander Lt. Col. Brian Christmas says is making steady inroads with the local population, but who other military and local sources allege is just another operator in a country already full of them.

Christmas acknowledges that in the long quest for Marjah's security, the Marines hold 80% of the solution. But the other 20%, he says, is up to the local population. And the establishment of a local police force "could be that 20%." "The people have to be willing to sacrifice and be part of the solution," says Christmas. "In this case, the solution is the police force — guys who are from the town, who know the people, and understand every road and which way it goes... That's the future of security here."

On Sunday, the third and final day of police recruitment at Christmas' headquarters at Camp Hanson, the commander's efforts to spread the word finally paid off. Christmas had hoped for 80 recruits; he had to settle for 11 — fresh-faced, mostly-beardless, and smiling. Some looked a little too young to be policemen. But all claimed to be old enough: 18 or above. And more importantly, they had passed the initial screening; all said they were ready and willing to serve their country, had secured the signatures of two local elders to vouch for their credibility, and no one had been red-flagged by the Marines' computer database. "My relatives and friends left because there is no security here," says new recruit Saif Allah, 22. "I want to bring it back."

After a morning of paperwork and instructions, they were ready to make their way to Lashkar Gah to undergo a two-month training course, along with other new recruits from other regions of the volatile province. If they make it until the end, the 11 will be the beginnings of Marjah's first local police force, and potentially, a key to solving Marjah's bleeding ulcer status.

Captain Michael Vasquez, the Marine regiment's project manager for police recruitment says a lot will ride on the success of this first class. "The goal was set high, but like anything, it's going to be incremental," he says. "A lot of the elders want to see how it goes. So the fact that we have 11 is a major victory . . . If everything goes well, you won't have 80 in the next class, you'll have 180."

SECNAV Visits Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan

Helmand Province, Afghanistan (NNS) -- Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus spent a day touring forward operating bases (FOBs) in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, June 3.

Story Number: NNS100607-03
Release Date: 6/7/2010 1:12:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Kevin S. O'Brien, Office of the Secretary of the Navy Public Affairs

Mabus began his day having breakfast with intelligence and radio battalion Marines assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Leatherneck. During the breakfast, Mabus thanked them for their commitment and accomplishments while on deployment.

"The work that you are doing here is extremely challenging," said Mabus. "Some of you are just beginning your deployment and some of you have been here for an entire year. But the work you have accomplished is crucial to our success. I want to thank for your service. I want to thank you and your families for sacrificing so much for the safety of our nation."

After breakfast, Mabus received a brief by the commanding generals from the ground, aviation, and logistics combat elements. The brief included discussions on operations and relationship building among the Afghanistan people.

Following his brief, Mabus made several air movements to the FOB's in Helmand Province. His first visit was to a base in Delaram. During his tour of the base, Mabus visited with the Marines from 3rd Battalion 7th Marines. The Marines are partnering and working with International Security Forces Afghanistan (ISAF).

"I appreciate what you are doing up here in Delaram," said Mabus. "The work you are doing here is providing security and stability to the region. I appreciate it, and the American and Afghanistan people appreciate your efforts."

Mabus continued his tour of FOBs with a visit to Marines operating in Musa Qaleh, where he received a briefing on the location and living conditions of the Marines there. Additionally he met with the Musa Qaleh District Governor Niamatalluh who thanked Mabus for the added stability the U.S. Marines have made in the district. During the meeting with the governor, he thanked Mabus for building a bridge vital for access to the district souk and asked to assist them in building a Mosque that had previously been destroyed. They both expressed a continued desire to work together to move the nation of Afghanistan forward.

Every meeting echoed the theme of cooperation and nation building that promised a better future for Afghanistan, of which the Navy and Marine Corps are a vital part.

Joe Martinez: Once a Marine, always a Marine

Sitting at the kitchen table interviewing the retired master sergeant, it was clear that the former tank platoon leader was someone who had given his all in his devotion to country - serving in both Korea and Vietnam.



By Glenn Kahl
[email protected]
POSTED June 7, 2010 1:31 a.m.

It was a humbling experience to observe a man whose love for his country is second to none and whose character continues to emulate the U.S. Marine Corps standards.

On the walls of his home are portraits of his daughter Misty and son Joseph. Grandchildren - three boys and a girl - are all prominently displayed in a family portrait from Texas.

After first being part of a Marines forward reconnaissance unit, he was transferred to tanks after suffering severe injuries to his legs.

In 1969 Martinez served with the First Tank Battalion of the First Marine Division in Vietnam where their motto, “We dare!,” saved nearly four dozen lives during a major ammunition dump fire and explosions three miles south of DaNang.

The fire and related explosions in the dump had rapidly spread after the initial blasts with two four-man tank crews being called out for a rescue operation to evacuate Marines and Vietnamese civilians.

Gunnery Sgt. Joe Martinez led the operation, first to assemble crews and second to remove all the explosive ordnance from the tanks before going into the dump that had become a smoke filled inferno.

For nearly three hours the tanks made six trips into the fringe areas of the exploding dump getting as close as 200 yards to its center at Camp Monohan.

Another tank commander, Cpl James Dolan, of Boston, was quoted after the ordeal: “Shrapnel was raining down on the tanks constantly and every time one of the larger explosions went off, we were tossed around inside the tank.”

On their first trip into the inferno, tankers evacuated eight Vietnamese civilians who had taken refuge in a command bunker with a group of Marines. Not only did the tankers face explosions, but also fireballs, and restricted visibility from the intense smoke.

Trip after trip they brought out some 35 Marines including several scout dog handlers and their dogs from the Third Military Police Battalion.

“Those tanks sure looked good,” one military policeman said. “It was a relief to know they were going to get us out. We could see 250 pounders (bombs) flying through the air all around us, but luckily none of them hit the tanks.”

His Manteca home
filled with memories

After having tanks blown out from under him in battle and being hospitalized for months, Martinez continued on and returned to duty with shrapnel lodged in his body and a steel plate in his head.

His Manteca home is filled with memories of his accomplishments from countless military engagements to being the driver for astronaut John Glenn in New York.

What deeply touched his heart was finding a 19-year-old girl with terminal kidney disease in the Bay Area where he served as a recruiting officer in Hayward. Her dream was to be a U.S. Marine, but a physical turned up an unknown kidney disease.

Martinez put out a call to fellow Marines to “line up” for a blood drive in an attempt to save the girl’s life. Patricia (Long) Ashbaugh was presented a special commendation at bedside naming her an “honorary recruiter.”

More than two dozen Marines had donated blood in Patricia’s name from Vallejo to San Francisco as the girl was being prepared for a kidney transplant. It was a difficult outcome for Martinez and his men when she later died.

The countless medals and ribbons in his home tell of his dedication including four Purple Hearts. His devotion to The Corps is no less today after organizing a 2,000-member strong East Coast U.S. Marine Corps Tankers’ Association - serving as its president - and attending Marine graduations every year in San Diego and at Perris Island on the East Coast. The tankers’ reunions are a must for him to keep in contact with his fellow Marines. From his platoon there are only four left, he said.

An American flag, a Marine Corps flag and the POW/MIA flag fly proudly from a pole at his home. Nothing has really changed since his retirement from the Corps in 1972. He is still very much a U.S. Marine day in and day out. It is with great difficulty that he attempts to recall the haunting details of his engagements.

He chuckles, though, when remembering his brother “coming onto base” as he was leaving his post in a jeep early one evening before it got too dark to travel to another post. His brother was stationed with the Army up north while he was in the south of Vietnam. As he was driving out of the base, he was told someone wanted to talk with him.

It was dangerous to travel the roads after dark and he dismissed the meeting because of lack of time. However, he was called back to the base and was surprised to find his brother waiting for him. He had been in the field for days and was needing a shave, shower and clean clothes. The brother - dirty, haggard and with many days’ growth of beard - had coaxed a helicopter pilot to ferry him down to see Martinez with the promise of being a source of alcoholic beverages.

After a shower and donning “Marine fatigues” his brother asked help in getting drinks for his troops -the reason for his visit. Martinez couldn’t say no and paid $150 to help his brother‘s comrades.

Turned down
offer to go home

Following his last battle injuries, Martinez turned down an offer to go home and took over a management position in the officers club in DaNang.

Master Sergeant Martinez had served as a tanker with the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Marine Divisions. He was stationed at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego’s Camp Pendleton, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Quantico, Okinawa and with the state department in New York.

He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, Purple Hearts, as well as recognition for good conduct, National Defense, Korean Service, Republic of Vietnam Service, United Nations Service, the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Combat Action and the Presidential Unit Citation.

After recovering from his last injuries he refused to take retirement he received orders to serve as a recruiting officer in both New York and San Francisco and to I & I duty in New York.

Before joining the Marines, Martinez was a journeyman plumber. When completing his service he signed on again as a plumber supervisor with the California State Department of Corrections at Soledad.

He would later serve in the same position transferring to Duel Vocational Institute prison in Tracy. His first civilian job was offered to him by a friend in Dublin who owned a plumbing company. Martinez said jobs were hard to come by because of all of the military personnel returning to civilian life. It was four years later that he went to work for the state in the prison system.

Today his one complaint involves his traveling around the country by plane. It takes him an extra half hour to clear security, he said. The shrapnel remaining in his body and a steel plate in his head sets off the metal scanner big time.

He has asked for a clearance letter from the government to allow him to pass through the metal detector but has been told that’s not possible.

Military Intelligence Taps Social Networking Skills

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — As a teenager, Jamie Christopher would tap instant messages to make plans with friends, and later she became a Facebook regular.


Published: June 7, 2010

Now a freckle-faced 25 and an intelligence officer here, she is using her social networking skills to hunt insurgents and save American lives in Afghanistan.

Hunched over monitors streaming live video from a drone, Lieutenant Christopher and a team of analysts recently popped in and out of several military chat rooms, reaching out more than 7,000 miles to warn Marines about roadside bombs and to track Taliban gunfire.

“2 poss children in fov,” the team flashed as Marines on the ground lined up an air strike, chat lingo for possible innocents within the drone’s field of view. The strike was aborted.

“fire coming from cmpnd,” another message warned, referring to a Taliban compound. The Marines responded by strafing the fighters, killing nine of them.

Lieutenant Christopher and her crew might be fighting on distant keypads instead of ducking bullets, but they head into battle just the same every day. They and thousands of other young Air Force analysts are showing how the Facebook generation’s skills are being exploited — and paying dividends — in America’s wars.

The Marines say the analysts, who are mostly in their early to mid-20s, paved the way for them to roll into Marja in southern Afghanistan earlier this year with minimal casualties. And as the analysts quickly pass on the latest data from drones and other spy planes, they are creating the fluid connections needed to hunt small groups of fighters and other fleeting targets, military officials say.

But there can be difficulties in operating from so far away.

Late last month, military authorities in Afghanistan released a report chastising a Predator drone crew in an incident involving a helicopter attack that killed 23 civilians in February. Military officials say analysts in Florida who were monitoring the drone’s video feed cautioned two or three times in a chat room that children were in the group, but the drone’s pilot failed to relay those warnings to the ground commander.

For the most part, though, the networking has been so productive that senior commanders are sidestepping some of the traditional military hierarchy and giving the analysts leeway in deciding how to use some spy planes.

“If you want to act quickly, you’ve got to flatten things out and engage at the lowest possible levels,” said Lt. Col. Jason M. Brown, who runs the Air Force intelligence squadron at this base near Sacramento.

The connections have been made possible by the growing fleet of remote-controlled planes, like the Predators and Reapers, which send a steady flow of battlefield video to intelligence centers across the globe.

The Central Intelligence Agency and the military use drones to wage long-distance war against insurgents, with pilots in the United States pressing the missile-firing buttons. But as commanders in Afghanistan mass drones and U-2 spy planes over the hottest areas, the networking technology is expanding a homefront that is increasingly relevant to day-to-day warfare.

And the mechanics are simple in this age of satellite relays. Besides viewing video feeds, the analysts scan still images and enemy conversations. As they log the information into chat rooms, the analysts carry on a running dialogue with drone crews and commanders and intelligence specialists in the field, who receive the information on computers and then radio the most urgent bits to troops on patrol.

Marine intelligence officers say that during the Marja offensive in February, the analysts managed to stay a step ahead of the advance, sending alerts about 300 or so possible roadside bombs.

“To be that tapped into the tactical fight from 7,000 to 8,000 miles away was pretty much unheard of before,” said Gunnery Sgt. Sean N. Smothers, a Marine who was stationed here as a liaison to the analysts.

Sergeant Smothers saw how easily the distance could melt away when an analyst, peering at images from a U-2, suddenly stuck up his hand and yelled, “Check!” — the signal for a supervisor to verify a spotting.

Sergeant Smothers said he and two Air Force officers rushed over and confirmed the existence of a roadside bomb. Nearby on a big screen map in the windowless room, they could see a Marine convoy approaching the site.

The group started sending frantic chat messages to their Marine contacts in the area.

As they watched the video feed from a drone, they could see that their messages had been heard: the convoy came to a sudden stop, 500 feet from the bomb.

“To me, this whole operation was like a template for what we should be doing in the future,” Sergeant Smothers said.

Military officials said they are planning to repeat the operation around Kandahar.

The effort is a major turnaround for the Air Force, which had been criticized for taking too long to adjust to different types of threats since 9/11. During the cold war, it focused mostly on fixed targets like Soviet bases. But commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq have often complained that it is hard to get help from spy planes before insurgents slipped away.

Marine and Army officers say that that began to change as more planes were sent to Afghanistan in early 2009, and the Air Force got better at blending the various types of intelligence into a fuller picture.

And the new analysts, who were practically weaned on computers and interactive video games, have also been crucial.

While Air Force analysts were once backroom technicians, the latest generation works in camouflage uniforms, complete with combat boots, on open floors, with four computer monitors on each desk. Large screens on the walls display the feeds from drones, and coffee and Red Bull help them get through the 12-hour shifts.

The chat rooms are no-frills boxes on a computer screen with lines of rolling text, and crew leaders keep dozens of them open at once. They may look crude compared to Facebook, but Lieutenant Christopher said they were effective in building rapport.

“When it’s not busy, I’ll be like, ‘Hey, how’s your day going?’ ” she said. “It’s not just, ‘What do you need?’ ”

There is also some old-fashioned interaction.

The Air Force, which has 4,000 analysts at bases like this and is hiring 2,100 more, has sent liaisons to Afghanistan to help understand the priorities on the ground. And some analysts pick up the phone to build closer bonds with soldiers they have never seen.

Andres Morales, a senior airman, said he often talked to a 24-year-old Army lieutenant, helping his battalion find arms caches and track enemy fighters.

But after four of his fellow soldiers were killed, “he didn’t really want to talk about intelligence,” Airman Morales, 27, said. “He wanted to talk, more or less, about how life is in California, and how when he comes back, we’re going to go surfing together.”

Quentin Arnold, 22, another enlisted analyst, said he had been working so closely with the Marines that 15 to 20 had asked to be friends on Facebook. He just collected $1,500 from analysts here to send a care package, including a PlayStation 3 game system and an Xbox 360, to some Marines.

Still, three-quarters of the 350 analysts here have never been to the war zones, so a cultural divide can pop up. Several said they were a bit intimidated when Sergeant Smothers, 36, who has had five tours in Iraq, strode onto the floor here in February.

At the time, the analysts were blending data from the U-2s and the drones to watch the roads into Marja and fields where helicopters might land. But as Sergeant Smothers looked over their shoulders, encouraging them to warn the Marines about even the most tentative threats, the analysts warmed up.

“It was like the shy house cat that wouldn’t talk to you at first and now just won’t stay out of your lap,” he said.

As the operation unfolded, the analysts passed on leads that enabled the Marines to kill at least 15 insurgents planting bombs.

Lieutenant Christopher, who loves to chat on Facebook with her family in Ohio, was so exhausted from overnight shifts during that period that she skipped Facebook and went right to sleep. And sometimes, she said, she ended up dreaming about what she had just seen in the war.

Suicide bombers attack Afghan police compound

By Matthew Pennington and Mirwais Khan - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jun 7, 2010 8:45:46 EDT

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — At least three suicide bombers attacked a police training center Monday in southern Afghanistan’s largest city, but the assailants were killed before they could inflict any casualties, officials said.

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


IJC Operational Update, June 7

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force detained an individual suspected of insurgent activity in Kandahar province today.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.07.2010
Posted: 06.07.2010 04:21

The combined force went to a compound in west Kandahar City, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. The force detained the suspect for further questioning.

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

In another operation, Afghan National Army soldiers of the 205th Corps, supported by ISAF, discovered a weapons cache in Tarin Kot, Uruzgan District, yesterday.

The cache contained 88 grenades, eight containers of grenade fuses, three rocket propelled grenade fuel cells, three 82 mm mortars and seven electronic detonators. The mortars were destroyed and the grenades were removed for further investigation.

June 6, 2010

New research could help explain the lasting effects of PTSD

The anger burns inside Niko Lorris.


By Travis J. Tritten
Stars and Stripes
Published: June 6, 2010

It chewed through five marriages and alienated his children. Most days, it keeps the 64-year-old veteran bunkered in his Florida home.

“I can’t deal with people,” said Lorris, who is disabled with post-traumatic stress disorder from his 1966 Army service in Vietnam. “I’ve got so much anger in me.”

Two years ago, he had two heart attacks.

New research might determine whether all that rage — a symptom from his trauma for more than four decades — might also have played a part in Lorris’ heart problems.

For the first time, researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs are taking a comprehensive look at the long-term effects of PTSD and its connection to other serious health issues that develop decades after military service ends.

The disorder is caused by traumatic events such as warfare, sexual assault and vehicle accidents and marked by persistent fear, confusion or anger. Past research suggests it can surface long after the trauma occurs and is related to problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, asthma and diabetes, according to the VA.

Vietnam veterans are the largest group of PTSD patients in the United States, and as more reach their 60s, they could provide the clearest evidence yet of a relationship between trauma on the battlefield and a variety of health problems much later in life, said Matthew Friedman, executive director of the National Center on Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Studies on tap

They are the subject of three upcoming PTSD studies — the strongest push by the VA since the mid-1980s to understand the disorder in Vietnam veterans — that are expected to be completed in the next few years, according to the VA and the Government Accountability Office.

“If you continue to smoke, you are more likely to have heart disease, lung cancer and other kinds of things. We couldn’t make that statement if we didn’t have the longitudinal data,” Friedman said.

The VA’s new research could lead to similar broad pronouncements about trauma and “help us understand what is in store for our newest veterans if we can’t help them get over their PTSD,” he said.

It is estimated that 180,000 to 324,000 of the more than 1.8 million who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan will experience post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the VA.

New data will help the VA plan for the care and treatment of those veterans, Friedman said.

“We can prepare for the consequences, whether they are psychiatric or medical,” he said.

One study will tap a cross-section of Vietnam vets first examined in the 1980s as part of the landmark National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, which still accounts for much of the scientific knowledge on the long-term effects of PTSD.

The earlier research found that about 30 percent of veterans had experienced the disorder at some point since the war. That shocked lawmakers at the time and led to wider recognition of the disorder, including beefed-up VA funding and the creation of the National Center on PTSD, Friedman said.

The new effort, called the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study, could have a similar impact and spur new policies when it is completed in 2013, Friedman said.

“Who got better, or are there new cases?” he said. “Also, what are the consequences of having PTSD most of your life?”

The study will collect data from veterans like Tom Allen, 62, of Greensboro, Ga., who served as a Navy corpsman in Vietnam.

His PTSD intensified after a series of events in 1998 — a vehicle crash, missed work and the death of his mother.

“It was all downhill from there,” he said.

The VA recognized his disability in 2001, Allen said.

The PTSD makes him unable to work and causes night terrors he calls the “red dream,” a replay of a long-ago mission in Vietnam that led to the decimation of his unit.

His violent nighttime thrashing and deteriorating mental health led to the end of his marriage last year. Allen said he now takes three medicines to sleep at night.

“I would swing around and hit the person next to me, who was my wife,” he said. “We were married 16 years, and I was calling her a Viet Cong.”

Meanwhile, two other VA studies will examine how twins and women who served during Vietnam are faring with PTSD.

The VA keeps a registry of 7,369 twins who both served. The researchers are interested in whether twin men with the same DNA have been affected differently over the years by combat trauma.

Differences and similarities could point to the influences of DNA in the long-term development of PTSD, said Kathryn Magruder, a research health scientist at the VA Medical Center in Charleston, S.C.

Women did not serve in combat during the Vietnam War but many experienced trauma while serving as nurses and care providers to the wounded returning from battlefield, Magruder said.

“No one has studied the mental health of these women,” she said. “Their experiences were certainly different than the men, but they had other experiences. Some of these women were the last people to hold the hand of an 18-year-old kid who was dying.”

Backlog of cases

The new wave of research comes as the VA struggles to handle a backlog of claims generated by two current wars and an aging veteran population, many of whom served in the Vietnam War.

There are about 386,000 veterans collecting compensation for PTSD -- 247,486 of those are Vietnam veterans, the VA reported in 2009.

The agency, for about a decade, put off its main study of PTSD among Vietnam veterans — the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study — despite a mandate by Congress to follow up on the 1988 research, according to a GAO analysis in May.

An attempt to conduct the research in 2001 was aborted early on, and the VA inspector general later found the agency did not properly plan or administer the study contract, the GAO reported.

Now, after months of congressional hearings, the VA appears ready to begin the study this summer, said Tom Berger, executive director of the Veterans Health Council, a division of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

“We have been leading the charge to make sure they obey Congress’ mandate,” he said.

When the VA researchers talk with Vietnam veterans, it likely will find that PTSD causes heart disease, affects the immune system and leads to other serious health consequences, Berger said, findings he believes could lead to a renewed effort to get treatment for all veterans.

“It is one of the most important studies ever for the mental health of our troops,” he said.

Charles Trumpower, 64, of Milford, Conn., is a disabled Marine who served in Vietnam in 1969 and now travels the country speaking to veterans about his PTSD.

He said the VA will also discover little has changed in the 35 years since Saigon fell.

Many veterans traumatized during the Vietnam War are still resentful of a public they believe abandoned them, distrustful of the VA system charged with caring for them, and dependent on each other for support, Trumpower said.

“The stories haven’t changed,” he said. “There are still a lot of issues and a lot of anger.”

[email protected]

Birth of a Motto: in Helmand Province, 3/3 H&S; Marines Prove Their Versatility, Mettle

FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Helmand province, Afghanistan — The phrase, "every Marine a rifleman" is so overused it's gone from motto to cliché, but if Cpl. Eric Ramirez has his way, a new battle cry will emerge — every Marine an infantryman.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.06.2010
Posted: 06.06.2010 03:55

Ramirez is no stranger to the life of a grunt. His boots have seen more than 600 dismounted patrols in Iraq, but for his current deployment, his third in just as many years, the 21-year-old infantryman wanted something different.

Instead, Ramirez ended up in the same scene, but with new characters.

He still patrols. He still stands post and sets up vehicle checkpoints. He still denies the enemy movement, only now it's with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Headquarters Company Guard Force, a group of mostly non-infantrymen who perform infantry duties in the H&S; battle space.

"The deployments I've been on before, H&S; has never had its own battle space," Ramirez said. "When they decided to give H&S; its own space they needed infantrymen to step up to the challenge and help lead the guard force."

An H&S; battle space isn't new. The current area of operations 3/3 occupies was inherited from their sister battalion, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who also had a guard force. The 1/3 guard force didn't take over its own battle space until near the very end of the deployment.

Of the 12 men in Ramirez's squad, only three, counting him, are infantrymen by trade. The rest hold billets like truck driver, administrative clerk, radio operator … all grunt support. But for Ramirez their military specialty doesn't matter as much as another title — Marine.

"A lot of grunts would put these guys down," Ramirez said. "They'd say, 'they've never patrolled, they've never done this or that, blah, blah, blah …' Yeah, they've never patrolled, but we're still all Marines. You can train a Marine to be an infantryman. If they haven't had the same training as you of course they won't be on the same level, but I guarantee by the end of the deployment they will be. It's just how much time and how much effort do you want to put into these Marines, and I'm teaching them everything I know."

At first Ramirez worried the Marines under his charge wouldn't be enthusiastic about their new positions. They already had jobs they'd been trained to do. Who would want to be dropped into an unfamiliar role? But the men surprised him with their motivation and eagerness to head outside of the wire, a term used to describe the uncertainty outside of a forward operating base. His squad completed their first patrol without being accompanied by a platoon sergeant or commander May 30 near Forward Operating Base Geronimo, and Ramirez was pleased by how quickly they had absorbed his training.

For some in Ramirez's squad, like with many Marines, there's always been grunt envy.

Pfc. Aramis C. Sandoval went to his local recruiting office in Bronx, N.Y., just a little more than a year ago hoping to enlist as an infantryman. When his recruiter told him he'd have to pick a new military occupational specialty, Sandoval settled on administrative clerk. He hopes to be a lawyer one day and figured a chance to work as a clerk in a base legal office would help him build experience.

With less than a year in the Marine Corps, Sandoval, the trained office worker, is a rifleman in Afghanistan — a white-collar warrior.

"I give all the respect to the grunts," Sandoval said with a tired sigh. "This work is not easy at all. It's physically and mentally demanding. The pressure is the biggest challenge. I don't ever want to look back and think I got a Marine hurt because I wasn't doing something right."

The work is as fulfilling as it is demanding. Sandoval's face may usually be covered in sweat, dirt and awkward tan lines from constant, post, patrol and training, but it's got a smile on it as well.

As for Ramirez, when he's out on patrol he doesn't see the difference between leading a squad of infantrymen and a squad of clerks.

"Just because you're not a grunt doesn't mean you're not a Marine," Ramirez said. "Everyone knows a Marine is a rifleman. If they wanted to do just one job they would have probably joined [another service] or something. The Marine Corps is a combat-arms service. We're all expected to be combative."

Visitation today for Macomb Marine

Visitation is to be held today for Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony DiLisio, a Macomb Township soldier who died May 30 in Afghanistan.


Posted: June 6, 2010

DiLisio, 20, died in Helmand Province while supporting combat operations.

Visitation is to be 1-9 p.m. at Wujek-Calcaterra & Sons Inc. funeral home, 36900 Schoenherr at Metro Parkway in Sterling Heights.

The funeral is to be at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Paul of Tarsus Church, 41300 Romeo Plank at Canal, in Clinton Township. He will lie in repose at 9:30 a.m. Burial is to be in Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm ordered that U.S. flags in the state be flown at half-staff Monday in DiLisio's honor.

A true hero born on the 4th of July

All too many of us, in the busyness of life, forget that we have people from our community fighting on two war fronts: Iraq and Afghanistan.


6/6/2010 10:00:00 PM
The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

They are often not at the forefront of our minds, until we lose one or one gets hurt in battle.

One such young person, Marine Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht, whose parents are Prescott residents, lost his life in Afghanistan when he stepped on a land mine during his second deployment overseas.

Leicht's life speaks of providence. He was born on the Fourth of July. He died just a few days before Memorial Day. After he spent two years recovering from face and leg injuries from a bomb that took out his Humvee in Iraq, he begged to get back into combat. His death was the 1,000th loss of an American serviceman in Afghanistan. He was killed on the front lines less than one month into his tour of duty in that theater.

He followed many footsteps his family left for him to follow in military service to America. From the time he was very young, Leicht dreamed of being a Marine. So much did he want to be a Marine that he turned down a full Navy ROTC scholarship, so that he could enlist rather than become a commissioned officer.

After Leicht's death on May 27, his younger brother, Jesse, said, "He said he always wanted to die for his country and be remembered. He didn't want to die having a heart attack or just being an old man. He wanted to die for something."

Indeed, Leicht did die for something - his country and preserving the freedoms we hold precious, the same freedoms we take for granted, except when we pay tribute on holidays, such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Pearl Harbor Day.

In addition to memorials in Leicht's name to the Semper Fi Foundation, his family also requests continued support and prayers for those in harm's way, especially his unit, the 1st Marine Division, 1st LAR Battalion, still serving in Afghanistan.

Lest we forget these very special people who are serving our country around the world, we must make a mental note to think of them, pray for them and thank them each and every day.

Gates courts put-out Azerbaijan, a key Afghan hub

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is trying to soothe the put-out authoritarian leader of Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic that helps move supplies and soldiers to the war in landlocked Afghanistan.


The Associated Press
Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tens of thousands of war-related flights have crossed over Azerbaijan since the war began in 2001, and last year alone about 100,000 U.S. and allied personnel passed through the country. Azerbaijan is also part of an overland supply chain that is a key alternative to the primary land route through Pakistan.

Gates said his peacekeeping mission to Azerbaijan on Sunday is meant to reassure President Ilham Aliyev that the United States does not take him for granted.

"It's important to touch base and let them know they do play an important role," Gates told reporters traveling with him from Singapore, where he attended a defense conference.

Gates was spending a day in the capital Baku, making him the first Cabinet-level official to visit since 2005.

Gates carried a letter to Aliyev from President Barack Obama. More high-level visits are in the offing, Gates said.

Aliyev has complained that he gets too little attention from Washington and that U.S. officials have not done much to resolve a festering ethnic conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. He is also irritated by mild U.S. criticism of his human rights, press freedoms and elections policies.

Aliyev won a landslide re-election in 2008 that international elections monitors called flawed and a referendum last year set him up to rule indefinitely. The country functions more as a monarchy than a republic.

The imperatives of fighting an eight-year war in a country without seaports has forced the United States and NATO to cut deals with unsavory leaders and sometimes unscrupulous businesses that get goods and soldiers in and out.

The supply dilemma has been most apparent in Kyrgyszstan, home to an air base that is the main air transit hub for the war, but involves deals with other former Soviet republics and sometimes uneasy cooperation with Russia.

"I don't feel that anybody in particular has us over a barrel," Gates said. The supply routes "are the most efficient and cost-effective way" to supply the war.

The U.S. isn't overlooking undemocratic practices in the interest of expediency, Gates said.

"If you ask the leaders of these countries they'd say we have not ignored these issues," he said.

Concern about creeping authoritarianism in Azerbaijan was one reason top U.S. leaders stayed away.

Aliyev's protests including the postponing of a joint military exercise with the United States and a demand that the U.S. go over its books to ensure Azerbaijan was properly paid for allowing commercial overflights.

The accounting turned up about $2 million in back fees owed by contractors, a U.S. official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the payments have not been completed. The Pentagon will pick up about $900,000 of the arrears, because some of the contractors it hired are no longer in business or are insolvent.

Heavy packs cause injuries among Marines

Navy researchers to investigate preventative measures

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Jun 6, 2010 9:13:06 EDT

SAN DIEGO — Navy researchers are preparing to launch a study aimed at preventing injuries suffered by Marines who carry heavy rucksacks into combat.

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


Russia urges NATO to fight Afghan drug trafficking

SINGAPORE — Russia urged NATO forces in Afghanistan on Sunday to crack down harder on drug production and smuggling, and offered to help put a security ring around the country.


By ALEX KENNEDY (AP) – June 6, 2010

The international community should classify Afghan drugs as a threat to peace and security because they have become an important source of funds for the Taliban and other insurgent groups, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said in a speech.

Insurgents and international mafia groups are earning billions of dollars "from smuggling the drugs — which we call 'white death' — to Europe, Asia and America," Ivanov told an Asia-Pacific security summit hosted by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies think tank.

Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world's opium, the main ingredient of heroin, and is also the leading global supplier of hashish. According to the United Nations, the Taliban earn about $300 million a year from the opium trade.

"We are not happy with what the world community is doing in the anti-drug war" in Afghanistan, Ivanov said. He said the international community, especially "those who took responsibility for ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan," should make a strong commitment to fight the threat.

Russia is ready to "make several counter-drugs rings around Afghanistan to intercept drugs," he said, without elaborating.

The United States says it carrying on a major war against drugs in Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the commanding general in charge of U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, said recently that U.S. forces dealt a blow to the Taliban's opium business by securing deals with poppy farmers to plant legal crops.

During the spring harvest, 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.

Last year, opium seizures in Afghanistan soared 924 percent because of better cooperation between Afghan and international forces.

Ivanov said NATO forces must focus on Afghanistan's social and economic development to give farmers of opium poppies a better alternative to drug production.

"If you burn down a poppy plantation, you need to invest in conventional agriculture," Ivanov said. "A lot should be done to start very primitive social and economic life in Afghanistan."

"If we don't that, any military presence will be in vain."

Ivanov said opium-based drugs such as heroin are flooding into Europe through Afghanistan's northern border with Tajikistan. No visas are required to travel from Tajikistan to Russia, which means the drugs can flow easily through the open border, he said.

Drugs also go out through the western border into Iran, but Iranian authorities are active in cracking down on drug caravans, he said.

"The most popular is the northern route. It's rather easy to cross the Afghan-Tajik border. As soon as you cross the Afghan-Tajik border, it's easy to move it to Moscow, to London, to Paris, to Berlin, to elsewhere," he said.

During the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989, drug production was minimal because the invading forces aggressively eliminated poppy production, Ivanov said.

He added that Russia will continue to provide logistics and intelligence to the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan but won't commit fighting forces.

"Never again will a Russian soldier enter Afghanistan," he said. "It's like asking the U.S. whether they will send troops to Vietnam. It's totally impossible."

IJC Operational Update, June 6

KABUL, Afghanistan – A Taliban commander and multiple other insurgents were killed by coalition forces during an operation in Farah province yesterday and last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.06.2010
Posted: 06.06.2010 04:50

Aircraft engaged insurgents with precision air strikes, killing several, in a rural area of Gulistan district after coalition forces observed armed individuals moving through a known insurgent safe haven.

A ground search team later approached the strike area and saw several heavily armed insurgents in a cave and shot and killed them. The search team found rocket propelled grenade launchers with RPG rounds, heavy machine guns, automatic rifles and ammunition.

The insurgent commander, Mullah Akhtar, had close ties with Taliban and al-Qaeda senior leaders. He was responsible for arranging training for foreign fighters from Iran and helped resolve disputes between militant networks.

An Afghan-international security force captured a Haqqani network improvised explosive device cell leader and several other insurgents in Khost province last night.

The combined force went to a compound north of Mehdi Kheyl, Khost district, after insurgents were seen implanting IED's nearby. The assault force captured the targeted individual and other insurgents while searching the buildings.

The Haqqani network leader is responsible for emplacing IED's, acquiring and distributing weapons, and coordinating suicide bombings.

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

Another Afghan-international security force killed and captured a number of insurgents while pursuing a Taliban IED cell commander in Logar province last night.

The combined force moved on a compound in Nawshad, Charkh district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. As the assault force approached the compound they received hostile fire, and while clearing the compound, several insurgents were killed and several were captured. The team found a machine gun, multiple automatic rifles, grenades and ammunition.

Military families face private battles as loved ones are sent to war

The story of war is not just about combat on the battlefield. It's also about the families that remain behind to fight their own private battles.


12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, June 6, 2010
Story by DAVID TARRANT Photography by SONYA N. HEBERT / The Dallas Morning News

It's the story of Aimee Ybarra, a mother of two grade-school children, whose husband came home after his fifth combat tour and told her he wanted to leave their 15-year marriage because he had gotten used to being gone. It's the story of Lisa Bernreuther, who's steeling herself for her husband's sixth deployment; he's only been home from his last tour since April. She keeps his Army boots by the door, she says, "because sometimes I forget I even have a husband."

And it's the story of Gwendolyn Roberts, a bright, outgoing sixth-grader and "Daddy's girl." When her father left for war for the third time in five years, the spark went out of her and she tumbled into severe depression.

After nearly nine years of war, military families like these at Fort Hood in Central Texas find themselves in a relentless cycle of crisis and stress.

Over the next several months, The Dallas Morning News will examine how:

• Repeated combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan have split up marriages and forced kids to grow up without one or both parents for chunks of their childhood.

• Troops return home from combat tours with severe injuries and psychological disorders, thrusting spouses and other family members into new roles as long-term caregivers.

• Suicides in the military have risen to record levels, and the divorce rate has climbed steadily since the U.S. went to war in 2001.

These burdens of war have fallen heavily on the troops – who represent less than 1 percent of the U.S. population – and their families.

"Injuries that result in long-term changes in behavior or abilities can seriously challenge marriages, thrusting the spouse into a caregiving role, increasing the risk of depression and other psychological problems and increasing the likelihood of divorce," said a March report published by the Institute of Medicine.

Yet "there are not enough mental health providers to meet the demand, case managers and providers are overwhelmed, wait times are too long for appointments and between appointments for those in need of mental health and other services," the report stated. The institute's two-year study was mandated by Congress to help veterans readjust to civilian life.

The extended military operations and multiple combat tours are not just a short-term problem for military families. They will have a lasting impact on the well-being of the next generation – the nearly 2 million children who are growing up in military households.

"This isn't going away," said Ybarra, 33, the mother of a 10-year-old girl and a 6­year-old boy, who lives near Fort Hood. She has been separated from her husband, a first sergeant, for a year and is in the process of divorce. He is leaving soon on his sixth deployment.

"I can guarantee you that in the next 10 years," she said, "we'll still be seeing the effects on my children."

Uncharted territory

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have developed into the longest sustained combat operations since the Vietnam War. The all-volunteer military, which replaced the draft in the mid-1970s, finds itself in uncharted territory: a seemingly endless era of military operations and deployments.

"We've never been here before in history," said Maxine Trent, a licensed professional counselor who has seen hundreds of military family members from Fort Hood. "We've never asked our military families to do what we're asking them to do."

Family Readiness Groups are the traditional approach to supporting military spouses during deployments.

Made up of soldiers, family members and volunteers with each unit, the groups offer a network of communication and support. While many of these groups have been effective, others have split into cliques or deteriorated into gossip-mongering, according to military spouses interviewed by The News.

That lack of social bonds can further isolate military families already suffering from stress or depression.

One of the first studies to look at the psychological impact of deployments found that spouses of troops sent to Iraq or Afghanistan were "more likely" to have depression, anxiety, sleep disorder and other mental illnesses compared with spouses of those not deployed.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at recent medical records of more than 250,000 female spouses of soldiers who had five or more years of military service. (Men married to female soldiers made up only 5 percent of the sample, a size too small from which to draw conclusions.)

The report, published in January, also found that the longer the deployment, the more likely the spouse was to be diagnosed with a mental disorder, said Alyssa Mansfield, the study's lead author and a research epidemiologist.

Since October 2001, more than 2 million troops have been deployed to fight the two wars. No military installation has been busier than Fort Hood, the country's largest active-duty base, with more than 50,000 active-duty soldiers. More than 85 percent of its units have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan for at least one yearlong tour. Most units have served at least two tours. Several are on their third or fourth combat tours.

Fort Hood is also home to more than 100,000 Army family members. About 85 percent live off post.

Trent, the lead counselor at Military Homefront Services, a private, nonprofit clinic, said her center has been "really, really swamped," since it opened two years ago to meet the psychological needs of military families at Fort Hood.

From its start in January 2008 through this May, the clinic, part of Scott & White Healthcare system in Central Texas, has served nearly 5,000 patients – more than five times the number anticipated.

"A lot of times, moms will initially come in with concerns about their kids" before acknowledging their own difficulties, Trent said. "What they're telling us is, 'We're exhausted. Our kids are exhausted.' "

Breaking point

Even in normal times, military life demands much from families. Service members move from one installation to another every two to three years and often spend months away from home in training.

These are not normal times for military families.

"Because of the need, we have recycled the same folks back to the front lines," Trent said. "This was never intended to be – back-to-back deployments – never intended to be part of the military lifestyle."

At times, combat tours have been extended from a year to 15 months. "That's another birthday. That's another Christmas," Trent said. "In terms of milestones, particularly in a child's life, you've just missed another."

The majority of military personnel are married – more than 50 percent in the enlisted ranks and more than 70 percent of officers. Of those married, more than two-thirds have children.

Few studies have looked at children of parents who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The Rand Corp., a Washington, D.C., research center, published a report in March that found that children from military families with a deployed parent reported higher rates of anxiety, depression and behavioral difficulties than children in the general population.

The study, commissioned by the National Military Family Association, also showed that the longer the parent was deployed, the greater the number of difficulties the children reported.

Martha Roberts' experience reflects the report's findings. The 40-year-old Army wife from Killeen has made it through each of her husband's three deployments with help from her church, Unity Baptist. But when her daughter Gwendolyn became depressed, Roberts sought the help of counselors at Military Homefront Services.

Gwendolyn, 12, went to therapy for a year and feels better– especially now that her father has returned home. Sgt. Glenn Roberts, with 22 years of military service, has decided to retire this summer.

"I made a promise to her when she was 7 years old that I would be out of the military by the time she turned 11," Roberts said. "I'll be a little late, but close."

The divorce rate in the armed forces has risen steadily in the past decade. It stands at 3.6 per 1,000 couples, compared with a rate of 2.6 per 1,000 in 2001 when the war in Afghanistan started. (The U.S. Census has estimated the civilian divorce rate also at 3.6 per 1,000 couples in 2007, the latest figures available.)

However, those statistics offer only a snapshot of military marriages and do not count veterans who get divorced after leaving the military.

Other surveys indicate more military marriages are in trouble – especially for deployed soldiers. The Army's latest annual survey of troops in Iraq found that the percentage of married soldiers who said they expected to get a separation or divorce grew from 12 percent in 2003 to 22 percent in 2009.

Pam Posten, an Army wife at Fort Hood, said deployments are particularly hard on young spouses: "I think the majority struggle with being away from their families and home for the first time. And if you add to that a first-time mom whose husband's deployed – that's a lot to take on."

Aimee Ybarra was a young military wife with a preschool daughter when she and her husband moved to Fort Hood in August 2003. Just afterward, she learned she was pregnant with her second child. Three months later, her husband left for Iraq on his third combat tour. And two weeks after that, a burglar broke into Ybarra's off-post house.

With no friends yet in their new community, and their closest relatives in California, Ybarra and her daughter, who was 4 at the time, had only each other for support. For weeks after the break-in, they would huddle together in bed at night, sometimes crying themselves to sleep.

"It was a scary time," Ybarra said.

Spouses who get divorced can face economic devastation, including the loss of health benefits.

Carissa Picard moved five times during her eight-year marriage to an Army helicopter pilot. In March, after the couple agreed to divorce, Picard and her two sons, ages 6 and 9, had to leave her house at Fort Hood. She moved into a temporary residence in San Antonio while looking for work.

More should be done to help divorced military spouses get back into the job market, said Picard, who also believes divorced military spouses should be eligible for unemployment compensation.

"It's such a drastic change in your life status," she said. "It's just like transitioning out of the military for a soldier."

Coming home

Like clockwork, counselors typically hear from military spouses about two to three months after a deployed unit returns. The initial euphoria has worn off and reality has set in.

"What I usually get from the spouse is that, 'My husband's been back from Iraq or Afghanistan. ... He's a different person. I don't understand it,' " said Ashley Koonce, a therapist in Killeen.

Sometimes the soldier seems more angry and temperamental than before, or he or she has withdrawn from family life.

"You will get a lot of spouses saying, 'I've had to be so strong for so long, and I expected relief when he got back,' " Koonce said. "But now there's more stress."

These changes are often resolved after a short adjustment period. But other times, they point to a deeper medical or psychological issue.

Defense Department figures show that 163 active-duty Army personnel committed suicide in 2009, up from 140 in 2008 and more than double the 77 suicides reported in 2003. The Army suicide rate is higher than that of civilians. There is no single explanation, Pentagon officials say, but the wear and tear of repeated deployments appears to be a major factor.

Roadside bombs – the most common cause of U.S. casualties – have produced many cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Rand Corp. estimates that more than 300,000 troops who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of PTSD or major depression.

The report, issued in 2008, noted that only slightly more than half of service members with PTSD or TBI had sought treatment within the past year.

More than 36,000 service members have been wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In many cases, their injuries would have resulted in death in previous wars – advances in protective armor and medical technology have helped more survive. And that means more spouses, parents and other family members are taking on new roles as full-time caregivers.

Kelly Russell, 28, an Army spouse who lives near Fort Hood, needed help adjusting to her husband's behavior after he returned from his second combat tour in 2007. He was eventually diagnosed with PTSD and TBI.

"His patience level was almost to zero," said Russell, the mother of two young boys. "I needed an outlet as far as dealing with his mood changes. It wasn't just the normal mood swings. With PTSD and TBI, it's drastic from one minute to the next."

One day, her husband, who declined to be interviewed, brought home a leaflet promoting the Military Homefront program. "I called immediately," she said.

"I was getting overwhelmed most of the time," she said, recalling that she told her therapist: "I feel like a single mother. Even though he's home with me, I feel like I'm raising these kids by myself, and it's frustrating."

With her husband's five deployments in eight years, Lisa Bernreuther might be one of the most seasoned leaders of a Family Readiness Group – one with an answer to just about every problem. She became friends with Amparo Bracero-Sierra, whose husband was deployed to Iraq for the first time in their marriage. When Bracero-Sierra was hospitalized with a brief illness, Bernreuther came to her aid. And Bernreuther stood next to the nervous Bracero-Sierra for the homecoming ceremony in April when both of their husbands returned from Iraq.

But Bernreuther, 48, said that every family deals with deployments differently, depending on variables such as the ages of their children and whether the spouse works.

Her advice boils down this: Try not to follow the news about the war too closely, and keep your personal business off Facebook and other social media websites, where husbands and boyfriends can read it. "It could be misconstrued," she said.

Her final suggestion sounds like the 11th Commandment: Trust your spouse.

"If we didn't have trust, there's no way I'd be able to survive," Bernreuther said. "I don't know how some women, if they don't trust their husbands, how they get through a deployment. I really don't – because it's very hard."

She still has trouble adjusting each time her husband returns home. With her only child grown and living on her own, she works full time and gets into her own routine.

"It's like I'm a single person," she said, "because I'm here by myself for so long."

[email protected]

[email protected]

Insurgents Plant Bomb Disguised As Candy in Afghan Neighborhood

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Last week U.S. Army combat engineers with the 20th Engineer Battalion took part in the clearance of a shrapnel-laden IED disguised as a bag of candy, located in a neighborhood crowded with children


20th Engineer Battalion (TASK FORCE LUMBERJACK) More Stories from 20th Engineer Battalion (TASK FORCE LUMBERJACK) RSS
Story by 1st Lt. Brian MacKey
Date: 06.06.2010
Posted: 06.06.2010 11:12.

The Task Force LUMBERJACK Route Clearance Patrol investigated the device, reported by a U.S. Stryker Unit already on the scene. Using loudspeakers, the platoon was able to keep the villagers clear while they neutralized the device with the support of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.

In Afghanistan's Kandahar Province, insurgents are using despicable desperation tactics such as these. Task Force LUMBERJACK Route Clearance Patrols are finding and clearing an increased number of IEDs before they can be detonated on civilians or coalition forces. In the past 14 days, insurgents have planted three IEDs in this neighborhood alone packed with shrapnel to target people on foot. They have disguised them as household items; in addition to the candy, they have been found planted in a blanket and a basket.

Afghan National Security Forces supported by NATO troops are putting increased pressure on insurgents in Kandahar. In another instance, Afghan army personnel reported an IED they had found in a compound along a village on Highway 1 in Kandahar. LUMBERJACK soldiers pulled up the device and neutralized it in a vacant field nearby, while Afghan soldiers helped to cordon off the area. The ANSF are becoming increasingly adept at finding IEDs as they patrol their own roads and villages in the region, showing courage and resolve in their efforts to counter the insurgency.

"ANSF and coalition forces are out there, putting themselves on the line to protect the local populations here in Afghanistan," says Lt. Col. Pete Andrysiak, Task Force LUMBERJACK commander. "The insurgents have no regard for the locals."

In the last two weeks, LUMBERJACK patrols supporting ANSF have found and cleared 15 IEDs from the roads of Southern Afghanistan.

In all, the 20th Engineer Battalion commands 16 route clearance platoons across five companies. Combined, the platoons have conducted nearly 1,000 missions across tens of thousands of kilometers in their four months so far in Afghanistan. Altogether, Task Force LUMBERJACK consists of more than 900 Soldiers.

The 20th is part of the 36th Engineer Brigade, based in Fort Hood, Texas.

June 5, 2010

Honoring the heroes of Belleau Wood fight

Marine and Stafford resident Harry Clark was among the 'Devil Dogs' who fought in an iconic battle with the Germans in June 1918

The date June 6 is usually remembered for the start of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944.



Date published: 6/5/2010

But there's another June 6--exactly 26 years before D-Day--for which Gunnery Sgt. Harry Clark and his fellow Marines will always be remembered.

Clark, who trained at Quantico Marine Corps Base and lived in Stafford County, survived the Battle of Belleau Wood, which began June 6, 1918. That fight, also in France, lasted 20 days and was the first time U.S. Marines faced a battle-hardened foe--the German army.

The National Museum of the Marines Corps is memorializing the battle in one of three new galleries that opens today. Belleau Wood is a centerpiece of the World War I gallery honoring Marines like Clark, whose daughter, Mary Clark Bryant, 89, lives in southern Stafford with her husband, Ralph, who is 86.

Her father, who died in 1963, kept records and pictures of his time as a Marine, though he rarely talked with family or friends about his experiences. He served not only in the trenches of France, but in Haiti, Nicaragua and Mexico over his 32-year career.

The Bryants wanted to tell his story after reading Free Lance-Star articles last year about the museum and a film shot in Bealeton re-creating the fighting at Belleau Wood for the World War I gallery.

Ralph Bryant said he approached the museum to see if it would be interested in what they had uncovered on "Grandpa Clark," but there was little interest.

"So we started getting stuff together, and we were amazed at what we had."


Boxes of Clark's belongings, unopened for decades, contained medals, pictures, log books, mementos and diary entries--though none described the scene at Belleau Wood.

Ralph Bryant, a Stafford native who served in the Marines, and Mary, who grew up in Louisiana, met in Stafford and married in 1944. They spent months piecing together Clark's military career.

"He was really a humble man," Mary said. "He never bragged, never talked about his experiences."

She laughed, "The only thing he joked about was the kind of [doughboy] helmet they had to wear. He said it beat a bald spot on his head.

"I never knew why he joined the Marines."

Clark grew up in Nebraska. One brother was a policeman; his father and two other brothers served in the Army.

Clark enlisted in May 1911 in Seattle, serving on the USS Jupiter and in Hawaii as a cook until 1915. Among the treasure-trove of belongings found in the attic was his recipe book. Two of his specialties were fruit cake and sugar-topped pumpkin pie.

Clark was promoted to corporal, sergeant, then gunnery sergeant in 1917 at Quantico, where he helped reshape the base as a training ground for the Great War.

"They built Quantico as a French battleground, which is why [Marines] did so well. They had trenches, gas training," Ralph said. "He knew how to put on a gas mask. He knew the terrain."

Clark, 6-foot-1, a pistol expert and a Catholic who loved to cook, was assigned to 4th Brigade, 2nd Division, American Expeditionary Force. On Oct. 31, 1917, he shipped out to France aboard the USS Von Steuben.

He wrote this journal entry on Nov. 10: "At 7:15 p.m. a submarine attacked us and two torpedoes were launched but missed us."

The Von Steuben arrived in the French port of Brest on Nov. 12. His unit went to Lormont, on the outskirts of Bordeaux, then on to Charmant, about 65 miles from the front lines.


By June 1918, the Marines were nearing Chateau-Thierry, east of Paris. The forest was known as Belleau Wood.

On June 6, German machine-gunners opened fire, killing 300 Marines in the 4th Brigade within 30 minutes.

Dick Camp, a retired Marine colonel and author of "The Devil Dogs at Belleau Wood: U.S. Marines in World War I," says: "It was God-awful. The Marines of the 5th and 6th Regiments had to work their way across an open wheat field" under withering fire. It was the largest single-day loss ever for the Marine Corps.

Through subsequent battles at Soissons, Blanc Mont, St. Mihiel and the Argonne Forest in France, the Marines established themselves as worthy foes.

German soldiers called them teufelhunden, or "devil dogs," for their fierceness in battle.

Clark survived, though the family doesn't know much about his life in the trenches of Europe. One of his journals of the period has a list of names, some of them crossed out.

"I wonder whether these are men who were killed," Ralph said.

Clark received a Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with two silver stars, and a World War I Victory Medal with three silver stars. The silver service stars on the ribbon were given for multiple achievements.


Clark served in Haiti, Mexico and Nicaragua, in what became known as the Banana Wars, before and after World War I.

During one tour of duty in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1920, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Gendarmerie D'Haiti. U.S., British and German forces entered Haiti in 1914 to protect their citizens from civil unrest.

In November and December of 1920, Clark made frequent diary entries about fighting in the city and its suburbs against armed groups:

"Dec. 1--Information rec'd that the market will be attacked at daylight."

"Dec. 6--Attacked band of 6--killed 5 & captured 2 rifles."

He flew a de Havilland reconnaissance biplane with Observation Squadron 2 in Haiti in 1925.

Clark wasn't all business. Among his mementos were a dance card from May 1925 and a program from a July 4 party with Observation Squadron 1 in Nicaragua the previous year.

Clark retired in June 1941, went back into the Marines in August 1943, then got out for good, as a warrant officer, in 1946.

He and his wife, Daisy, settled in Goldvein, then moved to a place in Stafford off U.S. 17 where they lived until he died in 1963 at age 70.

"I never saw him get angry, and he never cursed--never in our presence. Now, that's something for a Marine," Ralph said.

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

Getting their boots wet

Marines hold massive beach assault even as defense secretary questions need for amphibious capability

They were sent to storm the beaches of Camp Pendleton from amphibious assault ships floating offshore in the morning fog. But most of the Marines who hustled into position early Friday inside the hull of the Bonhomme Richard had never been to sea.

Click above link for a news video.


Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 12:05 a.m

Shouts of: “Get some, Marines! Get some!” rang over the decks as a new generation of troops — their boots dry after a decade of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan — tried to find its sea legs.

The beach landing was the culmination of a two-week operation called Dawn Blitz, the largest amphibious landing exercise that the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, and the Navy’s 3rd Fleet have staged since before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks.

Dawn Blitz unfolded at a time when U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has suggested scaling back the Marines’ amphibious assault ambitions as the Pentagon hunts for $100 billion in equipment and programs to cut over the next five years.

More than 5,000 sailors and Marines practiced the complex synchronization of land, air and sea forces involved in projecting combat power from ships to shore.

The infantrymen, in full battle gear, gripped their rifles and piled into the open-ramped mouths of amphibious assault vehicles, wondering what awaited them ashore. Then wave after wave of landing craft, more than 100 in all, splashed into the water from seven ships, charging onto Red Beach as helicopters swarmed the skies.

After one of those seafaring tanks spat him ashore, Lance Cpl. Jonathan Morein, 20, plopped on his belly in the wet sand, waves lapping at his feet, rifle pointed down the beach. It was quite different from anything he experienced in Iraq, he said.

“It feels good to follow in the footsteps of the Marines who came before me,” Morein said. “The Marine Corps is an amphibious organization, but it’s been a long time since our unit has gotten to do this.”

Gates has said this nation “will always have a Marine Corps,” but he also questioned the necessity of assaulting a beach and asked candidates vying to become the next Marine commandant to define the Corps’ vision for the future.

Although the war in Afghanistan remains their No. 1 priority, the exercise at Camp Pendleton was another sign that the Marines consider their amphibious roots as “soldiers of the sea” to be their defining feature.

“We pride ourselves on being flexible and versatile,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and its 44,000 troops arrayed at Southern California bases. “The nation does not expect us to be one-trick ponies. Anything that requires you to come from the sea, to draw the sword in that way, Marines need to be able to do that.”

It might be an amphibious assault into a hostile area, or a humanitarian mission in a region devastated by a tsunami or earthquake, or even training foreign security forces, he said while standing on a bluff above Red Beach.

After nearly a decade with much of the Marines busy inland, they need more practice working at the brigade level at sea, he said.

“We are doing some learning,” Dunford said. “There’s no question about it: what we’re doing here in part is busting some rust.”

Brig. Gen. Rex McMillian, deputy commander of the force based at Camp Pendleton, admitted sheepishly that he hadn’t embarked on a ship since the 1980s, aboard the aircraft carrier Midway before it was a museum. He spent much of the past two weeks on the Bonhomme Richard for Dawn Blitz.

“It felt pretty good to be out there,” McMillian said.

The sailors had to help him and other Marines find their way at first, after they got a bit lost on board, he said. “We are tied at the hip with the Navy; that’s what we do as Marines. The commandant wanted us to get back to that core competency.”

That commandant, James T. Conway, also has made it a top goal to replace the 1970s-era amphibious assault vehicles used Friday with the expeditionary fighting vehicle under development.

But Gates has questioned whether the new landing vehicle is worth the cost — $17 million apiece. He went further during a recent Sea-Air-Space conference in Washington, D.C., saying, “We have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious landing again, especially as advances in anti-ship systems keep pushing the potential launch point farther from shore.”

Retired Marine Dakota Wood, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the Marines’ amphibious capability and unique culture as an expeditionary force set it apart from the Army. But expensive equipment like the expeditionary fighting vehicle could drag the Corps down and call its existence into question, he said.

“They have to push against a rising tide of other demands being placed on the federal treasury,” Wood said. “If the Marine Corps gets so heavy and loses its competency in amphibious operations, whether it is because of time available to exercise or the type of equipment it is buying, then it becomes indistinguishable from the Army.”

That would be a mistake, in Wood’s view. “Sea capability with an amphibious force gives you an option not available to almost anyone else in the world,” he said.

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, said that when it comes to the budget fight, the Marines should dig in.

“The Marine Corps leadership needs to establish a defensive perimeter on the nearest hill, which happens to be Capitol Hill. Probably they would be impregnable,” he said. “The notion that amphibious warfare is suddenly obsolete is simply crazy. Most of the world’s population lives near oceans.”

While the scope of the Marines’ mission and its amphibious equipment program remain in doubt in the United States, nations such as Australia are expanding those capabilities. Australia has no aircraft carriers, but it recently bought two of America’s largest class of amphibious assault ships and sent an army officer to observe Dawn Blitz aboard the Bonhomme Richard.

“The scale of this platform and the number of different people working toward the desired outcome is impressive,” said Lt. Col. Jake Ellwood, the Australian officer. “We are learning from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps a very complicated style of combat operations, working from the sea.”

In broad daylight, Red Beach isn’t quite storming the beach at Normandy. But the skills involved in beach landings of all stripes, including those into hostile territory, are ones the Marine Corps needs to maintain, Dunford said.

“Many places where we want to go are not going to want us to come. Our nation has a need to overcome that in a wide range of places,” he said.

Below the bluffs, Sgt. Scott Olson, 23, knelt with one leg bent on the sand, scanning the beach for enemy forces while his squad remained fanned across the shore.

After being attacked by nothing more than hordes of journalists traipsing through the Marines’ firing positions, Olson finally hollered: “Let’s go! Bring it in!”

The infantrymen scrambled to their feet and ran back to the amphibious assault vehicles, sand flying with every step. Artillery from a distant range thumped as the ramp closed. Then the Marines pushed on, their boots wet with brine.

Gretel C. Kovach: (619) 293-1293; [email protected]

1 dead, 14 wounded in Kandahar bombing

By Mirwais Khan - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Jun 5, 2010 14:10:39 EDT

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A bomb exploded Saturday outside the provincial governor’s office in Kandahar, killing one police officer and wounding at least 14 civilians, officials said.

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Afghan conference calls for talks with Taliban

By Amir Shah and Kathy Gannon - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Jun 5, 2010 9:43:54 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan national peace conference on Friday urged the government to take formal steps toward negotiating with insurgents, boosting President Hamid Karzai’s plans to open talks with the Taliban.

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Tip Leads to Weapons Cache Find

KABUL – A tip from a resident led Afghan National Security Forces and U.S. Special Operations Forces to a large weapons cache find in the Gizab district of Uruzgan province recently.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.05.2010
Posted: 06.05.2010 05:24

The cache contained 10 rocket-propelled grenades, 12 SPG-9 recoilles rifle rounds, 200 7.62 mm PKM machine-gun rounds and more than 20 107 mm rockets and fuses. The combined force safely destroyed the rockets and recoilless rounds on site. The ANSF kept the RPGs and PKM ammunition.
The tip came following a weekly shura where village elders and combined force representatives discuss security issues.

"Afghans in Gizab district continue to reject insurgent influence, much like they did only weeks ago," said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Kosterman, a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan spokesperson. "Their stand against the insurgents is a reflection of their trust in GIRoA, and that trust is continuing to spread throughout southern Afghanistan."

IJC Operational Update, June 5

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force captured a Haqqani network facilitator and several other suspected insurgents in Khost province last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 06.05.2010
Posted: 06.05.2010 07:56

The combined security force moved to a compound east of Langharah, Tanai district, after intelligence information verified militant activity. During a search of the buildings the assault force captured the Haqqani facilitator who is involved in the movement of foreign fighters and improvised explosive devices from Pakistan. He is well-connected to senior level Haqqani commanders in Khost and Paktiya and his efforts led to suicide bombings against civilians in Khost.

A number of individuals suspected of insurgent activities were detained by an Afghan-international security force in Farah province last night.

The combined force detained the individuals while searching a series of buildings in a rural area of the Bala Boluk district after intelligence information discovered militant activity.

The search team found multiple rifles, ammunition casings and approximately 70 kilograms of wet opium.

Another Afghan-international security force detained an individual suspected of insurgent activity in Farah province last night.

The suspected insurgent was detained while the combined force was searching buildings in the village of Gor Zanak, Gulistan district, after intelligence information confirmed insurgent activity.

No shots were fired and no one was harmed in any of these operations.

June 4, 2010

Flags ordered at half staff Monday for slain Macomb Township Marine

Lansing -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Friday ordered U.S. flags to be lowered to half staff Monday in honor of Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony A. DiLisio of Macomb Township.


The Detroit News
Last Updated: June 04. 2010 6:14PM

DiLisio, 20, died in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on May 30. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. DiLisio's funeral is Monday at St. Paul of Tarsus Catholic Church in Clinton Township. Burial is in Resurrection Cemetery.

Camp Dwyer in Helmand, or 'Hell, man'


The dog tags clink softly in the wind - empty necklaces draped on a sign, coated with the fine white dust that blows and clings to everything at this outpost.


By Joanne Kimberlin
The Virginian-Pilot
© June 4, 2010

Smith, Juarez, Peak, Taylor, Diliso, too many names to scribble them all down. Besides, the Marines are respectful of their fallen, and we don't want to seem otherwise by rifling through the metal tags of Americans whose blood was spilled in this land.

Camp Dwyer is a harsh place, dug in Helmand, a southern province of Afghanistan known as "Hell, man," to the troops. In a country with no safe havens, Helmand is about as dangerous as it gets. More coalition lives have been lost here - nearly 400 - than in any other province.

Outside the perimeter, the horizon is flat and empty. There are no towns in sight, no trees and no cover, which makes the camp itself easier to defend. Inside the perimeter, it's the climate that's the killer.

Temperatures in this desert can hit 120 degrees. The dust is a living force, a fine, talc-like sand that stings the eyes, chokes the throat, grits in the teeth. This time of year, that dust is lashed by what the Afghans call the "wind of 120 days" - a near-steady blow that can reach 70 mph.

Sandstorms howl in out of nowhere, arriving with an eerie glow that turns the camp into a colorless, alien world. Massive MRAPs - Mine