Sunday, September 30, 2007
SPC. BEN HUTTO
3RD HBCT, 3RD INF. DIV.
The Iraqi police station in Jisr Diyala became a hub of activity Sept. 26 when 226 applicants arrived to submit their applications during a recruiting drive.
The U.S. Army’s 59th Military Police Company, from Fort Carson, Colo., currently assigned to 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, currently attached to the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, assisted the drive by processing applicants’ blood types, retinal scans and fingerprints into the Biometric Automated Tool Set and the Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment Systems databases.
“I think the drive was a great success based on the number of applicants that showed up,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Eastman, of San Diego, a military policeman with 59th MP Co.
The Iraqi police in Jisr Diyala are looking to fill 157 positions to help make the area more secure.
“They hope to increase the ratio of Iraqi police to citizens to allow the police to provide better service to the community,” Eastman said.
The police interviewed 180 candidates the day of the drive and hoped to finish up the interviews on Thursday.
Eastman said the Iraqi police will use a three-phase process to determine which applicants are most qualified.
Potential applicants will go through an academic test, a physical assessment, and will have to be approved by local leaders before they can be hired.
Eastman said no Soldier in 3rd HBCT plays any role in who the Iraqi police choose to hire.
“We assist with B.A.T.S. and H.I.I.D.E.S., but the Iraqi police handle the testing and interview process,” Eastman said.
The 1-15 Inf. Regt. is part of 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Sgt. Eddie Jeffers wrote a stark essay about what he experienced and felt serving in Iraq, and his article became instant inspiration for backers of the war on dozens of Internet sites where it was posted.
Jeffers, 23, of Daleville died in an accident in Iraq earlier this week, but his legacy will live on through his words.
He gained a following earlier this year after an essay he wrote, titled "Hope Rides Alone"
Hope Rides Alone
By Sgt. Eddie Jeffers
February 1, 2007
I stare out into the darkness from my post, and I watch the city burn to the ground. I smell the familiar smells, I walk through the familiar rubble, and I look at the frightened faces that watch me pass down the streets of their neighborhoods. My nerves hardly rest; my hands are steady on a device that has been given to me from my government for the purpose of taking the lives of others.
I sweat, and I am tired. My back aches from the loads I carry. Young American boys look to me to direct them in a manner that will someday allow them to see their families again...and yet, I too, am just a boy....my age not but a few years more than that of the ones I lead. I am stressed, I am scared, and I am paranoid...because death is everywhere. It waits for me, it calls to me from around street corners and windows, and it is always there.
There are the demons that follow me, and tempt me into thoughts and actions that are not my own...but that are necessary for survival. I've made compromises with my humanity. And I am not alone in this. Miles from me are my brethren in this world, who walk in the same streets...who feel the same things, whether they admit to it or not.
And to think, I volunteered for this...
And I am ignorant to the rest of the world...or so I thought.
But even thousands of miles away, in Ramadi, Iraq, the cries and screams and complaints of the ungrateful reach me. In a year, I will be thrust back into society from a life and mentality that doesn't fit your average man. And then, I will be alone. And then, I will walk down the streets of America, and see the yellow ribbon stickers on the cars of the same people who compare our President to Hitler.
I will watch the television and watch the Cindy Sheehans, and the Al Frankens, and the rest of the ignorant sheep of America spout off their mouths about a subject they know nothing about. It is their right, however, and it is a right that is defended by hundreds of thousands of boys and girls scattered across the world, far from home. I use the word boys and girls, because that's what they are. In the Army, the average age of the infantryman is nineteen years old. The average rank of soldiers killed in action is Private First Class.
People like Cindy Sheehan are ignorant. Not just to this war, but to the results of their idiotic ramblings, or at least I hope they are. They don't realize its effects on this war. In this war, there are no Geneva Conventions, no cease fires. Medics and Chaplains are not spared from the enemy's brutality because it's against the rules. I can only imagine the horrors a military Chaplain would experience at the hands of the enemy. The enemy slinks in the shadows and fights a coward's war against us. It is effective though, as many men and women have died since the start of this war. And the memory of their service to America is tainted by the inconsiderate remarks on our nation's news outlets. And every day, the enemy changes...only now, the enemy is becoming something new. The enemy is transitioning from the Muslim extremists to Americans. The enemy is becoming the very people whom we defend with our lives. And they do not realize it. But in denouncing our actions, denouncing our leaders, denouncing the war we live and fight, they are isolating the military from society...and they are becoming our enemy.
Democrats and peace activists like to toss the word "quagmire" around and compare this war to Vietnam. In a way they are right, this war is becoming like Vietnam. Not the actual war, but in the isolation of country and military. America is not a nation at war; they are a nation with its military at war. Like it or not, we are here, some of us for our second, or third times; some even for their fourth and so on. Americans are so concerned now with politics, that it is interfering with our war.
Terrorists cut the heads off of American citizens on the internet...and there is no outrage, but an American soldier kills an Iraqi in the midst of battle, and there are investigations, and sometimes soldiers are even jailed...for doing their job.
It is absolutely sickening to me to think our country has come to this. Why are we so obsessed with the bad news? Why will people stop at nothing to be against this war, no matter how much evidence of the good we've done is thrown in their face? When is the last time CNN or MSNBC or CBS reported the opening of schools and hospitals in Iraq? Or the leaders of terror cells being detained or killed? It's all happening, but people will not let up their hatred of President Bush. They will ignore the good news, because it just might show people that Bush was right.
America has lost its will to fight. It has lost its will to defend what is right and just in the world. The crazy thing of it all is that the American people have not even been asked to sacrifice a single thing. It's not like World War II, where people rationed food and turned in cars to be made into metal for tanks. The American people have not been asked to sacrifice anything. Unless you are in the military or the family member of a servicemember, its life as usual...the war doesn't affect you.
But it affects us. And when it is over and the troops come home and they try to piece together what's left of them after their service...where will the detractors be then? Where will the Cindy Sheehans be to comfort and talk to soldiers and help them sort out the last couple years of their lives, most of which have been spent dodging death and wading through the deaths of their friends? They will be where they always are, somewhere far away, where the horrors of the world can't touch them. Somewhere where they can complain about things they will never experience in their lifetime; things that the young men and women of America have willingly taken upon their shoulders.
We are the hope of the Iraqi people. They want what everyone else wants in life: safety, security, somewhere to call home. They want a country that is safe to raise their children in. Not a place where their children will be abducted, raped and murdered if they do not comply with the terrorists demands. They want to live on, rebuild and prosper. And America has given them the opportunity, but only if we stay true to the cause and see it to its end. But the country must unite in this endeavor...we cannot place the burden on our military alone. We must all stand up and fight, whether in uniform or not. And supporting us is more than sticking yellow ribbon stickers on your cars. It's supporting our President, our troops and our cause.
Right now, the burden is all on the American soldiers. Right now, hope rides alone. But it can change, it must change. Because there is only failure and darkness ahead for us as a country, as a people, if it doesn't.
Let's stop all the political nonsense, let's stop all the bickering, let's stop all the bad news and let's stand and fight!
Isn't that what America is about anyway?
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Jeffers family. Eddie's words will live on forever. He was a true hero.
Other writing by Jeffers:
Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
3RD HBCT, 3RD INF. DIV.
FOB HAMMER — Team Village, made up of 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers from Fort Benning, Ga., spearheaded a project that provided an Iraqi village clean drinking water and jobs.
Mada’in Qada Mayor Abu Bahar and al-Huda village’s Sheik Shanno cut a ribbon, marking the opening of a new fresh-water well pumping station in al-Huda Sept. 23.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, along with the Nahia council,members of local Iraqi Security Forces, the Qada mayor and members of the village, attended the ceremony.
The project started in July and ended with the pumping station opening 72 days later. The well system is comprised of a gated building, a 40-meter well, four 5,000-gallon water storage tanks, a water compact fi ltration system, a 20 kilowatt-hour generator and distribution faucets.
Local leadership selected two employees to be trained on maintenance and operation of the well house. The two caretakers have quarters with a kitchen, restroom, bathroom and showers in the facility. Thirty-two people from the village were employed during its construction.
“We met with the local leaders who identified the problem of having no clean and reliable water source,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Givens, of Columbus, Ga., leader of Team Village for 1-15 Inf. Regt. “We conducted bi-weekly updates checking on the contractor,workers and the progress of the facility.” The project was completed Sept. 20, and Givens said he thinks the project will affect the village in many ways. The largest impact, he said, is the village now has a reliable source of drinking water.
“The well will produce approximately 5,000 gallons of clean drinking water per day,” Givens said. “The people are now able to bring buckets or bottles to the facility and fill up on clean water.”
Water discarded from the facility will be pumped into neighboring fields for irrigation. On days they choose not to pump water residents can filter water from the water compact filtration system.
Villagers have taken to the project with enthusiasm. Givens said the residents were amazed.
“(An Iraqi reporter) told me that he wished I could speak Arabic so I could hear how happy and grateful the local citizens were about this project,” Givens said.
Givens also said the facility surpassed what his team expected a well-house to be. With its self-sustaining power source, air-conditioning, kitchen, bathroom, shower and garden, the facility is extremely well built, he added.
One of the village sheiks couldn’t say enough about the facility and the Soldiers who helped the project.
“He (Sheik Shanno) said that he prayed to Allah for the ability to help his people,” Givens said, “and Allah delivered the Coalition Forces to his village.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
3RD CAB, 3RD INF. DIV.
BAGHDAD — The armament platoon of Company B,603rd Aviation Support Battalion,3rd Combat Aviation Brigade can easily go unnoticed. Much like the technical producers of a play, or the camera man in a movie, armament is an essential part of an AH-64 Apache’s mission,rarely receiving recognition. Though their job is not as flashy as pilots’, or as well known as maintenance, without armament the Apache’s formidable reputation would be lost.
“We provide support to 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment,” said Chief Warrant Officer Francisco Vargas, aviation armament maintenance officer, with Co. B. “If they get swamped with work, we’re here to help them out with any maintenance they require.”
The Apache must undergo phase maintenance for every 125, 250 and 500 hours of flight. The armament platoon handles the 500 hours phase maintenance, where they check the sighting systems by synchronizing the sighting and weapons systems, in addition to checking the avionics and everything else “with a wire” within the aircraft, said Staff Sgt. Jorge Vargas, armament avionics electrical systems supervisor, with Co. B.
The Apaches are cleaned off before maintenance begins and then the aircraft is torn down to perform operations checks and to fix faults. Unlike the weapons on other aircraft, the weapons of the Apache are integrated into the aircraft’s frame, Vargas said. The weapons fired from a Black Hawk can be attached and detached by the crew chief, however, an Apache’s 30mm gun cannot be so easily removed, he added.
The armament platoon also works at the forward area rearmament and refueling points at Camp Striker and at Forward Operating Base Hammer. The FARPs, which are operated 24-hours per day, are designed for rapid refueling and rearmament.
Fuelers at the FARPs establish communication between themselves and the pilots when the helicopters land to refuel, and perform minimal troubleshooting on site. The armament Soldiers load Apaches with 30mm rounds, rockets and hellfire missiles.
“They use (FARP Hammer) midmission,”said Spc. Zach Wernimont, also with Co. B. “The FARP at Striker is mainly used before and after missions. It’s just easier for the pilots to come here, we’re specifically for mid-mission.” The platoon has 36 members with 12 working at the FARPs — eight at Camp Striker’s Rifle Stock FARP and four at FARP Hammer.
The platoon currently operates in two shifts of seven Soldiers, however, with three to four Soldiers working on each aircraft, the members are challenged to perform their duties.
Spc. Jason Ellis, electrical avionics specialist, enjoys the continuous pace of working in armament. “The job covers a lot, armament and avionics,” Ellis said. “We get to work on every aircraft that goes through. With other aircraft (Soldiers) will work on some and the civilians will work on the others, but we touch every aircraft that goes through here.”
“We stay busy,” Vargas said. “There is no way (1-3 Avn. Regt.) can handle the amount of work to be done on the Apaches, they simply don’t have the personnel. The 603rd is making it happen for them. We make sure when the pilots pull the trigger, something happens.”
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
He said he had another gourmet favorite besides the Top Ramen. He is really enjoying the Hormel Completes, his most favorite being the Chicken and Dumplings. It makes me feel so good to know that the things he's getting in his care packages really seem to be things he likes and looks forward to. I know he enjoys the magazines he gets periodically and even had to go back and read some of them again recently when the mail got detained. He also received the flag that was flown over the capitol in their honor. He had not put it up yet but had already picked out a perfect place to display it. He also said that he would make sure that the flag returns home with him so he could proudly display it at his new home. I think I enjoy sending the weekly care packages as much as he enjoys getting them. Right now, sending him things is about all I can do to show him how much he is loved and missed.
It is always so wonderful to hear from Chris and when he is so upbeat and bubbly it is even better. I thank God everyday that Chris has such a positive attitude. He is so blessed to have so many people in his life that care so much. Thanks again to everyone that is standing behind him and helping him to get through this deployment.
Just a reminder for those that are in need of packing supplies...
The United States Postal Service is offering free packing materials to spouses and families of military members who are deployed overseas.
To take advantage of this service call:1-800-610-8734 and press 1 (for English & then 3 for an operator), alternate direct line 1-800-527-1950 and they will send you free boxes, packing materials, tape and mailing labels. These products are to be used to mail care packages to service members. Make sure you ask for CARE KIT 4.
You will receive:
5 - 7"x7"x6" boxes
5 - 12"x12"x8" boxes
1 - Roll of tape
15 custom forms
10 address labels
5 - tyvek bags (water proof and non tear)
Call this number to order: 1-800-610-8734 (Press 1 for English and then 3 for operator).
Monday, September 24, 2007
SGT. KEVIN STABINSKY
FOB HAMMER — Golfers from the Professional Golfers’ Association of America and Ladies Professional Golfers’Association shared some laughs,their equipment and experience with servicemembers at FOB Hammer and FOB Kalsu Sept. 23.
The visits were part of the Fairways 2 Greens Golf Tour that had four professional golfers touring 15 locations in Iraq in only six days. Golfers Carl Paulson, Jim Carter, Suzanne Strudwick and Mollie Fankhauser set up a small putting hole in the gym where they gave a little instruction before heading outside to help servicemembers with their swings at an impromptu driving range.
Sgt. Raymond Lemelin has not had much opportunity to work on his game since being deployed with the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, as an unmanned aerial vehicle operator. Originally from Miami, Lemelin said he loves playing golf and what it does for him. “I could sit out here and watch this all day,” Lemelin said. “Golf is probably the most relaxing thing for me.” Servicemembers took advantage of the professional help.
“There were a couple of things I was concerned with about my swing,” Lemelin said. “They pointed out what I was doing wrong and helped me square it away.”
Staff Sgt. Andrew Pearce, battle noncommissioned officer, 3rd HBCT, said he tries to play golf two or three times per week at home, but, like Lemelin,has not had a chance to work on his game in Iraq.
“Six or seven months out here will put a hurting on your game,” Pearce said. “I’ve almost hit two guys in the head out here. Mollie helped me on a couple things. She widened up my stance and got my stance squared up.”
Strudwick, originally from Stafford,England, who is semi-retired, has spent 13 years living in Knoxville, Tenn., and playing in the LPGA. Though Iraq is new to her, Strudwick said she knew what to expect for the most part. “I have played in Dubai three years in a row when I played the European tour,” Strudwick said. “I kind of knew the general area. I have seen sand and camels and things like that, but I have never been to a base camp or FOB.” The golf tour was able to reach out to the Soldiers in a way most morale tours cannot, Strudwick said.
“We’ve been to a lot of the smaller places that don’t get a lot of the entertainers or sports people visiting,” Strudwick said. “It’s a great way to interact with the Soldiers. We’ve really been able to interact with everybody.” “It’s amazing how passionate and young the Soldiers are,” she added about 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division troops during her visit to Kalsu. “To be so young and have a skill level so high ... is amazing.”
Smiles could be seen after every well-driven and poorly-smacked ball that left the tee. What seemed to get the most laughs, however, was the rash of club-breaking shots.
“You guys are so strong. We’ve lost clubs all the way around. Which is good, we want you to be strong,” Strudwick said after a third golf club’s head went flying off.
Carter said he joined this tour as his way to do something for the military. “I’m kind of a born-in-the-Army, Army brat. I was born in Fort Bragg (N.C.),” Carter said. “This tour was something I wanted to do. Everyone in my family has been in the service except for me. This was a nice chance for me to give something back.”
Sharing their knowledge of the game was beneficial to the servicemembers looking for a few less strokes on their scorecards, but it was beneficial to the golfers as well, Strudwick said. “What we get to take home with us is a much deeper appreciation for what you guys do here,” said Strudwick. “Not just because you’re away from your families, and that you’re sacrificing to be here — but it’s the little things like having to walk to the latrines, the lack of privacy you have all the time. We’ll be able to take that back and share it so everybody will know what’s going on.”
Pfc. Henry Krigbaum, 3rd Pltn., Co. A, 1-15th Inf. Regt., climbs in the back of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle after conducting a joint clearance mission with Iraqi National Police in Salman Pak Sept. 21.
3RD HBCT, 3RD INF. DIV.
FOB HAMMER — The 1st Iraqi National Police Brigade cleared a road connecting al-Bawi and Stiyah during a combined effort with 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, resulting in the killing of six insurgents Sept. 21. Iraqi National Police, in conjunction with Company A, 1-15 Inf. Regt., conducted the mission to make the route safer.
The mission started with the 1st Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st NP Brigade,linking up with the 3rd platoon of Co. A for the mission.
The 3rd Battalion NPs were engaged by small-arms and machine-gun fire. One NP was wounded during the exchange. As the NPs maneuvered on the insurgents, 3rd platoon, Co. A, moved to assist and cleared six buildings from where the fire was originating.
The NPs discovered an improvised explosive device while clearing the area. A quick reaction force and explosive ordnance disposal personnel from Combat Outpost Cahill moved to the bomb site, and destroyed the IED. While EOD and the 3rd Battalion NPs were completing the task of destroying the IED, 3rd platoon, Co. A, came under small-arms fire from another house. Bradley Fighting Vehicles moved to support the infantry platoon’s repositioning of Soldiers in the line of fire with 25mm cannon and machine-gun fire.
Once the enemy fire ceased, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, already on site in support of the mission, were called to the scene and engaged the enemy position with 30mm cannon-fire and Hellfi re missiles. A flight of U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons dropped a 500-pound bomb onto the house, killing six insurgents inside.
The 1-15 Inf. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.
By Staff Sgt. Sean Riley, 3rd HBCT Public Affairs
Photos courtesy of 59th MP Company
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – The Iraqi police of Mada’in Qada received new identification badges at IP stations across the Qada Sept. 16 and 18.
Military police have been working with local IPs to make a unique badge for several months.
Following the time-consuming task of processing all Mada’in Qada policemen into the biometric automated tool set and handheld interagency identity detection equipment system databases, the 59th Military Police Company worked with their headquarters, the 759th MP Battalion from Fort Carson, Colo., to design and produce the badges.
All the collected personal and biometric data of the policemen including fingerprints, retinal scans, and blood type, are electronically stored in the new badge, said 2nd Lt. Darrell Jones, from Allen, Texas, 2nd platoon leader for the 59th MP Co.
The 59th MP Co., tasked as the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment’s Police Transition Team, has been working with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team since the company’s arrival to Iraq in July.
The MP teams arrived early Sept. 16 to issue the badges to IPs assigned to the Jisr-Diyala police station. Jisr-Diyala, located across the Diyala River south-east of Baghdad, is the government center for Mada’in Qada.
Other platoons and teams of the 59th MP Co. conducted badge issuing in their respective areas. Jones’ platoon issued badges at the Al-Ma’amil and Narhwan stations.
According to Jones, the mission originally slated for one day actually took two.
“We handed out 178 badges the first day in Narwhan,” Jones said, “93 at Al-Ma’amil.”
IP station managers and MPs checked the badges to ensure they were correct before issuing them. The policemen were verified through HIIDES, then signed with a fingerprint, and walked away with a new badge.
The new badges, Jones said, offer greater freedom of movement for the IPs in Mada’in Qada. It will also alleviate confusion between IPs and Coalition Forces in the area.
“Now, if they are pulled over at a checkpoint, Coalition Forces can verify that they are one of our guys,” Jones said.
Jones described a scenario where Coalition Forces manning checkpoints may think an innocent IP with a handgun in his possession may look suspicious. He believes the new badges will combat that confusion in similar situations.
“All it will take is for them to check his ID,” Jones said.
In the event the identification badge’s authenticity is questioned, all they need to do is swipe it, Jones said.
“Kind of like swiping your license back home,” Jones said.
Badge issue will continue throughout the Qada until all IPs have the new badge.
The 3-1 Cav. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.
by Maj. Joe Sowers, 3rd Brigade Combat Team (Heavy) Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – The 3rd Brigade Combat Team (Heavy) is not scheduled to redeploy from Iraq for nine months, but leaders from the brigade are already passing along lessons learned from their first six months of combat operations.
Speaking from Forward Operating Base Hammer on Thursday, staff officers from 3rd HBCT conducted their second video teleconference (VTC) with representatives from the Joint Multi-National Readiness Center to help JMRC better prepare and resource training for units deploying to Iraq.
JMRC, located in Hohenfels, Germany, provides simulated combat training exercises for brigade combat teams preparing for full-spectrum operations, according to the JMRC Web site. Units rotate through JMRC to train on major combat operations, counter-insurgency operations and security and stability operations.
Leaders from the JMRC initiated the dialog by providing specific questions to the 3rd HBCT staff. The 3rd HBCT staff provided responses to the questions and additional “take aways” to assist the JMRC leaders as they construct training exercises.
“We tried to apply our pre-deployment training and six months of combat experience so JMRC can better train deploying units,” said Maj. Dave Fivecoat, from Delaware, Ohio, the 3rd HBCT operations officer.
Fivecoat emphasized that the input provided will help, but there are no “book” answers to the complex situations found in Iraq.
“We found it important that units focus on the basics during pre-deployment training,” said Fivecoat. “Unit missions and locations can change as late as a brigade’s two weeks reception, staging, onward movement and integration in Kuwait. We hope this VTC will enable brigades that train at JMRC to be better prepared for the challenges of combat in Iraq.”
The 3rd HBCT is from Fort Benning, Ga.
Moving forward hand-in-hand, Soldiers of 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment and members of a concerned citizens group conducted Operation Tuwaitha Sunrise II Sept. 19-20 in Tuwaitha Village.
The mission was the second of its kind, the first being Operation Tuwaitha Sunrise conducted earlier this month. During these missions both 3-1 Cav. Regt. Soldiers and concerned citizens conducted patrols to clear the area of improvised explosive devices and weapon caches. The area is known for its high volume of insurgent activity.
Pfc. David Menillo, Fairfield, Conn., a medic from Troop B, 3-1 Cav. Regt. said during the first iteration, approximately 120 concerned citizens came forth to participate in the operation.
“There were so many of them out here last time,” he said. “They walked up ahead of us. They found IEDs and told us about them. Then we got the explosive ordnance disposal team to blow them up.”
According to Lt. Col. John Kolasheski, Louden, Tenn., commander, 3-1 Cav. Regt., the series of missions came about when concerned citizens, tribal leaders, and National Police, expressed concerns with security on the route. The road is a major transportation route from Tuwaitha to the Jisr Diyala market place.
“They have been basically cut off from civilization,” Kolasheki said. “It has been very difficult to get to the market in Jisr Diyala because they have to make their way through an al-Qaeda controlled area.”
Some 3-1 Cav. Regt. Soldiers arrived at the site a day early to coordinate the event and then spent the night at a resident’s house.
Kolasheski said the owner of the house, an elderly woman who had left her residence because of the al-Qaeda presence in the neighborhood, returned to her house. He said many of the residents of the village are returning to their houses after concerned citizens and 3-1 Cav. Regt. Soldiers began to secure the area.
Soldiers of 3-1 Cav. Regt. expressed their appreciation and pride for their concerned citizen brothers by telling stories of heroic accomplishments.
Spc. James Conner, Cincinnati, a medic in Company E, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment who was providing engineer support for the mission, told the story of one concerned citizen who consistently stepped up when an IED was found.
“There was one guy who, when they find IEDs, goes out and disarms them,” Conner said. “He didn’t want any money or anything. All he wanted was a Gerber. I don’t know where he got the skills to disarm the IEDs. Maybe he’s an insurgent gone good.”
The concerned citizens are also proud. One of the leaders of the group said through a translator, they are revolutionaries.
“We are not the kind of revolutionaries you may think,” he said. “We are revolting against al-Qaeda. We are taking our communities back.”
While clearing houses 3-1 Cav. Regt. Soldiers found a booby-trapped house containing one hand grenade and other explosives. Conner said many of the houses in the area have been occupied by al-Qaeda.
During the mission, concerned citizens established and manned 17 checkpoints. Kolasheski said he has high hopes for the citizens to keep the checkpoints manned and fully operational.
On the first day, 3-1 Cav. Regt. Soldiers found two 57mm projectiles and a large propane tank IED, one pressure plate activated 120 mm IED, one crush wire activated 155 mm IED, two fire extinguishers, two extinguishers and one propane tank filled with explosives, and one rocket propelled grenade.
After an overnight stay at a stronghold house on the route, Soldiers and concerned citizens continued the mission. Day two resulted in three more weapon caches in three separate houses. In total 19 propane tanks, three identification cards, one 55 gallon drum containing an oil and fuel mixture, a suicide vest, a suicide belt, two 120mm mortars, a rocket propelled grenade, two canisters of munitions, two Iraqi hand grenades with bullets as fragmentation, one set of body armor, and one acetylene tank were found in the houses.
“It was a great mission for the concerned citizens and 3-1 Cav. Regt. which significantly increased the security for Tuwaitha Village,” said Maj. David Fivecoat, Delaware, Ohio, operations officer for the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
The 3-1 Cav. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.
The 2nd platoon of the 59th Military Police Company, part of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, was patrolling the area known as the brick factory, a large conglomeration of shops specializing in making bricks, based on tips from workers in the area.
The 59th MP Co., tasked as the Police Transition Team for Mada’in Qada, has been working with the 3rd HBCT since the company’s arrival to Iraq in July.
Second Lt. Darrell Jones, from Allen, Texas, and 2nd platoon leader for the company, said the company regularly patrols the area because their PTT duties often take them to the Iraqi police station north of the brick factory.
“We were patrolling through that area to get to the IP station,” Jones said. “We were linking up with the rest of the platoon to pick up our Iraqi police adviser.”
The workers in the brick factory informed Coalition Forces weeks before about insurgents regularly “shaking them down, demanding payment or they would shut down their shops,” Jones said.
The informants gave Jones and his men approximate times, days and patterns the insurgents used during their collection rounds.
Jones said though the patrol was planned, it was really chance they were in the right place at the right time.
As a section of the platoon started their patrol south through the brick factory, Jones and the rest of his men traveled north toward them on an adjacent road. Jones said as they were approaching the outskirts of the area, the insurgents saw their patrol of vehicles on the road and sought to avoid them by driving their two vehicles through the brick factory.
“As we cut up on Route Sooners, they drove right on in to the shops,” Jones said. “We cut in behind them.”
They ran right in to Jones’ men coming south. Due to the narrow lanes in the brick factory the cars had no way to turn around.
“They were pinched with nowhere to go,” Jones said. “They gave up without a fight.”
As soon as they had the insurgents cornered, Jones called in the report to the squadron’s headquarters and his men cleared the cars and detained the men.
First Lt. Luke Self, a Mobile, Ala., native and 1st platoon leader for Troop B, 3-1 Cav. Regt., and his platoon were dispatched from Narwhan. Narwhan is several kilometers west of Al-Ma’amil.
“We were pulling security for the Narwhan IPs as they worked to improve one of their checkpoints,” Self said. “We got the call that they had identified two vehicles and needed assistance processing and transporting the men.”
A search of the seven men and two vehicles netted an AK-47 assault rifle with several loaded magazines, three handguns, $1,200 in U.S. currency, and more than 18 million Iraqi Dinar. Several fake identification cards were also found.
Both Jones and Self agree the capture of these insurgents will have an affect on Shiite extremist cell operations in the area.
“It could have a positive and immediate effect,” Self said. “The populace can see the affect Coalition Forces are having in the neighborhood.”
Jones offered a similar estimation.
“Now the (insurgents) have to find new money handlers; someone they can trust with their money,” Jones said. “It shows that we’re not messing around.”
The 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, is from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
He was hoping to have a short day on Sunday and maybe get a little time off on Monday. He continues to thoroughly love his job and really feels that he is helping make a difference. Chris has a great deal of respect and admiration for the others in his troop and other Soldiers he works with. I now know the true meaning of Band of Brothers. He is getting quite anxious for R&R, as are we. 205 long days have passed since we said goodbye and we can hardly wait to see him again.
I would like to say thank you again for all those that are helping Chris through this deployment. He is very positive and has a great outlook on things and that is in part due to the tremendous support that he has received. Thanks!
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America
The gift of liberty is secured by heroes who have answered the call to serve when America needed them most. On Gold Star Mother's Day, we honor the mothers of the service men and women who have given their lives in the defense of our great Nation.
America's Gold Star Mothers are remarkable patriots who serve their communities by demonstrating good citizenship, providing support and services to our troops and veterans, and helping comfort the families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice. Their sense of duty and deep devotion to our country inspire our Nation, and we thank them for their compassion, determination, and strength. Though they carry a great burden of grief, these courageous mothers help ensure that the legacy of our fallen heroes will be forever remembered. On this day, we offer our deep gratitude and respect to our Nation's Gold Star Mothers; we honor the sons and daughters who died while wearing the uniform of the United States; and we pray for God's blessings on them, their mothers, and their families.
The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1895 as amended), has designated the last Sunday in September as "Gold Star Mother's Day" and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in its observance.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Sunday, September 30, 2007, as Gold Star Mother's Day. I call upon all Government officials to display the flag of the United States over Government buildings on this solemn day. I also encourage the American people to display the flag and hold appropriate ceremonies as a public expression of our Nation's sympathy and respect for our Gold Star Mothers.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Saturday, September 22, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Fort Benning Soldiers handed out humanitarian aid packages Sept. 12 to help break the hold insurgents have had on a poor community in Salman Pak.
A local sheik, also a concerned citizen leader, has been working with Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, to combat the insurgent stranglehold. Capt. Walter Straube, Ferndale, Calif., a fire support officer for Company B, said the Sunni sheik has been very helpful and has used his connection with the people to unify their resolve.
Straube said residents have stood up a concerned citizens group to counter insurgents who have been targeting the poverty-stricken people of the region. Insurgents have been extorting the populace by forcing them to give money, possessions or food as payment in exchange for utilities such as food, water and gas.
The Soldiers handed out bags containing rice, cooking oil and other necessities. Straube said he feels confident that humanitarian missions like this one have helped. On previous missions, Co. B Soldiers have distributed the humanitarian aid bags by hand, often while walking the neighborhoods.
“We’ve distributed bags before. Usually we go around the area and give out a few bags,” Straube said. “We’ll pass them out to people on the street, or we’ll see a kid and give him a bag to take home with him.”
Straube believes by helping residents, they will be less inclined to be pushed around by the insurgents and even less likely to be persuaded or bribed to assist insurgents.
“Instead of an insurgent offering to pay $300 for someone to dig them a hole for an improvised explosive device,” he said, “by us giving them humanitarian aid bags, they’ll probably say no as they are less likely to need it.
“Simply put, it will break the bond with the insurgents. Once that bond is broken, it will enable us to help them even more.”
Along with the humanitarian aid bags, Soldiers also distributed six generators, two 10,000-gallon gas tanks, and many blankets and mattresses in preparation for the coming winter.
Friday, September 21, 2007
3RD HBCT, 3RD INF. DIV.
FOB HAMMER — Representatives from 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Iraqi police, Iraqi army and the government of the Mada’in Qada gathered Sept. 19 at FOB Hammer to discuss security issues and initiatives.
The purpose of the meeting was to synchronize the efforts of all units to decrease violence and secure the population of the Mada’in Qada. Mada’in Qada Mayor Abu Bahar
expressed his appreciation of the Iraqi army’s participation in the meeting. Iraqi army units are a recent addition to Iraqi Security Forces in the region.
During the meeting, unit representatives briefed their counterparts on current and future operations. Much time was dedicated to proposed improvements to ISF facilities and plans to integrate concerned citizens groups into security efforts.
Concerned citizens groups within the Mada’in Qada are a new development. Leaders from 3rd HBCT estimate about 1,000 local citizens now play a role as part of concerned citizens groups. The concerned citizens are groups of Iraqi volunteers who
cooperate with Coalition Forces to drive terrorists and insurgents from their own neighborhoods. “This is a huge success,” Bahar said through an interpreter. “We would like to expand this concept to other regions.”
Bahar also said he has begun discussions with local leaders to initiate additional volunteer groups in areas that currently have no such organization. Lt. Col. Ryan J. Kuhn, deputy commander of 3rd HBCT, concurred with the mayor that concerned citizens were having a positive effect. He went on to emphasize that 3rd HBCT leadership is prepared to begin discussion with any local sheik interested in establishing a group of volunteers and encouraged his ISF counterparts to actively seek out volunteer leaders.
Brig. Gen. Adnon, the Chief of Iraqi police in the Qada, provided an update on a recent IP recruiting drive. He estimated that 80 percent of the 122 recruits have completed all prerequisites for admittance in the police academy with the exception
of physicals. Maj. Dave Fivecoat, 3rd HBCT operations offi cer, outlined the brigade’s plan to establish two Joint Security Sites. The JSS would serve as
command posts with representation from all ISF elements, local government and 3rd HBCT.
Kuhn said the establishment of Joint Security Sites would allow security forces to conduct coordinated security operations 24 hours a day. “There are a lot of great things going on in the Mada’in Qada due to everyone’s hard work,” Kuhn said.
“We have seen a signifi cant decrease in violence in the Mada’in Qada.” The 3rd HBCT is assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.
3RD HBCT, 3RD INF. DIV.
FOB HAMMER — Fort Benning Soldiers handed out humanitarian aid packages Sept. 12 to help break the hold insurgents have had on a poor community in Salman Pak.
A local sheik, also a concerned citizen leader, has been working with Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, to combat the insurgent stranglehold. Capt. Walter Straube, Ferndale, Calif., a fire support officer for Company B, said the Sunni sheik has been very
helpful and has used his connection with the people to unify their resolve.
Straube said residents have stood up a concerned citizens group to counter insurgents who have been targeting the poverty-stricken people of the region.
Insurgents have been extorting the populace by forcing them to give money, possessions or food as payment in exchange for utilities such as food, water and gas.
The Soldiers handed out bags containing rice, cooking oil and other necessities.
Straube said he feels confident that humanitarian missions like this one have helped.
On previous missions, Co. B Soldiers have distributed the humanitarian aid bags by hand, often while walking the neighborhoods.
“We’ve distributed bags before. Usually we go around the area and give out a few bags,” Straube said. “We’ll pass them out to people on the street, or we’ll see a kid and give him a bag to take home with him.” Straube believes by helping residents, they will be less inclined to be pushed around by the insurgents and
even less likely to be persuaded or bribed to assist insurgents. “Instead of an insurgent offering to pay $300 for someone to dig them a hole for an improvised explosive device,” he said, “by us giving them humanitarian aid bags, they’ll probably say no as they are less likely to need it.
“Simply put, it will break the bond with the insurgents. Once that bond is broken, it will enable us to help them even more.”
Along with the humanitarian aid bags, Soldiers also distributed six generators,
two 10,000-gallon gas tanks, and many blankets and mattresses in preparation for the coming winter.
A Pentagon ceremony for National POW/MIA Recognition Day will be held on Friday, Sept. 21, 2007. This ceremony will feature troops from each of the military services. The president will issue a proclamation commemorating the observances and reminding the nation of those Americans who have sacrificed so much for their country.
Observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day are held across the country on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, schools and veterans' facilities. This observance is one of six days throughout the year that Congress has mandated the flying of the National League of Families' POW/MIA flag. The others are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. The flag is to be flown at major military installations, national cemeteries, all post offices, VA medical facilities, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the official offices of the secretaries of state, defense and veterans affairs, the director of the selective service system and the White House.
History of National POW/MIA Recognition Day
Until July 18, 1979, no commemoration was held to honor America's POW/MIAs, those returned and those still missing and unaccounted for from our nation's wars. That first year, resolutions were passed in the Congress and the national ceremony was held at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. The Missing Man formation was flown by the 1st Tactical Squadron, Langley AFB, Virginia.The Veterans Administration published a poster including only the letters "POW/MIA" and that format was continued until 1982, when a black and white drawing of a POW in harsh captivity was used to convey the urgency of situation and the priority that President Ronald Reagan assigned to achieving the fullest possible accounting for Americans still missing from the Vietnam War.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day legislation was introduced yearly, until 1995 when it was deemed by Congress that legislation designating special commemorative days would no longer be considered by Congress. The President now signs a proclamation each year. In the early years, the date was routinely set in close proximity to the League's annual meetings. In the mid-1980's, the American Ex-POWs decided that they wished to see the date established as April 9th, the date during World War II when the largest number of Americans were captured. As a result, legislation urged by the American Ex-POWs was passed covering two years, July 20, 1984 and April 9, 1985, as the commemoration dates.
The 1984 National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony was held at the White House, hosted by President Ronald Reagan. At that most impressive ceremony, the Reagan Administration balanced the focus to honor all returned POWs and renew national commitment to accounting as fully as possible for those still missing. Perhaps the most impressive Missing Man formation ever flown was that year, up the Ellipse and over the White House. Unfortunately, the 1985 ceremony was canceled due to inclement weather, a concern that had been expressed when the April 9th date was proposed.
Subsequently, in an effort to accommodate all returned POWs and all Americans still missing and unaccounted for from all wars, the National League of Families proposed the third Friday in September, a date not associated with any particular war and not in conjunction with any organization's national convention. Most National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies have been held at the Pentagon. On September 19, 1986, however, the national ceremony was held on the steps on the U.S. Capitol facing the Mall, again concluding with a flight in Missing Man formation.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremonies are now held throughout the nation and around the world on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, at schools, churches, national veteran and civic organizations, police and fire departments, fire stations, etc. The League's POW/MIA flag is flown, and the focus is to ensure that America remembers its responsibility to stand behind those who serve our nation and do everything possible to account for those who do not return.
Your Soldier, Your Army: A Parents’ Guide was written by Vicki Cody, wife of GEN Richard Cody, Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, and the mother of two Apache helicopter pilots with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Mrs. Cody turns her own 30-year experience as the wife and mother of Soldiers into advice and consolation for other parents with deploying children. The book’s tone is warm and confidential with an honest mix of pride and tribulation, a tone that appeals to concerned parents. Mrs. Cody covers the whole gamut of deployments, from the preparation through the endurance to the homecoming, and includes a personal view into Army life and an explanation of Army terminology. Supplemental articles and exclamation points feature tips and facts about the Army.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
WASHINGTON - In response to Soldier feedback, Program Executive Officer-Soldier has designed the new Army Combat Shirt to be even more breatheable.
The flame-resistant ACS is in development for use under body armor. It is designed to replace two layers, the Army Combat Uniform jacket and moisture-wicking T-shirt, thus reducing bulk and heat stress.
"As providers of the world's best equipment to the world's best Soldiers, we collect and rely on Soldiers' input and ideas to constantly improve all of our products," said Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, Program Executive Officer Soldier. "All of our clothing and equipment is battle-proven and live-fire tested. Those labels can't be earned in a laboratory."
The ACS features a mock-turtleneck, long sleeves in the universal camouflage pattern, flat seams that reduce bulk and chafing and built-in anti-abrasion elbow pads. The shirt is moisture-wicking, anti-microbial and odor-resistant.
The latest version of the shirt includes upgrades based on Soldier feedback collected since the shirt was first distributed in the spring for limited-user evaluations.
"Even though we developed the Army Combat Shirt to be lighter, more comfortable and breathable, we listened to Soldiers who tested it and said they wanted it to be even more breathable and comfortable," said Maj. Clay Williamson, assistant product manager for clothing and individual equipment. "The fabric that made up the torso of the ACS was replaced with a fabric that provides breathability that is off the charts."
However, to retain modesty, the original fabric was maintained in the mid-chest area. Both fabrics have a four-way stretch.
Another change that increased breathability was replacing the elastic cuffs designed to keep out sand with adjustable cuffs similar to ACU jacket cuffs. The cuffs can be loosened for ventilation or tightened to keep out sand and other debris. Changes were also made to the neck band.
Although the ACS was designed to be worn under the Interceptor Body Armor, test participants noted the short breaks between patrols made it impractical to change into the ACU jacket. They wanted changes to the ACS that would identify them and their unit. In response, hook and loop tape was added to the right sleeve to accommodate a name tape, rank and infrared flag. The left sleeve also sports hook and loop tape for a unit patch.
The ACS with the most recent improvements will be available in late September for follow-on user evaluations. The shirt is still a developmental garment, and further fielding will be determined by the Department of the Army.
(Debi Dawson works for the PEO Soldier Strategic Communications Office.)
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I ran across this today at A Soldier's Mind and found it very appropriate to share. I wish everyone in America was thankful for what our children, spouses, mothers, fathers and other loved ones are doing for OUR freedom.
I am a man or a woman, a father or a mother, a brother or a sister, a son or I am a daughter, I am black, white, red, yellow, or I am brown. I am as you are, for I am American. I came from abroad and I came from here, having sworn an oath or by birthright, as an American I have what many in our world crave and dream of and that is freedom.
I am free to fall asleep at night without fear of being roused from my bed at gunpoint and I am free to speak my mind. I am free to work and pray when I choose and I have become as comfortable with my freedoms that I take them all for granted. I come from all walks of life and from all levels of wealth yet as an American I am an equal among my fellow citizens and I can choose to do with my life what I will. As an American, I am privileged though far too often I do not think of this as I am far too busy with mundane things to consider it. Some may say these are foolish statements but they are in fact the truth.
All of these freedoms have come at a price, a price I will never pay, that burden has fallen to another. There are a few Americans that have chosen to be my guarantors because they have chosen to be my defenders and they have chosen this of their own free will and at great personal cost. I speak of the noblest among us, of the ones who have answered the call to arms. I speak of you my dear friend, I speak of you.
I would like to apologize to you my brother, for taking you for granted, and I would like to thank you my sister for your sacrifice. To you my son, I tell you of the pride I felt in my heart as I watched you leave for far away lands and to you my daughter, I say I have never known such a love. Father, I ask for your understanding when I turned my back on you, unable to look you in the eye and see your greatness, and mother forgive me for my unkind words towards you when I did not understand what it was you had done for me. I now know that without you, I would not be.
It has taken me far too long to realize the sacrifices you have made for me and as ashamed as I am for my ignorance, I could not allow another day to pass without telling you how I feel and how grateful I am to you for the person you are. I have chosen today to let you know that I finally understand. I understand what it is you have known for so long, that there is no other country like America. With all it’s flaws, America is a shining beacon to all the world of what can be achieved and what must be protected at all cost.
To you my friend I say, God’s speed. You so deserve and have my admiration and respect. You brave and noble warrior take into your heart my gratitude and my love. I’ll keep the home fires burning until you return when you work is done and on that day I’ll grasp your hand as I look you in the eye and say to you, “Thank You.”
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd Brigade Combat Team
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment are leaving Camp Bucca, Iraq, after six months of detention operations and heading to Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq.
Since 3rd Brigade Combat Team came to Iraq in mid-March, the 1-10 FAR has been separated from the brigade and stationed in Southern Iraq. They were attached to the 16th Military Police Brigade at Camp Bucca.
The battalion is expected to make the transition to FOB Hammer in late September and assume control of the Nahrwan area of operation in the Ma’a'in Qada in mid-October, said Capt. Scott Lorenzen, of Des Moines, Iowa, battle captain, 1-10 FAR.
Soldiers living at FOB Hammer are readying accomodations for the arrival of their 1-10 FAR comrades.
Air conditioned living quarters and latrines are set up in what will be the unit’s logistical support area. Engineers of the 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron, currently attached to 3rd BCT to aid in rebuilding and maintenance of the FOB, have already completed the battalion headquarters building. Early arrivals of 1-10 FAR are in the process of setting up work stations and offices.
Sgt. Roderick Thompson, of Selma, Ala., is new to the unit and said he is excited to have his battle buddies join him at FOB Hammer. His daily tasks include ensuring the communication aspects of the headquarters building will be fully operational upon the unit’s arrival.
“I’m still getting to know everyone on the team,” Thompson said. “I’m getting to meet new people and with the arrival of the rest of 1-10 (FAR). I’ll be able to get to know Soldiers from my own unit.”
Lorenzen said the unit is executing the movement rapidly with few difficulties.
“There are a lot of moving pieces,” he said. “Trying to keep track of all the moving pieces is probably the hardest part, but everything has been running pretty smoothly.”
Upon arrival to their new area of operation, the unit must make the transition from military police work to conducting full-spectrum operations.
“I think we will do very well in the transition,” Lorenzen said. “We have pushed our Soldiers back to Kuwait for retraining and it should be an easy transition.”
First Sgt. Michael Patton, of Memphis, Tenn., Battery B, 1-10 FAR believes his Soldiers will have no problem getting back into field artillery missions.
“I don’t think there are going to be any challenges making the change,” he said. “My unit is going back to fire support missions. That’s our job. Most Soldiers know their jobs already and they are glad to come back to doing their job.”
Lorenzen said working at Camp Bucca in the detention facility has given the battalion Soldiers an experience that will help them accomplish their mission in Nahrwan.
“We learned a lot about Iraqi culture,” he said. “We spent so much time with the Iraqi people that we’ve picked up a lot of things that will help us for this next mission.”
The Soldiers must also re-adjust to FOB life. Accommodations at FOB Hammer are very different than those at Camp Bucca. Soldiers will be going from a well-established base to one where 3rd BCT is the first occupier.
“Bucca has been there for five years, so it’s more established,” Lorenzen said. “I think the transition will be harder for Soldiers who haven’t been deployed to Iraq before now. For the rest of us, it’s not going to be a big surprise. FOB Hammer is what I was expecting.”
First Lt. Scott Dickson, of Midwestern, Kan., Battery B executive officer, said he believes the changes will be welcome.
“There are less people at Hammer,” he said. “This means shorter lines, longer time on the phones and internet, and a faster laundry turnaround. Yeah, there is dust everywhere, but everyone understands that and it’s not that bad.”
The 3rd BCT is assigned to 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.
By Drew Brown, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, September 19, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq — The raid went down like clockwork.
Within two hours of receiving a tip that four wanted members of the Mahdi Army, a Shiite extremist group, were spending the night at their homes, soldiers of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment went to work.
Moving by Humvees just before 2 a.m. into a neighborhood laced by canals on the southeastern fringe of Baghdad known as Four Corners, troop commander Capt. Troy Thomas and his soldiers quickly isolated the homes of the wanted men and moved in.
Within minutes, they found their quarry. The operation, which lasted less than 90 minutes, also netted several illegal weapons, propaganda materials, stashed cell phones and a trove of documents that would likely lead to other wanted figures.
One of the captured men had been hired to kill Thomas’ top informant, Thomas said. Another was a photographer who documented roadside bomb attacks against U.S. forces. The third was part of a kidnapping ring and had transported bombs. The fourth, surprisingly, was a local Sunni who spied for the Mahdi Army, or Jaish al-Mahdi, the militia of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and among the most radical of Iraq’s sectarian groups.
The men were among 66 wanted individuals, all but a handful of them Shiite extremists, that Troop A had detained in the past two months in Four Corners. Because of the aggressive targeting, sectarian violence in the area has dropped dramatically.
“There used to be upwards of two to three sectarian killings a week when we first got here,” said Thomas, 34, of Litchfield, Minn. “Now, we’re down to about one a month. (The reason is) we’ve gotten most of the bad guys.”
While the Troop A raid, conducted earlier this month, represents just one successful operation in one small sector of U.S.-occupied Iraq, it’s representative of many of the successes that are occurring across 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division’s sector, which encompasses most of the east and southeastern flank of Baghdad east of the Tigris River.
Since arriving in Iraq five months ago, the brigade has built a new forward operating base in the desert east of the Iraqi capital and established four combat outposts in areas that have seen little U.S. presence in the past four years. Eight infantry and cavalry companies now operate in an area where there used to be only two.
Charged with interdicting insurgents, weapons, bombs and other “accelerants” into Baghdad as part of the ‘surge’ in U.S. forces to cut down in sectarian violence in the capital, brigade officers say they are succeeding in that mission. “The ‘surge’ is definitely working from FOB Hammer’s perspective,” said Col. Wayne Grigsby, 3rd Brigade commander. “There’s no question about it.”
Since June 15, when the 3rd Infantry Division launched Marne Torch, the first of several offensives aimed at disrupting insurgent activity south of Baghdad, the 3rd Brigade has killed more than 100 enemy fighters, captured more than 260 others, including at least eight “high-value individuals,” and conducted numerous missions with Iraqi army and police forces, Grigsby and other officers say.
But Grigsby cautioned, “There’s still a lot of bad guys out there.”
Still, the brigade’s mission has focused on more than bullets and bombs, with $10 million already spent on local projects, mostly to improve roads and water distribution, and $16 million committed to future projects. The biggest project is the restoration of a water pump station that supplies 90 percent of the water in the district, which insurgents destroyed several months ago.
“We’ve been following the COIN (counterinsurgency) manual to a T,” said Grigsby.
According to Maj. Joe Sowers, the brigade’s public affairs officer, the economic projects have employed 3,200 local residents, giving some of them an alternative to taking up arms.
“Obviously, some of the insurgency is economics driven,” Sowers said. “If you can’t make money, if there’s no economic alternative, then maybe shooting a [rocket-propelled grenade] or putting out [a roadside bomb] is what you do.”
Lt. Col. Todd Ratliff, commander of the brigade’s Special Troops Battalion, said that as security improves in the sector, economics and local governance projects will become more of the brigade’s focus. One program will give $10,000 in start-up money for promising local business projects. The hope is that at least one-third of them will succeed. Unemployment in the area runs at 70 percent.
“If people see that we’re working to improve the local economy, then they will be more inclined to support the local government,” he said. Ratliff also has noticed another trend: The more local contractors he hires for local projects, the more tips he gets on the activities of the “bad guys.”
Only so much can be done in 15 months, but at least, it’s a start, Ratliff said. “We know we’re going to have only a small impact here in 15 months,” he said. “But if we can at least get the ball rolling, then it will be better for the next unit that comes in.”
Grigsby credited 3rd Brigade’s success to the fact that more Iraqis were cooperating now with his troops than ever before. “They know that we are here to stay,” he said.
But with President Bush promising to withdraw at least 20,000 troops from Iraq by July, it’s unclear how long there will be a sustained U.S. presence in 3rd Brigade’s area of operations.
Monday, September 17, 2007
3rd HBCT Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Army Chief of Chaplains Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Douglas Carver visited chaplains and chaplain assistants of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Sept. 15 during a trip to FOB Hammer.
Before sitting down with religious leaders to discuss mentorship and Soldier welfare, Carver took a tour of the brigade headquarters. During the tour he asked Soldiers the question he deems the most important.
“’How are you doing?’ is the most important question Soldiers can ask each other,” Carver said. “Not just ‘How are you doing?’ but ‘How are you really doing?’ and really listen to their answer.”
After the tour Carver met with chaplains and chaplain assistants of 3rd HBCT and the 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron residing at FOB Hammer.
“Soldiers need us,” he said. “They need us for encouragement, comfort, relieving their fears and encouraging their hope.”
Carver said when Soldiers return to the U.S. from their current deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom they are going to need guidance from their religious leaders to return to normalcy from a stressful 15 months.
After emphasizing the need for chaplains and chaplain assistants in armed forces units, he warned the religious leaders of compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is caused by the stresses of providing constant sympathy and empathy to Soldiers on a steady basis. Carver encouraged religious leaders to take time for themselves.
“Find time to rest. Rest is your time to replenish, to sit back and listen to God,” he said. “If you are not resting, you are not hearing God. If you are not hearing God, what are you telling your Soldiers?”
Carver awarded coins to three deserving 3rd HBCT religious leaders. Awardees were:
• Chaplain (Capt.) Anthony Randall, Arvada, Colo., chaplain, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.
• Pfc. James Bullock, Wadsworth, Ill., chaplain assistant, 3-1 Cav. Regt.
• Pfc. Courtney Stephens, Jacksonville, Fla., chaplain assistant, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion.
“When this tour is over,” Carver said, “you are going to know something about your personal faith.”
The 3rd HBCT is assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.
Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Douglas Carver, Army chief of chaplains, shakes hands with Capt. Philip Demme, Lacey, Wash., battle captain, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Sept. 15 during Carver’s visit to Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq.
3rd HBCT Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Members of the U.S. House of Representatives visited 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment to tour a portion of the battalion’s area of operations Sept. 14.
The congressmen arrived at Combat Outpost Cahill to meet with members of 3rd Infantry Division and 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team before moving to the Joint Security Station in Salman Pak. The Salman Pak JSS houses Iraqi national police, Iraqi police, and U.S. military personnel from 3rd HBCT.
“It was a great opportunity to display how Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces are working together at the (JSS) to enhance the security for the good people of the Mada’in Qada,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, deputy commanding officer, 3rd HBCT. “The congressmen could see firsthand how the officers, noncommissioned officers, and Soldiers from both sides are working together to solve security problems and enhance the citizens’ quality of life.”
The delegates, Rep. Steve King, of Iowa; Rep. Joe Wilson, of South Carolina; Rep. Devin Nunes, of California; Rep. Tom Latham, of Iowa; Rep. Patrick Tiberi, of Ohio; Rep. Peter Hoestra, of Michigan; and Rep. John Boehner, of Ohio, toured the outpost and the JSS during their visit.
The 1-15th Inf. Regt. is assigned to 3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div., Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.