Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Officials Open School, Health Clinic in Afghanistan

Officials Open School, Health Clinic in Afghanistan
By Capt. Erick Saks, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2007 - Months of work and cooperation between the Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team and the Afghan government culminated in two ribbon-cutting ceremonies Nov. 26, as hundreds of community members and several civic leaders officially opened a girls school and a health clinic in the Kapisa province's Kohistan II district.

Kapisa Gov. Kwaia Kholam Abubaker and Army Capt. Jordan Berry, Bagram PRT's Kapisa civil affairs team leader, presided over the ceremonies opening the Dihat Dasht girls school and the Jamalagha basic health clinic.

The Dihat Dasht girls school is an eight-classroom facility that will accommodate about 160 students. The $150,000 facility includes four faculty offices, restrooms, a well, a guard house and a perimeter wall.

Hamidullah Hatan, Department of Education representative, spoke at the school-opening ceremony, emphasizing the Afghan government's focus on education and stressing the community's duty to their new school.

"We are very grateful to the PRT for building this great school," Hatan said. "Now, it is the responsibility of the community to maintain it and keep those people away who would shoot rockets at it."

The eight-room Jamalagha basic health clinic is the first of its kind in the area and will be staffed by a doctor, a midwife, two nurses and two vaccination technicians, said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Deborah Taylor, PRT medical team noncommissioned officer in charge.

"This clinic offers family-practice care, prenatal care, vaccinations and pharmaceutical services," she said. "Before this clinic was built, there wasn't a place for the people to find this kind of care in the area. This facility will have a huge impact on the lives of the people here."

Aziz Jan was the contractor for the $85,000 health clinic and said he was very satisfied with the project and was glad to create the facility for the people of the region.

"The community here is made up of good people," he said. "They were always helpful and are very excited about the clinic."
The relative peacefulness of the community allows the PRT to complete projects like this in the area, Berry said. "Kohistan II is a beautiful district with friendly people," he said. "We have never had any issues with the people here, and this security allows us to help the community."

The governor agreed, expressing his gratitude to the community for embracing peace and supporting the government. "Thank you to the people of Kohistan for keeping the peace here," the governor said. "Only with peace can we build schools and clinics, giving the people freedom to study and improve themselves."

These ceremonies are the first of a series of about a dozen ribbon-cutting ceremonies planned over the next month, Army Maj. Jim Blashford, Bagram PRT acting commander, said.

"The projects we're finalizing range from schools and clinics to roads and wells," Blashford said. "It's a busy and exciting time for the Bagram PRT. From the time the team arrived in March, our focus had been coordinating new projects and overseeing their construction. Now many of those projects are wrapping up, and we're all finally able to see the fruits of our labor."

(Air Force Capt. Erick Saks serves with the Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Finally in vogue...

I wash my car once every couple of years whether it needs it or not. It's a work vehicle, not actually a "car", it's a 1997 Jimmy SUV. It has been a great vehicle... despite the fact that it stays rather dirty.

Finally, finally, I can be proud of the fact that it has a dusty sheen. Governor Perdue is ASKING us not to wash our autos to help with the drought. Although, while it's nice not to have to attempt to have the Jimmy cleaned, or make excuses, I'd prefer not to be going through the drought.

Lest you think I'm a complete slob, it's only cars that cause me problems. I hate to get gas and I hate to wash cars or even take the time to go through a car wash. Well, I don't get along with vacuum cleaners either, but I do manage to overcome and conquer that one often enough that I'm not embarrassed when someone visits!

Just before the drought I finally started wondering if the car was being held together by all the dirt on it... I decided I would wash it. I found a gas station that had a car wash, filled it up to the point where I got the lowest price on the car wash and wandered in to pay. Of course, the car wash had broken not too long before I started pumping gas. All that gas pumping for naught.

A few days later, having trouble remembering what color the Jimmy really was... I decided to try again. I was heading to a meeting and had a few minutes to kill so I stopped in to the stand-alone pay and get the full treatment car wash. There were ten or eleven cars in front of me. I didn't have time so pulled a u-turn and headed to the meeting.

Now there's a drought. I don't think my Jimmy wants to be clean.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Iraqi Forces, Local Citizens Help to Reduce Violence in Northern Iraq

We have some fantastic, caring soldiers fighting for us... and for those in Iraq! The commitment these soldiers have to helping others is really something. It amazes me that while they're tough, ready and willing to fight, they also have a heart. We have every reason to be thankful to all of those who signed up to protect our country and our freedoms! Take a moment from your Thanksgiving day and say THANKS to and for our military.

Iraqi Forces, Local Citizens Help to Reduce Violence in Northern Iraq

A robust partnership between coalition troops and Iraqi security forces and support from the Iraqi people is showing success in bringing down violence in Iraq's Multinational Division North sector, the troop commander there said today.

Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, who also commands the Germany-based 1st Armored Division, told Pentagon reporters via videoconference that attacks in his area of operations are higher than anywhere else in Iraq.

However, Hertling noted "a marked reduction" in violence, particularly in improvised explosive device attacks. Enemy forces planted 1,830 IEDs in June, he said. By October, that number had dropped to about 900. As of today, the November number was 520.

Operation Iron Hammer, an ongoing counterinsurgency operation launched Nov. 5, is building on this success. To date, coalition and Iraqi forces detained 400 terror suspects and uncovered 79 weapons caches containing "an unbelievable amount of weapons and ammunition," Hertling said.

Among the weaponry was the largest cache of explosively formed projectiles yet to be discovered in Iraq. Hertling said there's no question these armor-piercing EFPs originated in Iran, but said he has no indication they arrived since Iran pledged to stop these shipments. "I am hopeful the Iranians are keeping their promise to not interfere with the international security conditions of Iraq by supplying either arms or equipment or trained personnel," he said.

Hertling said he's optimistic about the trends, but recognizes more attacks are likely. "You are still going to read about spectacular attacks," he said, particularly those targeting Iraqi security forces and concerned local citizens who have both become key partners in confronting the terrorist threat in the region.

Hertling noted steady increases in the capability of Iraqi security forces who have become solid partners in the counterinsurgency fight. During Iron Hammer, Hertling said, the Iraqis did more than he asked of them and performed at higher levels than he had expected.

"We've got a partner now," he said. "They are speaking the same language tactically and operationally that we are, and they are going after the same enemy we are."

Insurgents are noticing these improvements, too, and are likely to respond by singling out more Iraqi forces as targets, he said. "The enemy realizes that they're growing in capability, and if there is any kind of chance of stopping the representative movement of the government, that they have to attack the security forces," he said.

Similarly, Hertling said, the enemy recognizes the role local Iraqi citizens are playing in helping the coalition and Iraqi forces confront the terrorist threat in their neighborhoods. Nearly one-fourth of the weapons caches uncovered during Iron Hammer resulted from tips by local citizens.

"Iraqi citizens across the board are tired of seeing people use their country for a traumatic playground, and the Iraqi people have stepped up," Hertling said. "They are tired of the violence. They just want to go back to having their children go to school, farming their fields (and) running their businesses."

Friday, November 16, 2007

ESGR Seeks Freedom Award Nominees

The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is seeking employers with records of stellar support for military employees.

The group is accepting nominations for the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Awards through Jan. 21.

"Almost one-half of the U.S. military is comprised of the National Guard and Reserve," said Beth Sherman, an ESGR spokeswoman. "The Department of Defense shares these citizen warriors with their civilian employers, many of whom provide significant support to (these) employees."

Past recipients of the award have provided full salary, a continuation of benefits, care packages and other forms of help such as home and lawn care for families of employees fulfilling military obligations.

"While all employer support is exemplary, small employers that go above and beyond the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act to assist their employees serving in the National Guard and Reserve, really set the bar high (last year)," Sherman said.

USERRA prohibits discrimination against people because of military service.

Augustine and Sons, a family-owned farm in Iowa, is one example of a small business that goes out of its way for its employees, Sherman said.

When one of its employees, 1st Sgt. Matthew Strasser, an Iowa Army National Guardsman, was deployed, the farm lost half its staff. Yet the Augustine family offered its continuing support to the family Strasser left behind.

"They allowed Strasser's wife and ... two sons to live on the farm rent-free," Sherman said. "The Augustines took the boys fishing, attended their sports games and fixed their dirt bikes."

Large businesses previously recognized for their exemplary support include Sears and Starbucks. The commonwealth of Massachusetts and the state of Tennessee both are past recipients of the public-sector award.

ESGR is encouraging National Guardsmen, reservists and their family members to nominate employers who offer their employees similar support. Nomination forms are available on the committee's Web site, www.esgr.org.

Last year, 1,119 nominations were received. To date, ESGR has received 268 already this year.

"Given that employer support is so strong, we hope reserve-component members will see fit to nominate their deserving employers," Sherman said. "This kind of recognition establishes a benchmark for all employers, and we hope this recognition is a small thank you from the Department of Defense."

Winners selected in three categories will be announced in early spring and will receive their awards during a Sept. 18 award ceremony.

Founded in 1972, the National Committee for Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve is a Defense Department agency established to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve-component members and their civilian employers. The organization also is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

Then-Defense Secretary William Perry instituted the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award in 1996.

Related Sites: Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act America Supports You

Monday, November 12, 2007

Coalition Forces Detain Dozens in Iraq Operations

I know I mentioned it in a previous blog, but I am getting really tired of never hearing anything good about the war in Iraq, etc. from main stream media. The news doesn'te exactly "fit" with the mission and flavor of the Fayette Front Page and the Georgia Front Page. We do local community news. What I've decided to do is occasionally post some stories on this blog. Most will be from the Armed Services folks, but I get them from all over. I'll try to give credit, depends on how fast I'm zooming that day...

Here's today's bit:

Coalition forces detained 16 suspects, including three wanted individuals, during operations today to disrupt al Qaeda in Iraq and foreign terrorist operations in central and northern Iraq.

-- During an operation in southern Baghdad, coalition forces captured a wanted individual believed to be involved in the car-bombing network in the Rusafa and Karkh areas. Reports indicated the suspect was associated with several of the network's senior leaders and allegedly tried to reestablish operations after significant degradation by coalition forces.

-- An operation northeast of the capital city netted an individual believed to be tied to foreign-terrorist facilitators and other senior al Qaeda leaders operating in Salman Pak. Coalition forces entered the target area and called for a building's occupants to come out. They complied without incident. The suspect identified himself to the ground forces and was detained.

-- Farther north in Mosul, coalition forces captured another wanted individual believed to be involved in the city's terrorist propaganda network. The ground force isolated the target building and called for the building's occupants to come out. During the operation, coalition forces found significant al Qaeda propaganda believed to be for distribution as part of the media network. The wanted individual identified himself to the ground forces and was detained.

-- In three separate operations near Salman Pak, Beiji and Mosul, coalition forces detained eight suspects while targeting alleged foreign-terrorist facilitators, couriers, associates of senior level al Qaeda members, and planners of improvised-explosive-device attacks against the Iraqi people.

"These captures are another step forward in disrupting al-Qaeda networks," said Army Maj. Winfield Danielson, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman.

In raids yesterday, coalition forces detained 10 suspects during operations to disrupt al Qaeda in Iraq in central and northern Iraq.

Coalition forces captured a wanted individual during operations northeast of Baghdad targeting an alleged al Qaeda in Iraq financier. Reports indicated the wanted individual was an associate of senior terrorist leaders in the region, and his sons were believed to be snipers for the terrorist network. Upon entering the target area, coalition forces called for a building's occupants to come out, and the occupants complied without incident. The ground force found multiple weapons and detained five other suspects on site.

Meanwhile, south of Mosul, coalition forces captured a wanted individual believed to be a military commander familiar with improvised-explosive-device attacks and an associate of senior al Qaeda leaders in the area.

In other operations in the Beiji area, coalition forces detained two suspects while targeting foreign-terrorist facilitators, media networks and al Qaeda leaders responsible for improvised-explosive-device attacks in the region. "We are continuing to take the fight to the enemy," Danielson said. "Iraqi and coalition forces are diminishing al Qaeda's ability to attack the Iraqi people."

Elsewhere in Iraq yesterday, soldiers with 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, joined with Iraqi National Police officers in recovering a cache in eastern Baghdad. The find, made by soldiers of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, and officers of 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1stIraqi National Police Division, consisted of two mines and eight magazines, along with one radio. This was the sixth time in three weeks that Iraqi security forces had recovered a cache in eastern Baghdad.

In earlier operations:

-- Baghdad soldiers seized two suspected extremists and uncovered two caches during ongoing operations in the Rashid district of the Iraqi capital Nov. 9. "Warriors" from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, attached to 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, detained two men suspected of terrorist activities and identified by Iraqi security volunteers. The suspects are being held for further questioning.

-- Soldiers of Company D., 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry, found a weapons cache Nov. 9 in the Jazair neighborhood. The cache consisted of a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher, a PKC machine gun with two barrels, three RPG rounds and eight RPG boosters, a 60 mm mortar tube and two rounds, a bolt-action rifle, an AK-47 with 19 full magazines, four hand grenades, a suicide vest, three sets of body armor, about 3,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, and 22 ski masks.

-- The "Black Lions" of Company C, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, attached to Task Force 1-18, part of the 4th Interim Brigade Combat Team. Soldiers found eight mortar rounds of various sizes, four RPG rounds, two rocket fuses, five radios, and a set of body armor. Both caches were taken to a coalition base for disposal.

–- Iraqi police conducted a combined operation with coalition forces against al Qaeda in Iraq west of Samarra on Nov. 9. During the operation, seven insurgents were killed, four were detained, and a weapons cache was secured.

–- Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 502nd Airborne, found a large cache during a combat patrol in Haswa on Nov. 9. The soldiers discovered the cache while setting up a cordon. They found a building containing 22 blocks of C4, one improvised Claymore mine, one propane tank of accelerant, and one 125 mm mortar round. Upon finding the cache, located near an area mosque, the soldiers called in an explosive ordnance disposal team to destroy the cache. All munitions found were destroyed in place.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Great News from Iraq

Day after day I get releases and stories from those serving in the military about what is going on in the Iraq, Afghanistan and the surrounding areas. WOW! I have to tell you it's pretty much great news.

Yes, we're still losing lives and I wish it didn't have to be. I'd love to live in a world where we didn't have to fight to live free. But we do. I firmly believe if we let our guard down we'll someday go down... and it won't be pretty. I thank God for those who are willing to do everything in their power to keep my family safe and give them a brighter future.

So, I get all this great news and yet I don't read it anywhere in the main stream media.

Why not?

I know I'm not the first to ask that question and I've heard a hundred answers. But it just doesn't make sense.

Isn't it great that we have the Internet and we have the ability to bypass the mainstream media if we choose? It doesn't seem to stop the vast majority from walking in their sleep believing whatever headlines they may hear or read. But it is helping to put another perspective on the table.

A note to all of our fine military personnel: THANKS!!!