Friday, February 29, 2008

2/28/08 Marne Focus

Thursday, 28 February 2008
Soldiers air assault in, track HVT; Sprint to finish in last 100 days; Iraqi judges get automated; 5-7 Cav. continues to erode insurgent resources

1-10 Field Artillary Soldiers Hydrate Village

Villagers from Tesah Nissan, Iraq, move boxes of water, Feb. 27, provided by Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery.


By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd Brigade Combat Team,
3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers of Company A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery visited the Tesah Nissan village Feb. 27, bringing with them 480 cases of clean drinking water.

“We do this every week,” said Capt. Chas Cannon, from Moultrie, Ga., Company A commander. “This is about our 22nd time doing it.”

Cannon gets the water from an Iraqi contractor, through a Commander’s Emergency Relief Program. Members of the local sheiks advisory council choose which village will receive the shipment of water each week, Cannon said.

“We have a loud speaker and broadcast that we’re there,” he said. “They know what’s going on and they are happy to see us.”

Cannon said Company A supplies villagers with more than just water. Soldiers bring medication once every two weeks and recently delivered five wheelchairs to handicapped citizens.

Cannon said he is currently in the process of organizing another wheelchair delivery.

“We try to provide as many essential services as possible,” he said. “We are trying to get the Government of Iraq more involved. They are doing great so far. The key is to get communications flowing between the Government of Iraq and local sheiks. That way the citizens will have a better appreciation of how their government is supporting them.”

The 1-10 FA is assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

Comedians Keep FOB Hammer Laughing

Comedian Bill Dykes, from New Orleans, performs for Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, during a comedy show Feb. 25 at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq.


By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd Brigade Combat Team,
3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team were treated to a night of laughter during a show put on by three comedians, Feb. 25, at the Soldier, Airman, and Civilian Center on FOB Hammer.

Bill Dykes, Touchee Jackson, and James Gleason, who goes by the nickname Cowboy Comedian, left the United States Feb. 11 and since have been bringing laughter and comedy to Soldiers serving overseas. They have visited Soldiers at the Bahrain Navel Base, Djibouti, Africa, Kuwait and Baghdad during their current tour.

Master Sgt. Roy Brown, from Pace, Miss., the FOB Hammer Morale, Welfare, and Recreation senior noncommissioned officer, said he enjoys having the opportunity to give Soldiers the break they need.

“In my 24 years, I know it’s very important to get Soldiers out of the war zone, even for a minute, so they can strengthen themselves mentally and continue on another day,” Brown said.

It was obvious by the amount of laughter in the room, 3rd HBCT Soldiers enjoyed the show.

“I enjoyed the show,” said Sgt. Warren Cach, from Stuarts Draft, Va., Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. “It’s nice to laugh so much. The Cowboy Comedian was hysterical.”

Spc. Jeremy Allen, from Broadus, Mont., Headquarters Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, agreed.

“The show was great,” he said. “I had a great time.”

This is the first Morale, Welfare, and Recreation tour for Dykes and Jackson. Gleason, a native of Lexington, Ky., visited Soldiers in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia last year.

“It was such a pleasure during my last tour that I wanted to give back more,” Gleason said.

Dykes, a resident of New Orleans, said his motivation came from stories his friends would tell of their experience overseas supporting the troops.

“I begged to get on this tour,” he said. “I really wanted to get it from the guys themselves. Also, after Katrina, and all the support the Army gave, I felt I needed to do something to give it back.”
Jackson, from Houston, is using this tour as a learning experience.

“I wanted to see, up front, what all this was really about,” he said. “I want to give my side of the story to America. Comedians talk to people all the time and I want to tell them the progress I’ve seen out here because most of the time all they hear about is the negative stuff.”

Each comedian, coming from different backgrounds in comedy, said they enjoy what they do.

Gleason had a heart attack and was unable to continue his career in rodeo. He and his wife were watching a comedy show one night after the incident, he explained.

“I’m funnier than they are,” he told his wife after which she suggested he go for it.
“I thank my wife,” Gleason said. “She has supported me through everything.”

Gleason, who hails from a military family, said he didn’t want to follow in his family’s footsteps but still wanted to support the troops.

“I’ve missed Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays and my wife doesn’t say anything about it,” he explained. “She knows how much this means to me.”

Jackson, who used to write sketch comedy, said he knew stand up was something he wanted to try. He attended an “open-mic night” and did not succeed, he said.

“I tried again and loved it,” he said. “Comedy is something where you are always learning. You are always figuring it out. I’d do this for free. Anything you love doing, you would do for free.”

Dykes has been a self-described ‘smart-alec’ all his life. He said he was strongly encouraged by his girlfriend at the time to attend a comedy class in New Orleans.

“I went to the class and then we did the graduation show,” he said. “The laughter was amazing.”

The comedians said after each tour they are thanked but all agreed the Soldiers are the ones who need to be thanked for what they do.

“Without those guys we wouldn’t have the opportunities we do,” Jackson said.

“I had a guy Soldier come up to me after a show and say ‘thank you’,” Gleason said. “I said ‘dude, you don’t have to thank me. We get popcorn thrown at us … we get heckled ... we don’t get shot at.’”

“Someone told me we were brave for what we do,” Jackson said. “I laughed. They are the brave ones. A Soldier is a special breed just like a comedian is a special breed, only our weapon is a microphone.”

All three comedians said they hope to continue traveling to support the troops overseas.

“I wouldn’t turn this down for nothing,” Jackson said. “It takes the stress away for just a moment.

You learn to appreciate the little things. Soldiers learn to adapt out here and things don’t bother them. It’s an eye opening experience and one I will never forget.”

The 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

1-10 FA Soldiers Hydrate Village

Villagers from Tesah Nissan, Iraq, move boxes of water Feb. 27 provided by Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery. (Photo courtesy of 1-10th FA)


Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq

Soldiers of Company A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery visited the Tesah Nissan village Feb. 27, bringing with them 480 cases of clean drinking water.

“We do this every week,” said Capt. Chas Cannon, from Moultrie, Ga., Company A commander. “This is about our 22nd time doing it.”

Cannon gets the water from an Iraqi contractor, through a Commander’s Emergency Relief Program. Members of the local sheiks advisory council choose which village will receive the shipment of water each week, Cannon said.

“We have a loud speaker and broadcast that we’re there,” he said. “They know what’s going on and they are happy to see us.”

Cannon said Company A supplies villagers with more than just water. Soldiers bring medication once every two weeks and recently delivered five wheelchairs to handicapped citizens.

Cannon said he is currently in the process of organizing another wheelchair delivery.

“We try to provide as many essential services as possible,” he said. “We are trying to get the Government of Iraq more involved. They are doing great so far. The key is to get communications flowing between the Government of Iraq and local sheiks. That way the citizens will have a better appreciation of how their government is supporting them.”

The 1-10 FA is assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Former 3rd HBCT Commander Visits FOB Hammer

Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., from Prince George's County, Md., commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, explains operations of the brigade tactical operations center to Brig. Gen. Dan Allyn, Chief of Staff of the XVIII Airborne Corps, and former commander of the 3rd HBCT, Feb. 17, at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Dan Allyn, Chief of Staff of the XVIII Airborne Corps, and former commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, shakes hands with Staff Sgt. Julio Latorre, a non-commissioned officer in the brigade plans section, before a meeting, Feb. 17, at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq.

Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., from Prince George's County, Md., commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, sits down to discuss operations in the brigade's area of operation with Brig. Gen. Dan Allyn, Chief of Staff of the XVIII Airborne Corps, and former commander of the 3rd HBCT, Feb. 17, at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq.


Story and photos by Sgt. Natalie Rostek

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Brig. Gen. Dan Allyn, Chief of Staff of the XVIII Airborne Corps, visited leaders of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Feb. 17, at Forward Operating Base Hammer.

Allyn, former commander of the 3rd HBCT, visited with Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, from Prince George’s County, Md., current 3rd HBCT commander, battalion commanders and command sergeants major for a briefing on the brigade’s current operations in the Mada’in Qada.

Before the briefing, Grigsby gave Allyn a quick tour of the brigade headquarters. During the tour, Allyn met Soldiers and officers working in the tactical operations center, many of whom he worked with during his time with the brigade.

The briefing began with an overview of the progression FOB Hammer has undergone from March 2007 until now. Allyn, having previously commanded the brigade during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, understood FOB improvement efforts were primarily the work of the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion.

“It looks like the Eagles (203rd BSB) have been getting after it,” he said.

Allyn, who was recently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, ensured FOB Hammer was his first stop, to meet with his former brigade’s leaders.

“This has been a great treat for me,” he said. “I hope I can turn something around and make this worth your time.”

After the briefing, Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan, from Huntsville, Ala., commander of 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, and his Soldiers took Allyn on a patrol through Sabbah Nissan. Sullivan, who has been with the brigade for nine years, previously worked under Allyn’s command.

“The patrol highlighted the success of the Sons of Iraq and the creation of the local council that represent the 12 villages along Butler Range Road,” Sullivan said. “This significant gain in security allows us to move forward in governance and economics.”

Sullivan believes the key to coalition force success is to provide locals with alternatives to criminal activity.

“Because of the improvements in security and the council, we have reached a point where we have Iraqi leaders educating the people on governance and economics,” he said. “This is a huge step and will ultimately affect the prospects of the nahia in the future.

The 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., is currently on its third tour and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

February 1, 2008 Hammer Times

Vol. 03, Issue 18 Published for the Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division February 1, 2008

Local Council Bridges the Gap

Capt. Brian Gilbert, from Boise, Idaho, commander of Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, currently attached to 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, enjoys a meal with members of the Zahara Local Community Council following a meeting with council members and local governmental leaders in Zahara, Iraq, Feb. 25.

Capt. Brian Gilbert, from Boise, Idaho, commander of Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, currently attached to 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, and Haydar Razzat, city manager of Jisr Diyala, attend a meeting between members of the Zahara Local Community Council and local governmental leaders in Zahara, Iraq, Feb. 25.

By Maj. Joe Sowers
3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team,
3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers from Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, currently attached to the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, sat down with community and local governmental leaders in Zahara, a small town southeast of Baghdad, to facilitate communication between residents and their governmental officials, Feb. 25.

Leaders of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team recently began facilitating the development of Local Community Councils to improve communication between residents and their nahia councils.

“Local community councils help connect the government to the people,” said Maj. Andy Koloski, from Juneau, Alaska, executive officer for 3-1st Cav. Regt. “The lowest governmental body is a nahia council, but an LCC helps connect that body to the individual constituents through their tribal leaders. It is an essential element that merges democratic government with the traditional tribal structure.”

Koloski said the LCC is a good vehicle for citizens to interact with their local leaders. He also stated that such a step would not have been possible previously, due to security concerns.

“This meeting represents a huge step forward for the people of the area since they now have a venue to air their needs and concerns with some reasonable expectation that that government will hear them and take action,” Koloski said. “This would not have been possible in this area 10 months ago.”

Capt. Damond Davis, from Montgomery, Ala., fire support officer for 3-1st Cav. Regt., said the area used to be dominated by extremists, but the formation of a local Sons of Iraq group and increased cooperation with tribal leaders has improved security and communication between Soldiers and residents.

“When we first arrived, we were having trouble conveying the message that the government is here for the people,” Davis said. “The government was executing projects, but locals did not know that the government was working for them. Through the LCC, the people have a voice to the governmental leaders, but the governmental leaders also have a venue to speak with the people. It makes it easier to quell rumors.”

The 3-1st Cav. Regt. and the 1-15 Inf. Regt. are assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Ga., and have been deployed to Iraq since March.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

100 Day Letter



Last week I published my “100 Day Letter,” a list of objectives Multi-National Division – Center will strive to accomplish during the Division Headquarters’ last 100 days. Together, we are going to spend these last 100 days sprinting to the finish line to hand off the baton to the 10th Mountain Division Headquarters.

Over the past 11 months, we have seen attack levels drop to pre-2004 statistics. The Surge gave us the combat power to take the fight to the enemy. We no longer commute to work – you are set in over 56 patrol bases and combat outposts to secure the population. You are stabilizing the area by meeting the needs of the Iraqi people.

We are in the “relentless pursuit” phase – we are watching where the enemy is fleeing, and following him there. We are also in “relentless pursuit” of the non-lethal lines of operations. As we sprint towards the finish line, we will work to further reduce the insurgency, increase the capability of the Iraqi Security Forces, increase the capacity of the Iraqi government and the local economy, push through the national media filter by engaging hometown outlets and the Arabic press, prepare for transition with the 10th Mountain Division, and focus on the four “Rs”: reenlistment, redeployment, reintegration, and re-set.

Reduce the insurgency. We are continue to clear enemy safe havens and build patrol bases in order to give the enemy no where to hide. As the Surge forces redeploy, we will not give up ground for which our Soldiers fought and died by only transitioning patrol bases to the Iraqi Security Forces. We are also supporting the detainee release program by releasing 300 detainees per month. Each detainee is “signed for” by a local sheikh, and if the detainee is re-arrested, so will his guarantor.

Increase the capability of the Iraqi Security Forces. We will continue to partner with the Iraqi Security Forces, build police stations, transition new units into Sayafiyah and Salman Pak, and renovate Joint Security Sites. The Task Force Marne Non-Commissioned Officer Academy is developing Iraqi non-commissioned officers to be the backbone of their military, as non-commissioned officers are the backbone of ours.

Increase the capacity of the Iraqi government and the local economy. Everything starts at the local level and money is still a munition. Our main goal is to provide Iraqis with sustainable employment – employed Iraqis are not emplacing IEDs as a means of income. Water is a stabilizing force, and we will enable the repairs of the irrigation pumps and the treatment plants to deliver potable water to the Iraqi people. Many of you have already provided security for the Ministry of Electricity to repair power lines, and we will continue to provide security so the Iraqi people have power.

Empowering local governing councils is the key as well as working with local agriculture unions. We have become known as the Division who knows how to develop women’s initiatives, and we will continue to work with Iraqi women on issues that affect women and children.

Push through the national media filter by engaging hometown outlets and the Arabic press. All of you are accomplishing good news stories everyday, and we will continue to push through the national media filter by engaging our own local hometowns. We will also empower Iraqis to tell their own stories through local radio stations and local newspapers.

Prepare for transition with the 10th Mountain Division. All upcoming transitions are important, and setting our successors up for success is the way to ensure we do not lose momentum.

The four “Rs”: reenlistment, redeployment, reintegration, and re-set. I know the Army is not breaking because so many of you continue to reenlist. And when we redeploy, we are going to focus on Soldiers and their Families – all Soldiers will be afforded both their block leave and their administrative leave.

We will not rest on our laurels, but we will continue to make this Division better. You all have accomplished unbelievable progress, but we still have two missing Soldiers. Over the next 100 days, we will do everything possible to find Alex Jimenez and Byron Fouty, and to kill or capture the insurgents involved in their attack. “I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, and I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Rock of the Marne!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

1-15 Inf. Regt. Soldiers Make Presence in Khanassa

First Lt. Josh Jones, a platoon leader in Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, talks to a sheik from the village of Kesra in southern Khanassa, Iraq, Feb. 24. (Photo/Sgt. Timothy Kingston, 55th Combat Camera)

Soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, conduct a foot patrol through the village of Kesra in southern Khanassa, Iraq, Feb. 24. (Photo/Sgt. Timothy Kingston, 55th Combat Camera)

Spc. Mark Matthews, from Springfield, Mass., a medic in Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, provides security during an operation in the village of Kesra in southern Khanassa, Iraq, Feb. 24. (Photo/Sgt. Timothy Kingston, 55th Combat Camera)


Sgt. Max Free, with the 67th Engineer Company, currently attached to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, watches as Sam, a military search dog, looks for weapons and munitions during an operation in the village of Kesra in southern Khanassa, Iraq, Feb. 24. (Photo/Sgt. Timothy Kingston, 55th Combat Camera)

By SgtRostek
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, visited the village of Kesra in southern Khanassa, Iraq, Feb. 24 to meet with local leaders.

Soldiers and leaders, including the commander of the 1-15th Inf. Regt., Lt. Col. Jack Marr, from Minneapolis, visited the village to discuss how coalition forces can support the area’s humanitarian and security needs.

“We have only done air assault missions in the area in the past,” said Maj. John Cushing, from Rochester, Mich., the 1-15 Inf. Regt. operations officer. “No one has been there for the reasons we were today. They had not seen coalition forces driving during the day since 2006.”

Cushing said Khanassa has been a hostile area in the past.

“We were unsure of how we were going to be welcomed,” he said. “But I think they were just as curious as we were.”

The welcome was not what they had expected, Cushing said. Local leaders greeted the unit by coming to the front gate of Combat Outpost Carver, home to Company B, 1-15th Inf. Regt., to escort the Soldiers to their village.

“After the meeting we had with about 25 different sheiks, we did a foot patrol through the town and people followed us,” Cushing said. “It was a warm welcome.”

Cushing said he was impressed by the village’s organization. Citizens were securing their community with guard positions without any help from coalition forces.

“They had a robust market,” he said. “It was probably better than any market I’ve seen in our (area of operation). It looked like they weren’t hurting for any supplies.”

Despite their stability, Cushing said there are still ways to assist the village. Plans are in the works to provide the village with water.

“We will continue to work with the sheiks,” Cushing said. “We want to set up the town for future relationships and improvements. This is a good example of how towns all over Iraq are starting to come together to force al-Qaida out.”

The 1-15 Inf. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

Sons of Iraq Identify Weapons Cache in Tuwaitha

By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. PAO

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers of 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, with assistance from the Sons of Iraq, found a weapons cache Feb. 23 in Tuwaitha.

The cache consisted of three 82 mm Chinese mortars, three PG-7 launchers, two 40 mm Iraqi OG-7 projectiles, one Bulgarian OG-7V projectile, one 70 mm USSR PG-7M projectile, one 85 mm USSR PG-7 projectile and one PG launcher trigger assembly.

Capt. Damond Davis, from Montgomery, Ala., fire support officer for 3-1st Cav. Regt., said the cache was found in an orchard that squadron leaders believe was formally used by al-Qaida to conceal weapons.

“The Sons of Iraq are doing great,” Davis said. “They are continuing to identify caches, especially in this area. They have identified more than eight caches in this past month.”

Since the SoI group began operating in Tuwaitha last fall, there have been no attacks on coalition forces. Security has improved, Davis said, bringing additional benefits to the community.

“Some of the people that have been displaced are moving back into their homes,” Davis said.

The 3-1st Cav. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

Baghdad Governor Opens Rustimiyah Bridge

A new land bridge connecting the Mada’in Qada and Baghdad opened Feb. 22. The government of Iraq constructed the bridge to alleviate traffic congestion and plans on rehabilitating a larger, adjacent bridge (in background), which was damaged by a truck bomb May 11, in coming months.

Mushen Nasser, the Mada’in Qada mayor, listens to the chairman of the Joint Rural Planning Committee of the Mada’in Qada at a ceremony marking the opening of a new land bridge connecting the Mada’in Qada to Baghdad, Feb. 22.

An ensemble plays the Iraqi national anthem at a ceremony marking the opening of a land bridge connecting the Mada’in Qada to Baghdad, Feb. 22.

Iraqi motorcycle police from Baghdad parade across a new land bridge connecting the Mada’in Qada and Baghdad, Feb. 22.

By Maj. Joe Sowers
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Div

Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Hussein Tahan, governor of Baghdad province, cut a ribbon to open the new Rustimiyah Bridge across the Diyala River, Feb. 22.

The new bridge runs adjacent to a larger bridge that was damaged when an extremist detonated a truck bomb on it, May 11. The larger bridge reopened May 16, but remains in need of rehabilitation.

“Today is a great day,” said Tahan during a speech at the opening ceremony. “It is a sign that security has improved.”

The governor went on to highlight future governmental projects.

“This year is the year of services,” Tahan said. “In the last few days, I’ve signed contracts for projects worth more than 30 billion Iraqi dinar and there is more to come.”

Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., the 3rd Brigade Combat Team deputy commanding officer, said local governmental leaders resourced and managed the bridge construction with very little coalition support.

“This was completely done by the Iraqis,” Kuhn said. “All of the contracting and construction was done by Iraqis. There was no external support. This just goes to show what the government of Iraq can accomplish when security is in place.”

Kuhn said the bridge will facilitate the movement of agricultural products from the Mada’in Qada to Baghdad by helping alleviate congested traffic along a key route connecting the qada and the capital city. He estimated 60 percent of the qada economy is connected to “agro-business.” Local leaders plan to further renovate the larger bridge for commercial traffic, while the new bridge will be restricted to commuters.

The 1-15 Inf. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

New Dog Face Soldier Video

New Dog Face Soldier Video

Monday, February 25, 2008

Iraqi Security Forces, Local Shop Owners Clean Up Four Corners Market District

Sgt. Brandon Sayles, from Hilo, Hawaii, a squad leader in Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, speaks with a member of the Concerned Local Citizens in the Four Corners market district , southeast of Baghdad, Feb. 21. The 3rd National Police Battalion, Sons of Iraq, local Iraqi police and coalition forces worked with shop owners in Four Corners to help clean up the market area.


By Spc. Ben Hutto
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Cars did not jam the streets of the Four Corners market district, southeast of Baghdad, Feb. 21. The market was not packed with shoppers and merchants selling their wares; nonetheless, the scene was a far cry from just under one year ago.

Eleven months ago, local people would not come to the market; few shops were even open.

“Sectarian violence and criminals kept people out,” said Sgt. 1st Class James Mattwig, from Ashtabulah, Ohio, a platoon sergeant in headquarters troop, Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. “When we first arrived, Four Corners was a hub for enemy supplies going into Baghdad. Not many people wanted to live or work there.”

Since the arrival of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team into the Mada’in Qada, the market has slowly reverted back to a hub of commerce rather than violence.

On Feb. 21, policemen assigned to the 3rd National Police Battalion controlled traffic coming into the market so shop owners could fix up their shops. Members of the Sons of Iraq planted trees and local children picked up trash accumulated along the streets, while local policemen provided security. It was a day of improvement for an area on the upswing.

“Today was a collective effort between the national police, Sons of Iraq, Iraqi police and coalition forces to help local shop owners clean up the market,” Mattwig said. “We are making progress cleaning up the area. It is getting better here.”

Mattwig said soon after coalition forces arrived in the area, shop owners started returning. As more businesses reopened, people started coming back. The influx of people is directly tied to the security of the area.

“We were very aggressive in rooting out the criminals when we first arrived,” he said. “The bad guys packed up and left very quickly. Since November, we haven’t seen any extremist activity and that lone incident was an EFP (explosively-formed projectile) at the edge of our battle space. The bad guys have gotten the message from us: You aren’t wanted here.”

Disuse had caused much of the market to fall into disrepair; without shop owners to clean up in front of their stores, trash accumulated along the roads. When people started returning, business owners were so busy trying to make up for lost time and profit that repair and upkeep lost priority.

“When we first got here it was a train wreck,” said Spc. Garrett Brooks, from Maryville, Tenn., a scout in Troop A. “It was pretty nasty. The people of the area have slowly cleaned it up. I think after today, it will look 20 times better. Just seeing what they’ve done so far is impressive. “

Troop A has provided assistance to many local shops; in turn, the shop owners have hired more workers. Mattwig said more jobs lead to more money infused into the community.

“The more people that have a job are more customers for the shop owners here in Four Corners,” he said. “It’s a cycle -- the more people make, the more they spend. As the shop owners start making more money, they will need to start hiring more people to keep up with demand. It just builds on itself.”

Residents of Four Corners are grateful to coalition forces and Iraqi security forces, according to Brooks.

“The more willing we are to help them, it seems they become more willing to help us return the favor,” he said.

As the Soldiers went through the streets to check on the progress of the cleaning project, they were greeted by shop owners and Iraqi security forces. After months of working together, the three groups are familiar with one another.

“We are glad the U.S. forces are here,” said a local man through an interpreter. “They have helped the people here very much.”

Mattwig was not surprised that residents expressed that sentiment.

“We know each other,” Mattwig said. “We recognize each other and converse. I would say we have a good relationship with the locals and Sons of Iraq.”

Hopefully those relationships will pay off in the future, said Barks.

“It (Four Corners) still needs work,” he said. “There is still a lot of cleaning up that needs to be done, but it is on its way. It’s still a work in progress, but progress is still being made.”

The 3-1 Cav. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

Sons of Iraq Identify Three Caches; Report to Coalition Forces

A Soldier from 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment measures a weapon found in a cache Feb. 21 in Khanassa, Iraq.

Soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, with assistance from the Sons of Iraq, found a weapons cache Feb. 21 in Khanassa, Iraq.

Soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, with assistance from the Sons of Iraq, found a weapons cache Feb. 21 in Khanassa, Iraq.


By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, with assistance from the Sons of Iraq, found three weapons caches Feb. 21 in Duraiya and Khanassa, south of Salman Pak.

Sgt. Joe Vasquez, from Los Angeles, Company B, said members of the SoI assisted Company B Soldiers in identifying two weapons caches.

The two caches contained 11 mortar rounds, one artillery round, one body armor vest, one DSHKA heavy machine gun, three DSHKA upper receivers, three rocket propelled grenade launchers and 160 mortar fuses.

The same day, a village leader informed Soldiers of an additional cache.

That cache consisted of four 60 mm mortars, four 155 mm rounds, one cylinder of homemade explosives and one propane tank of homemade explosives.

Coalition forces had little presence in areas south of Salman Pak before Jan. 28 and 29 when 1-15 Inf. Regt. Soldiers conducted a two-day operation to establish SoI checkpoints and disrupt insurgent networks operating in the area.

During the mission, Company A, 1-15 Inf. Regt., leaders enrolled citizens into a local SoI program.

Company B Soldiers moved into Combat Outpost Carver near Duraiya, south of Salman Pak, mid-February. Since then, Soldiers have made various trips into villages providing humanitarian assistance, said 1st Lt. Matt Barwick, from Lanham, Md., Company B effects coordinator.

Barwick said the commander of Company B, Capt. Rich Thompson, from West Palm Beach, Fla., accompanied by Soldiers from the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, from Knoxville, Tenn., delivered items like food, water and cooking supplies to villagers.

“At first, we were getting mixed responses about us being there,” Barwick said. “Now, the local leadership is actually excited about it.”

Thompson agreed.

“Initially they were hesitant,” Thompson said. “We were doing mostly kinetic operations there. Now we are going out and mingling with the people. Slowly but surely, things are getting better.”

Thompson said village leaders now feel comfortable enough to visit Company B leaders at COP Carver. They discuss the needs of local citizens and the Iraqis give Soldiers information regarding the whereabouts of al-Qaida members and weapons caches.

“In nine days we have uncovered six caches,” Thompson said.

Barwick said Company B is planning area projects. A local bridge is slated for repair and power lines will be secured so the Ministry of Electricity can facilitate repairs.

The 1-15 Inf. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

Iraqi to Return Home, As a U.S. Soldier



Iraqi to Return Home, As a U.S. Soldier
By CLARKE CANFIELD

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — Safaa Wadi moved to this former mill city after his life was threatened in his native Iraq while serving as an interpreter for the U.S. Army. He expects to soon head back to Iraq — not as a civilian interpreter, but as a U.S. soldier.

Wadi arrived in the United States in September with a special immigrant visa for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters. But with his savings nearly depleted and unable to land a decent job, Wadi enlisted in the Army. He begins training in South Carolina on Monday.

Wadi isn't worried about returning to Iraq, where many of his countrymen considered him a traitor because he worked with American forces. His allegiance is now to the United States, he says.

"I want to serve this country because this country returned to me my life," Wadi said. "If I had stayed in Iraq, I'd be dead now."

In the modest two-bedroom apartment Wadi shares with three other Iraqi immigrants, the walls are bare except for photos taken in the Iraq desert of him and other interpreters with U.S. soldiers, all dressed in military fatigues. He points to a fellow Iraqi interpreter who is smiling for the camera — "He was killed," he said.

Iraqi interpreters working for U.S. forces often face grave danger. They receive instant messages on their cell phones threatening harm to them or their families. Some of their cars get blown up. Some get shot. Some are killed.

The United States responded by increasing from 50 to 500 the annual number of interpreters from Iraq and Afghanistan who were allowed to immigrate here in the last two fiscal years. Wadi jumped at the chance, becoming one of 1,880 applicants for the slots, immigration officials say.

Through the program, he and 13 others have moved to Lewiston and neighboring Auburn, ready to live the American dream. For many, though, the realities of life in the U.S. have fallen short of their hopes.

The men — some single, others married with children — have had a hard time finding work. There's no market here for Arab interpreters, so they're learning to write resumes, network with potential employers and apply for other jobs.

Nationwide, hundreds of interpreters who worked as engineers, bankers, doctors, teachers and other professions are having a tough go of it, said Francie Genz, outreach coordinator with Upwardly Global. The San Francisco-based nonprofit helps professionals re-establish themselves in the U.S.

Some of the immigrants face a daunting choice: stay in America and work low-wage jobs at fast-food restaurants or warehouses, or return to Iraq for high-paying — but dangerous — jobs as interpreters for military contractors.

"It's kind of a shameful predicament that that's their choice," Genz said.

On a snowy February day in Lewiston, the 28-year-old Wadi speaks in fluent English about life in Lewiston, where he lives in a run-down tenement house.

Wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, a Nike workout outfit and New Balance athletic shoes, he mentions that he likes shopping at Wal-Mart and Staples. Reality cop shows and "Deal or No Deal" are among his favorites on TV. He likes country music, especially Johnny Cash.

He shares an apartment with three other men in their 20s — Khalid, Majid and Sattar, who don't want their full names published out of fear for their families back home.

Few people in Iraq know they are in the U.S., they say. Instead, people in Iraq think they are attending school or working jobs in India, Egypt, Sweden, Canada or elsewhere.

In Iraq, they studied at the university level and owned homes and cars. Here, they can't find jobs, share cramped apartments and have trouble getting around because public transit is minimal.

One of Wadi's housemates, Majid, has found a job at a visa processing center in New Hampshire. The pay is low, but it's a start, he says.

Two other Iraqis who live in Auburn, across the Androscoggin River, got jobs at a sauce-processing plant. But they were let go a week later when they were late for work because their taxi was delayed by a snowstorm.

Even with such obstacles, they've resisted the temptation to return to Iraq as interpreters. It's just not safe, they say.

One of the interpreters who moved to Maine survived a sniper attack while driving in Iraq, but a fellow interpreter in the passenger seat wasn't so lucky.

Wadi decided last summer the time had come to leave Iraq. Now he says the time has come to put on a uniform. In a matter of days, he'll be Army Specialist Wadi. "I think I'm the first guy to do this," he said.

Upwardly Global and an Army spokeswoman said they weren't aware of any other Iraqi interpreters joining the Army. But they would be welcome to do so because enlisting would give them good benefits and put them on the path toward U.S. citizenship while filling a need for the Army, Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb said.

Wadi expects to be used as an interpreter again when he returns to Iraq. He plans to put in four years in the military.

"After the Army," he said, "I hope to go to an American university, get a job and be a productive citizen."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

This Week's Dog Face Daily's


Saturday, 23 February 2008
IED, IDF cells disrupted by cache find; New restaurant opens at Hammer; Think OPSEC when sharing information on the Web; Lithuanian platoon impacts Wasit...

Friday, 22 February 2008
MoE reconstructs power line towers; IA, Iron Rakkasans discover caches...

Thursday, 21 February 2008
Mahmudiyah women seek advancement; 5-7 Cav., ePRT look to help Sayifiyah farmers...

Wednesday, 20 February 2008
‘The birds will last forever,’ 3rd CAB Chinooks still going strong; ‘Grand Slam’ targets dwindling insurgent forces...

Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Mahmudiyah hosts business expo; Arab Jabour businessman opens restaurant...

Monday, 18 February 2008
Logistics Soldiers surpass milestone; Wasit province training course helps Iraqi doctors; MND-C Soldiers take it to the mat...

Bailey Assumes Command of Company E, 2-69 Armor Regt.

Lt. Col. Troy Perry, from Belfast, Maine, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, right, passes the guidon of Company E, 2-69 Armor Regt. to the incoming commander of Company E , Capt. Stewart Bailey, from Yelm, Wash., during a change of command ceremony Feb. 17 at Forward Operating Base Rustimiyah.


Capt. Richard Bratton, III, from Houston, Mo., right, receives an impact Army Commendation Medal for outstanding service from Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., the commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, prior to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment’s change of command ceremony at Forward Operating Base Rustimiyah Feb. 17. During the ceremony, Bratton relinquished command of Company E to Capt. Stewart Bailey, from Yelm, Wash.

By Spc. Ben Hutto
3rd HBCT Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Capt. Stewart Bailey, from Yelm, Wash., assumed command of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, from Capt. Richard Bratton, III, from Houston, Mo., in a ceremony at Forward Operating Base Rustimiyah, Iraq, Feb. 17.

In October 2006, Bratton assumed command of Company E, leading his Soldiers through a National Training Center rotation at Fort Irwin, Calif., and their current deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom V.

“Under his leadership, Echo Company has performed over 300 route clearance and sanitation missions,” said Lt. Col. Troy Perry, from Belfast, Maine, commander of 2-69 Armor Regt. “He has done an outstanding job and truly leads from the front. We all wish you well at your new job. You’ve left a lasting impression on this company. You will be missed by the battalion immensely.”

Bratton will be assuming a position as the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s engineer planner.
During his farewell speech, Bratton reflected on the accomplishments of his former company and thanked them for their service.

“It has been an honor to serve with such fine Soldiers, officers and leaders,” he said. “My time in Outlaw Company has been exciting, interesting and something I’ll never forget. When I look back over our last year, I’m astounded by how much the Soldiers of Outlaw Company have accomplished.”

Before taking over Company E, Bailey served as chief of operations for the 3rd HBCT.

Bailey previously served in 2-69 Armor Regt. as the battalion’s assistant plans officer.

“I’m totally confident that he will continue to lead this company on to great success,” said Perry of the new commander.

The 2-69 Armor Regt. is assigned to the 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and is attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.

Director General of Water Visits Al Bawi and Tuwaitha

Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., deputy commanding officer of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, talks with Jabar Abed Khaji, director general of water for the Ministry of Water, from Baghdad, and Mushen Nasser, mayor of the Mada’in Qada, to discuss water projects in the qada Feb. 19, at the al Bawi water treatment facility.

Leaders of the Mada’in Qada and the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, including Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., deputy commanding officer of the 3rd HBCT, and Mushen Nasser, the qada mayor, feast at the al Bawi water treatment facility Feb. 19 during a visit from Jabar Abed Khaji, director general of water for the Ministry of Water, from Baghdad.

Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., deputy commanding officer of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, talks with Jabar Abed Khaji, director general of water for the Ministry of Water, from Baghdad, after a visit to the al Bawi water treatment facility Feb. 19.




By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. PAO

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Almost five years had passed since a Ministry of Water representative visited the Mada’in Qada, the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s area of operation.

On Feb. 19, Jabar Abed Khaji, director general of water for the Ministry of Water, traveled from Baghdad to the qada, approximately 20 miles south of the Iraqi capital. He met with Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., deputy commanding officer of the 3rd HBCT, and Mushen Nasser, mayor of the Mada’in Qada, to tour two water treatment facilities.

“The Mada’in Qada hasn’t had a lot of water resources in the last couple of years due to security,” Kuhn said. “Coalition forces, Iraqi security forces and the Sons of Iraq have improved security to such a level that the director general came to the area.”

The first stop was the Tuwaitha water treatment facility where they met with Maj. Andrew Koloski, from Yuma, Alaska, executive officer of the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, for an outdoor discussion about the facility.

“In July, we were fighting over this area and could not have held this meeting out in the open without serious risk of sniper or mortar fire,” Koloski said. “Since the national police, Sons of Iraq and coalition forces have worked together to bring security, the Government of Iraq is able to begin restoring essential services.”

The GoI has contributed to restoration of the facility and Koloski said the available supply of treated drinking water in the area will double with the restoration.

“Today’s visit with Jabar was huge,” he said. “It means a great deal to the people out here that the government in Baghdad is taking an interest in them.”

The soldiers, Nasser, Jabar and Mr. Raad, lead engineer in Baghdad, next traveled to al Bawi to assess the water treatment facility.

According to 1st Lt. Ryan Martin, leader of the 3rd HBCT economics team, the al Bawi water treatment facility is only 25 percent functional. A reconstruction project for the facility was proposed to Jabar.

“I don’t care how much it takes,” Jabar said through a translator. “We are going to do this so the city can have drinking water.”

Martin said the GoI will spend approximately $1.2 million on the 120-day project to fix the facility. Cosmetic refurbishment has already begun.

“Rebuilding the facility is only the first step,” Martin said. “It still needs to be staffed and maintained. The DG will ensure all the needs of the facility are met.”

The two water treatment facilities will produce clean drinking and irrigation water for the entire Mada’in Qada. Using chemicals and reverse osmosis, raw water will be taken from the Tigris River, treated and turned into clean drinking water that will be pumped to 90 percent of the qada, Kuhn said.

“After the Government of Iraq fixed the al Bawi pump station, four times more water was being pumped from the Tigris,” Kuhn said. “There were levels of water the people had not seen in years."

“Projects like these put the insurgents on notice that their days of trying to manipulate and control the water in the area are over,” he said. “In the first meeting we had with the qada mayor and council, we said we were going to restore the irrigation and drinking water. Over the past 12 months we have completed over 40 water projects through our partnership with the qada government. This puts great pressure on the insurgents.”

With water comes opportunity, Kuhn said. The Mada’in Qada is a largely agricultural area.

“Water is the substance of life,” he said. “It’s that simple. With water, farmers can work in their fields. They can provide for their families. Water stimulates the economy, which provides jobs, which provides security. Farmers can work and provide for their families so they don’t have to go out and place (improvised explosive devices).”

Kuhn anticipates visits from the director generals of health, electricity and education in the future.
The 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

Government Center Opens in Salman Pak

Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., from Prince George’s County, Md., commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, hands a certificate of appreciation to Sheik Fathel, a Salman Pak council member, and Mushen Nasser, mayor of the Mada’in Qada, during a ceremony to open the new government center in Salman Pak, Iraq, Feb. 20.


Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., from Prince George’s County, Md., commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., brigade deputy commanding officer, and Lt. Col. Jack Marr, from Minneapolis, commander of the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, eat at the home of Sheik Fathel, a Salman Pak council member, after the new government center opening in Salman Pak, Iraq, Feb. 20.

Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., deputy commanding officer for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, talks with Sheik Nouri, head sheik of the Mada’in Qada, at the home of Sheik Fathel, a Salman Pak council member, after the new government center opening in Salman Pak, Iraq, Feb. 20.

Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., from Prince George’s County, Md., commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, speaks with Sheik Ali, Salman Pak Sons of Iraq leader, at the home of Sheik Fathel, a Salman Pak council member, after the new government center opening in Salman Pak, Iraq, Feb. 20.

By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – A new government center opened in the city of Salman Pak, Feb. 20, returning the local government to its seat in the heart of the Mada’in Qada.

Sunni and Shia leaders of the qada, along with Soldiers and leaders of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team attended the opening ceremony.

Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., deputy commanding officer of the 3rd BCT, said Salman Pak is on the verge of a revival after years of domination by Sunni extremists.

“The city of Salman Pak has historic meaning,” Kuhn said. “It is the second oldest city in Iraq and one of the most historic.”

Many Iraqis travel to Salman Pak yearly to visit historic landmarks such as the Arch of Ctesiphon, one of the largest and oldest freestanding arches in the world, Kuhn said.

“All Iraqis have not been able to visit Salman Pak like they were in the past,” Kuhn said, adding that Salman Pak used to be a resort town where people flocked for family vacations. “Sunni insurgents took over the town; al-Qaida had a great influence in the area.”

Kuhn said the mayor of the qada, Mushen Nasser, wants to restore what was lost to insurgent intimidation.

“The part of life that has been missing here is the ability to have fun without violence,” Kuhn said. “Since the Sons of Iraq, the Iraqi security forces, and coalition forces have improved security, we are giving that an opportunity.”

During the ceremony, residents of the Mada’in Qada, the 3rd BCT’s area of operation, sang and danced to celebrate the newest addition to the city.

“You haven’t lived life until you visit Salman Pak,” they sang the words to a popular Iraqi song.

Kuhn believes returning the government to Salman Pak will greatly benefit all qada citizens.

“This returns the promise to all the good people of the Mada’in that the elected officials are not defeated by the insurgency,” he said. “Now the government can move forward to assist all the citizens. Today the insurgents have lost and the Mada’in Qada has won.”

The project began June, 2007, when Kuhn proposed a plan to move the government back to Salman Pak to Nasser.

“I can’t even imagine what that would be like,” Kuhn remembers Nasser saying. “That would be the best dream ever.”

Eight months and $1.2 million later, that dream has become a reality.

“Before it was just words and now it’s true,” Sheik Nouri, head sheik of the qada, said through a translator. “We are grateful for what you are doing,” he told 3rd BCT leaders at the opening.

The center is fully functional; however, there are still improvements to be made. Kuhn said a project is underway to make it the first building in the area with solar-generated electricity.

“Hopefully we will work hand-in-hand for a better Mada’in Qada and a better Iraq,” Nasser said through a translator. “Everything we achieve is the fruit of our efforts.”

The center is the permanent workplace of the qada council and mayor. It is located in the heart of the city near the Salman Pak municipality building and the joint security station where coalition forces work with Iraqi security forces.

The first Salman Pak fire station is currently under construction, next to the government center. A new market is scheduled to open across the street.

“The whole city block is dedicated to the government and protecting the citizens,” Kuhn said. “It shows that everything is returning back to normal.”

Kuhn explained he is pleased with the progress made in Salman Pak over the past 11 months since the 3rd BCT deployed to the Mada’in Qada in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“The qada government has returned to its seat in Salman Pak. The rule of law is back in Salman Pak with the court. Irrigation and drinking water is restored. Ministries and deputy government officials came to the qada and have projects to expand the economy and essential services. Job opportunities are produced by both education and agricultural growth,” Kuhn said. “I’m happy to leave the new unit with that.”

1-10 FA Soldiers Deliver Wheelchairs to Disabled Citizens

Sgt. Terrance Ramos, from Puerto Rico, a team leader in Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, and Capt. Chas Cannon, from Moultrie, Ga, commander of Battery A, take a wheelchair out of the back of a truck Feb. 20 in a village along Butler Range Road, near Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq. (Photos courtesy of 1-10 FA Regt.)

By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. PAO

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery delivered wheelchairs to several disabled Iraqi citizens Feb. 20 in villages along Butler Range Road, near FOB Hammer.

Chief Warrant Officer Chad Barrett, from Hookstown, Pa., targeting and plans officer for the 1-10 FA, said members of the Nissan advisory council had asked for coalition forces’ assistance in providing wheelchairs to some of the area’s disabled citizens for several weeks.

Soldiers from Battery A, 1-10 FA assembled five wheelchairs they received from Soldiers of the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, from Knoxville, Tenn., currently attached to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment.

“I had a great time constructing the chairs,” said Sgt. Nigiel Handy, Newhope, Va., Battery A, 1-10th FA. “The best part is … to see the looks on the faces of those that we gave the chairs to.”

When the wheelchairs were assembled, Battery A Soldiers, accompanied by local Iraqi leaders and members of the Sons of Iraq, traveled to five different villages along Butler Range Road. They delivered the wheelchairs to five deserving citizens, previously identified by members of the sheik council along with Capt. Chas Cannon, from Moultrie, Ga, commander of Battery A.

“It’s great and rewarding to help those less fortunate,” said Spc. Johnny Shelton, from Asheboro, N.C., a radio operator for 1-10 FA.

Barrett said the event was a great demonstration of cooperation between the local council, the SoI and 1-10th FA.

“All of the individuals were very appreciative of the joint efforts,” he said. “This event further displayed the effectiveness of local leaders and their ability to assist their villages with essential services. It also displayed the increased cooperation and trust between the local Iraqis along Butler Range Road and the 1-10 FA.”

The 1-10th FA is assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

New Restaurant Opens at FOB Hammer

Leaders from the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion and the Iraqi army join Adel Abbas, second from right, in cutting the ribbon to his recently-renovated restaurant, the Oasis, at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq, Feb. 11.

Leaders from the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion and the Iraqi army present Adel Abbas, far right, a certificate of appreciation before the opening of his renovated restaurant, the Oasis, at Forward Operating Base Hammer, Iraq, Feb. 11.


By Spc. Ben Hutto
3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. PAO

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – The recently-refurbished Oasis restaurant opened its doors Feb. 11 at FOB Hammer.

The owner, Adel Abbas, was one of several original vendors invited to open a shop at FOB Hammer in the summer of 2007.

Using his own resources and workers, Abbas renovated a shelled-out administration building once used by Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard.

The original Oasis opened in August, providing Soldiers with a small menu and various items such as cigarettes and sodas. Since that time, Abbas has turned the adjacent building into a more permanent restaurant.

The new area has marble-tiled floors and walls and double the original seating capacity. In addition, the menu was expanded to cater to 3rd HBCT Soldiers.

“I think it looks outstanding,” said Lt. Col. Kelly Lawler, from Monticello, N.Y., commander of the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion. “He has taken that old shelled-out building and turned it into a great facility for our Soldiers to use.”

The restaurant prepares traditional Iraqi food like falafel, humus and freshly baked flat bread, but also caters to more American favorites like hamburgers and pizza.

“The food is pretty good,” said Sgt. Michael Cowan, from Nashville, Tenn., 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, a reserve unit from Knoxville, Tenn., currently attached to the 3rd HBCT. “The ambiance was a lot better than I expected.”

The opening of the restaurant provides 3rd HBCT Soldiers another dining option, said 1st Lt. John Enfinger, officer in charge of the mayor cell at FOB Hammer, adding that Soldiers at FOB Hammer can expect more things in the future.

“We will continue exploring every avenue to increase morale and welfare for the Soldiers of FOB Hammer,” said Enfinger, from New Brockton, Ala.

The 203rd BSB 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.

Coalition Forces Kill Six Terrorists, Detain Six Suspects

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - Coalition forces killed six terrorists and detained six suspected terrorists yesterday and today during operations to disrupt al-Qaida operating in central and northern Iraq, military officials reported.

During an operation east of Khan Bani Sad today, coalition forces targeted an alleged al-Qaida in Iraq associate involved in the suicide-bombing and improvised-explosive-device network that runs from Baqubah to Baghdad and north to Mosul. Reports indicate the suspect is associated with Abu Karrar, the al-Qaida leader also involved in the suicide-bombing network, who was killed during a coalition forces operation, Feb. 17.

As the ground force arrived in the area, the troops were engaged by enemy fire from what appeared to be an underground bunker. A fixed-wing aircraft was called to engage the threat, killing three terrorists. A supporting helicopter engaged two more enemy personnel outside the building, killing both. As the ground force continued to clear the area, troops called for occupants of one of the target buildings to come out. One individual refused to comply and moved toward two weapons in the building. Coalition forces engaged and killed the terrorist. The ground force also detained two suspected terrorists and destroyed a vehicle that contained a weapons cache.

Also today, coalition forces detained one suspected terrorist during an operation in Baghdad while targeting associates of an al-Qaida in Iraq network involved in facilitating materials, vehicles and suicide bombers to terrorist groups throughout Baghdad.

During an operation in Mosul yesterday, coalition forces detained three suspected terrorists while targeting an alleged associate of a senior-level foreign-terrorist facilitator responsible for attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces in the region.

"Iraqi and coalition forces continue to disrupt al-Qaida in Iraq's networks across the country," said Army Maj. Winfield Danielson, a Multi-National Force - Iraq spokesman. "The indiscriminate violence wreaked by al-Qaida's suicide bombers and explosive attacks only strengthens our resolve to find the terrorists and bring them to justice."

Eight Iraqi civilians and one Iraqi army soldier were wounded yesterday in Arab Jabour during an attack by al-Qaida in Iraq operatives. All nine of the wounded, including four women and three children, were evacuated to a nearby joint combat outpost and then by helicopter to Logistics Support Area Anaconda near Balad for treatment.

Initial reports indicate the al-Qaida operatives seized a home in the village, took the residents hostage and destroyed the home with an explosive device. Al-Qaida then engaged local citizens and Iraqi army soldiers with small-arms fire as they attempted to help the residents of the home.

The Iraqi army had recently cleared al-Qaida in Iraq from Arab Jabour and established a "Sons of Iraq" citizen security group there to maintain security, said Army Maj. Mike Garcia, a spokesman for the 2nd Infantry Division's 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "Al-Qaida's hold on the population continues to grow weaker every day," he said. "And this is the latest example of their desperate and brutal efforts to seek retribution against Iraqis who attempt to keep (al-Qaida in Iraq) out of their towns and villages."

In other Iraq news, Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldiers detained the commander of an Iranian-trained and -funded "special group" during an operation in Baghdad's Shaab neighborhood, Feb. 20. The detainee is suspected of involvement in multiple murders and other criminal activities.

Paratroopers with 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, detained the suspect after a tip on his whereabouts. The suspect is a known special groups leader and financier believed to receive funding from Iran that was earmarked to support the Diyala criminal network, said Army Maj. Cameron Weathers, the 2nd BCT intelligence officer. The money typically is used to pay and equip special groups criminals, procure vehicles and support criminal activities against innocent Iraqis.

In Iraq operations Feb. 19:

Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldiers captured a suspected special groups criminal cell leader in the Rashid district of the Iraqi capital. Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, attached to Task Force Dragon, noticed a man fitting the description of a suspected cell leader during a routine patrol of Abu Tshir and detained him without incident. Officials believe the alleged cell leader had taken over day-to-day direction of the criminal cell after its previous leader was arrested by coalition forces in the same area.

Iraqi army and Multi-National Division - Center soldiers discovered a significant weapons cache north of Lutifiyah. Members of 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, and 4th Platoon, Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, found a mass of weapons and homemade explosives after a local citizen provided the tip and led the soldiers to the site. The cache contained various improvised explosive device-making materials, multiple explosive rounds, firearms and documentation.

Acting on information provided by a Sons of Iraq group, soldiers assigned to Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, confiscated a weapons cache in a small village southeast of Baghdad on Feb. 19. The cache contained 21 122 mm Russian projectiles and three 130 mm Russian projectiles. The munitions were buried about 3 feet deep in a suspect's backyard. The suspect was detained and taken to Combat Outpost Cashe for questioning.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sons of Iraq Tip Lead to Weapons Cache in Jabr al Ansari

Soldiers from the 789th Ordnance Company (EOD), from Ft. Benning, Ga., currently attached to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, search for a weapon cache Feb. 19 in Jabr al Ansari, a small village southeast of Baghdad. The Sons of Iraq provided information that led Soldiers from Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment to a cache.

By Spc. Ben Hutto
3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. PAO


FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Acting on information provided by the Sons of Iraq, soldiers assigned to Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, confiscated a weapon cache in Jabr al Ansari, a small village southeast of Baghdad, Feb. 19.

The cache contained 21 122 mm Russian projectiles and three 130 mm Russian projectiles. The munitions were buried approximately three feet deep in the backyard of a suspect. The suspect was detained and brought back to Combat Outpost Cashe for questioning.

“Every time the Sons of Iraq bring in or lead us to ordnance, it saves American lives,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Huell, from Miami, the command sergeant major of 3-1st Cav. Regt. “This act signifies that more Iraqis are on the side of peace.”

Lt. Col. John Kolasheski, from Louden, Tenn., commander of 3-1 Cav. Regt., believes his troops’ effectiveness operating in the Jisr Diyala area is due to rapport developed with their Iraqi neighbors.

“This cache find serves as another example of how our soldiers are winning the trust and confidence of the population,” Kolasheski said. “By denying the extremists the use of these dangerous munitions, we collectively make Jisr Diyala and the surrounding areas a safer place for the people of the region. The Sons of Iraq continue to show their effectiveness in thickening our lines.”

The SoI have played a significant role in most of 3-1 Cav. Regt.’s recent cache finds by providing information.

“The Sons of Iraq continue to demonstrate the effectiveness of local security by decreasing accelerants and extremist activities in our area of operations,” said 1st Lt. Jamel Reese, a platoon leader in Headquarters Troop, 3-1 Cav. Regt.

The cache was destroyed by the 789th Ordnance Company (EOD), from Ft. Benning, Ga., currently attached to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

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.

3-1 Cav. Regt., Iraqi National Police Conduct Joint Operation in Tameem

Multi-National Division – Center

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers from Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment conducted an operation with the 3rd Brigade, 1st National Police Division, supporting the Iraqi Civil Conservation Force and Sons of Iraq in Tameem, a small village southeast of Baghdad, Feb. 18.

Salam Bedin, the nahia council chairman, Lt. Col. Emad, commander of the 3/1 NP, and Sons of Iraq planned the operation, which led to the establishment of several SOI checkpoints, and allowed the Iraqi Civil Conservation Force to conduct cleaning projects in the village.

“The future of Iraq is about cooperation between all players working toward a common goal,” said Capt. Darrell Melton, from San Antonio, Texas, commander of Troop C. “Today, the nahia leaders, the national police, the Sons of Iraq, the Iraqi Civil Conservation Force and coalition forces were all working together to make the operation a success.”

Soldiers from Troop C brought materials to assist in the construction of the checkpoints. The 3/1 NP provided security while the Iraqi Civil Conservation Force removed trash that had accumulated in the town’s canals and streets.

Leaders in Troop C believe the project will help pave the way for continued economic prosperity in the village.

“The work being done today will provide for the next generation of Iraqis,” said 1st Lt. Jeffery Ritter, Dallas, government lines of operation officer for Headquarters Troop, 3-1 Cav. Regt.

The 3-1 Cav. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Search Missions More Like Fishing


As the soldiers in his platoon provide security, Spc. David Bougourd, an infantryman in 3rd platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, pries open a door to a warehouse in Jisr Diyala. Below, soldiers in 3rd platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, search through high grass for weapons caches during a search operation in Jisr Diyala.


Search Missions More Like Fishing
Platoon patrols for weapons caches and, at times, lands the big fish

BY MICK WALSH - mwalsh@ledger-enquirer.com --
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer

As the soldiers in his platoon provide security, Spc. David Bougourd, an infantryman in 3rd platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, pries open a door to a warehouse in Jisr Diyala. Below, soldiers in 3rd platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, search through high grass for weapons caches during a search operation in Jisr Diyala.

"It's a lot like fishing," said Pfc. Darrell Deshotel, trying his best to describe the missions he and his buddies perform every day. "Sometimes you catch something and sometimes you don't."

And on a recent patrol, searching for weapon caches, the platoon came up empty.

The fish just weren't biting.

For four hours, the 3rd platoon of Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, slowly patrolled up and down the streets of Jisr Diyala, making sure their Mine Resistant Armor Protected (MRAP) vehicle didn't pull down one of the hundreds of low-hanging telephone and power lines that stretched across each street like black vines.

After searching several homes and abandoned warehouses, the weapons cache they were searching for never materialized.

The platoon has conducted hundreds of such patrols in Jisr Diyala since last March.

For many of the younger soldiers, their current mission isn't what they expected. They had heard stories from more experienced soldiers in the 1-15 about gun battles and air assault missions. Their platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Donal Mathena, stresses to them that their current mission, while not as exciting, is just as important.

To his younger soldiers, "first-timers" he likes to call them, Mathena motivates and assures them that their service is just as important without firefights.

"What we trained them to do was based on what we were doing last deployment," he said. "It's different this time, but they have to realize that everything they do is a 'soldier's job.' There is no such thing as a tanker's job or a scout's job anymore. What you are trained for isn't necessarily what you will be doing."

Now that doesn't mean the platoon hasn't pulled in a big fish now and then during its deployment.

"We've grabbed every HVI (high value individual) and insurgent leader that has tried to operate here and haven't lost one guy doing it," Mathena said. "The platoon has done a good job. Instead of picking a target house, going in and ripping it apart, we have done a lot of knock-and-search operations. Our soldiers have been very respectful and I think the locals respond favorably to that. We don't allow cowboy actions in this platoon. Our guys aren't reckless. They stay professional at all times."

Platoon leader 1st Lt. Benjamin Hooker is proud of the way his senior noncommissioned officers have handled the platoon.

"They have been operating flawlessly in a sometimes fragile environment," he said. "I feel they are all very professional soldiers that deserve a lot of credit. I couldn't ask for a better group."

Hooker said the senior NCOs have been very effective in leading troops out in the field.

"The veterans have tactical patience," he said. "They have waited for things to develop where a lot of the younger soldiers would have rushed in."

Being patient and thorough have helped the platoon find three important caches, including one in Jisr Diyala.

"Every time we have rolled out and snatched up an HVI or a cache, it felt good," Deshotel said. "We make a difference out here every day. Our company set up the first Sons of Iraq program in 3rd Brigade's area of operations. We have gotten every HVI that has tried to operate here."

These accomplishments are important to Mathena, but he is most proud of the things in his battle space that don't make headlines.

He points out that improvised explosive device attacks are down. He explains that bullets haven't been needed by his soldiers to accomplish their missions. He believes his soldiers have made a positive impact on everyone they encounter.

"How are we gauging success in Iraq?" he said. "Do you gauge it by how much violence and action you are seeing in your AO or do you measure it by how peaceful your area is? Do you measure it by how many shots are fired or how many projects you set up? I'm proud of everything my guys have done here because at the end of the day, they did their job and helped the people here."

The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team public affairs office contributed to this report.

Tip Leads Platoon to EFP, Weapons Caches

A little late posting this but too important to pass up. These guys just keep doing outstanding work! Awesome job guys!
Michael Gisick /S&S
Army Sgt. 1st Class Max Donahue (right), Lt. Col. John Kolasheski (middle) and an interpreter survey a ditch where Donahue's platoon found several explosively formed penetrators on Sunday.

Michael Gisick / S&S Staff Sgt.
Daniel Butler, front, Spc. Tim O’Donnell, left, and Spc. Tim Davis process a cache of explosively formed penetrators discovered in a village southeast of Baghdad on Sunday. The soldiers are members of the 789th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company. Officers believe the cache belonged to an alleged Shiite militant who was arrested two weeks ago.


Tip leads platoon to EFP, weapons caches
Officials say stashes may be linked to man who led U.S.-backed militia

By Michael Gisick, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, February 12, 2008

TUWAITHA, Iraq — A U.S. Army platoon southeast of Baghdad discovered two caches of explosively formed penetrators and other weapons this weekend that commanders say they may be able to tie directly to Iran.

The caches, discovered Friday and Sunday near the village of Jurf al-Nadaf, also may have ties to a man who until recently led a group of U.S.–backed neighborhood militia, officers said.

Officers believe the cache belonged to an alleged Shiite militant who was arrested two weeks ago.
They say the man, whom they declined to name, is believed to have led a cell of 10 to 12 militants and may have travelled to Iran for training.

The man’s brother, described as the midlevel leader of a probationary “Sons of Iraq” group, as the military calls them, fled after the man’s arrest and is also wanted by U.S. troops, said Capt. Ernie Melton, 32, of San Antonio, commander of Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. Melton’s troops found the cache.

The cache found Friday consisted of 13 EFPs, 37 blocks of C4 explosive, a mortar tube and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Officers said it was easily the largest EFP cache found in the area.

On Sunday, the platoon found five more EFPs, several shaped charges, 28 grenades, three RPG rounds and detonating devices hidden in the weeds of an abandoned field approximately 650 feet from the building where the earlier cache was found.

EFPs, which are explosive charges that essentially hurl a slug of molten metal, have become perhaps the most widely feared weapon used against U.S. troops because of their ability to penetrate armor.

Senior American officials have long claimed that Iran is supplying and training Shiite militants with the relatively sophisticated devices.

Officers here say they may have evidence that goes beyond that general assumption.

“Our [explosive ordnance disposal] specialists believe it’s Iranian C4” based on the lot numbers, said Army Lt. Col. John Kolasheski, commander of the Fort Benning, Ga.-based 3-1 Cav.

The EFPs and other weapons are being tested for fingerprints and other evidence, Kolasheski said.

Members of Troop C’s 3rd Platoon, which found the weapons, said they were led to them by members of a neighborhood militia group.

“The report we got was one [improvised explosive device],” said Sgt. 1st Class Max Donahue, 39, of Houston. Donahue said his patrol proceeded to a building described by the neighborhood militia members, where they found the EFPs inside a bag.

“As soon as I cut it open, I realized what we were really looking at,” he said.

Summing up the universal respect accorded to the weapon, Donahue said “they would have destroyed us if we’d hit them on a patrol. It would have been catastrophic death.”

Donahue said the second find was made after a man reported a machine gun hidden in a building next to the field.