Monday, December 31, 2007

In Times Square

Message 551

Hidden Baghdad: Paratroopers Find City

"Army News Service SSgt Mike Pryor December 31, 2007"

BAGHDAD - Sgt. Nicholas Hardebeck's platoon was about midway through their afternoon patrol when the sound of explosions began echoing from a nearby street.
Sgt. Hardebeck cocked his head to listen for a moment. "Fire crackers. Just people celebrating," he said casually.
At the beginning of their deployment, the sergeant and the other paratroopers from his unit, Company A, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, might not have reacted as calmly. But after almost a year on the ground, the paratroopers are accustomed to the sights and sounds of Baghdad. What was once alien and strange - and liable to cause overreactions - now seems commonplace.
"We know when something's not right. We know when we need to react and when it's just an everyday occurrence," Sgt. Hardebeck said.
"This is almost like a second home in some ways," said Staff Sgt. Eduardo Ojeda, a squad leader with A Co. "You learn how to operate in your sector just like your city back home."
The hard-won knowledge gained from hundreds of daily foot patrols allows the paratroopers to see a side of the city most Americans don't see on the nightly news.
Staff Sgt. Ojedo described going home on mid-tour leave and having to answer crazy questions about what life in Iraq was like.
"People think it's a day-in, day-out, in-your-face battle all the time," he said.
The reality for the paratroopers of A Co is both less dramatic and more complicated. Several times a day, every day, they roll out of the gates of their base on the Tigris River and head into Suleikh to conduct patrols. When they first arrived, they concentrated on raids and making arrests, but over time, as the security situation improved, their focus shifted. Now they spend most of their time engaging the population, trying to help the people in their area find solutions to the multitude of problems that life in Baghdad presents.
"It's put more of a human side on the Iraqi people for me," Sgt. Hardebeck said. "You realize they want all the same things we want."
A patrol conducted Dec. 21 was typical, although it began on an unusual note. It was Staff Sgt. Ojeda's birthday, so the platoon sang happy birthday for him during the pre-mission briefing.
Once they were out on the street, the platoon began conducting what's called a "soft knock" operation. It's where the paratroopers go door to door, politely asking if they can come in to look around and talk with the owners.
Staff Sgt. Ojeda took his team into one house. It was owned by a woman who lived with her sister and her sister's three children. When he saw the kids, Sgt. Ellis Catchings brought in a large box of candy from his vehicle. Sgts. Catchings and Hardebeck watched laughing as the kids rummaged through the box and taste-tested all the candies and lollipops inside it.
"Sorry. They're probably not going to sleep for days now," Sgt. Catchings joked.
In the other room, Staff Sgt. Ojeda was talking to the woman who owned the house. He was asking her about the family's circumstances. In a roundabout way, it came out that her brother-in-law was living with another woman, and had basically abandoned her sister after the kids were born.
In the next house down, they found an old man and his grown son sitting in their frigid house next to a space heater - a few red coils providing the only warmth - surrounded by shelves holding old photographs and mementos from Iraq's history. The entire house was decorated with heirlooms and antiques. The old man said his father had worked for the king of Iraq, back when Iraq had a king.
His granddaughter started a pot of tea, but the paratroopers had to leave before it was ready. He had been just about to tell a story about the king, and looked upset that they had to leave suddenly.
"You can't stay?" he asked. Briefly he seemed disappointed - he hadn't had visitors in a while - but he quickly hid his disappointment behind a dignified smile.
"Yes, yes. Thank you. Hello," he said as the paratroopers filed out past him.
The Soldiers moved back outside and continued their patrol up the street. At an intersection, their path was blocked by a wedding procession. Cars garlanded with pink and red flowers crept slowly past, with people hanging out the windows waving their hands and throwing confetti. At one point, the cars stopped moving and everyone got out and started an impromptu dance, banging cymbals and drums and blowing trumpets.
Pfc. Alexander Cesario moved into the crowd, shimmying and boogying around to the delight of the partiers. The other paratroopers shook their heads at his antics, but couldn't keep the grins off their faces.
By that point the paratroopers had been out for almost five hours, and it was time to head back to base. Later, Staff Sgt. Ojeda wondered what all the interactions added up to. He thought they meant something.
Young couples getting married, an old man remembering the past, a woman worrying about her sister's love life - these everyday human experiences reveal a city on the mend, as life in Baghdad returns to normal after years of out-of-control violence, Staff Sgt. Ojeda said.
"People back home don't see the milestones that are being set," he said, "but we get to see the progress. Here it is, right in front of us, right now."

Hidden Baghdad: Paratroopers Find City:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007-- The year in review - Current Article Page: "This was the year that "surge" became part of our national vocabulary. The year that cost more Fort Bragg lives than any since Vietnam. The year that all of the 82nd Airborne Division was gone to war. Thus -- in this year when farms turned to dust, nursing students cried foul and lawmen went to prison -- the unresolved battles in Afghanistan and Iraq remain the biggest story.

In 2007, the number of Fort Bragg deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan topped 100. Tours of duty were extended from a year to 15 months. And the entire 82nd Airborne Division was deployed at the same time.
But the main reason the war dominated the news — and was picked the top story of the year by Fayetteville Observer staffers — was the “surge.”

In a January speech, President Bush ordered a troop increase in hopes of curbing violence and creating a protective bubble around Baghdad for the fledgling Iraqi government. The plan more than doubled U.S. combat power in the capital.
Fort Bragg soldiers were at the heart of the plan.
An advance unit from the 82nd’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team was in Baghdad just after Bush’s speech. The rest of the unit moved from Kuwait into the Iraqi capital days later.
It took several months, but by the end of the surge, there were more than 160,000 American troops in Iraq, including three of the four 82nd Airborne Division’s infantry brigades. At the end of the year, violence had dropped. But the end of the war apparently remains distant."

Our take
Kevin Maurer covered Fort Bragg soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan last year: “It shouldn’t shock anyone that the war was the number one story in Fayetteville. While the surge captured all the headlines, Afghanistan is the most important fight. Let’s not forget that the hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, trained there. Yet the mission in Afghanistan gets little funding and attention from policymakers.”
Your take
Laura Baie, the wife of an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, wasn’t surprised that the war was the top story: “The news likes to report when things go wrong, and that happens quite a lot with any war.”
Jeff Slocum is a retired Air Force chief master sergeant: “I am not surprised because there is so much at stake. But what is at stake has nothing to do with how they are selling the war. I think what is at stake is the health of our democracy.”

Friday, December 28, 2007

America's Freedom Broadcast Radio

"America’s Freedom Broadcast Radio is dedicated to the men and women who carry on the fight for our freedom and liberties and to those that precede them in defense of Freedom and Democracy World Wide. Our goal is to give our Military, their families, Veterans and first responders a place to listen in from any where in the world so they can connect to their loved ones through music and messages of support. Our Staff is dedicated to letting everyone serving this country know we here at home are supporting them and their families, no matter where they are deployed to in the world. May God Bless You All"

America's Freedom Broadcast Radio:

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Army Launches Troop-Stationing Web Site

"WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 21, 2007) - The Army has now launched its latest Web site, Grow the Army, to illustrate upcoming troop movements and upcoming unit stationing changes.

The site,, features interactive maps, charts and graphs to show Soldiers and their Families where the Army's new 74,200 Soldiers, six infantry brigade combat teams, eight active-component support brigades, and various-sized combat-support and combat-service-support units will move, grow or activate between fiscal years 2008 and 2013."

More... Army Launches Troop-Stationing Web Site:

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Brings Tons of Mail to TF Bayonet

"Christmas Brings Tons of Mail to TF Bayonet
By Spc. Gregory Argentieri, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2007 – Soldiers from 458th Adjutant General Postal Company stationed here run the central mail hub for the entire Task Force Bayonet area of operations and are responsible for handling, sorting, and processing all incoming and outgoing letters and packages through Jalalabad, Afghanistan, for thousands of soldiers.
The holiday season began early for the military postal service on Forward Operating Base Fenty. At the beginning of November, the number of packages and letters being handled tripled and was expected to peak during the days surrounding Christmas. Officials expect the rush continue through the end of January. Mail before the holidays was averaging 3,000-4,000 pounds a day. The mail increased to between 8,000-13,000 pounds a day since November, officials said. “Santa Claus is the little white planes, and we are the elves,” said Army Spc. Tanya M. Runnels, from Jasper, Texas, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), and part of the FOB Fenty postal team. “We’re working our butts off to make sure the mail gets out to the soldiers. It’s important; it’s Christmas time. That is our job; we’re the mail people.” “We get to supply the mail for all the ‘Joes’ out there, the guys who are really fighting the war. It’s good stuff, and it makes us feel good,” said Army Sgt. Brian R. Boss, from Valliant, Okla., of the 458th Adjutant General Postal Company. “Since arriving at FOB Fenty in February, the 458th has personally handled, carried, either loading and unloading planes, or loading and unloading helicopters, 900,000-950,000 pounds of mail. Before our deployment is over in February, we will have moved more than 1 million pounds of mail.” "

More...DefenseLink News Article: Christmas Brings Tons of Mail to TF Bayonet:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Iraqi Army Soldiers, Iraqi Security Volunteers capture 2 suspected al-Qaeda operatives

"Blackanthem Military News
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi Army Soldiers and local Iraqi Security Volunteers captured two suspected members of al-Qaeda in Iraq in separate incidents Dec. 21 in Baghdad's Adhamiyah District.

In the first event, Iraqi Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division conducted a raid in the Tunis neighborhood Friday evening that captured a high-ranking target alleged to be involved in murder and attacks on Coalition Forces."

More...Iraqi Army Soldiers, Iraqi Security Volunteers capture 2 suspected al-Qaeda operatives:

The capture provided another demonstration of the positive impact local security volunteers are having on the security situation in Baghdad, said Lt. Col. David Oclander, executive officer of the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "Clearly, there is no substitute for local people taking the lead in securing their own neighborhoods," Oclander said.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

More troops welcomed home in GJ

Photo: U.S. Army Pfcs. Adam Nunnelly and Cody Boden, both paratroopers from 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, provide security during a search for weapons caches in Al Jabor, Iraq, Dec. 19, 2006.
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sean A. Foley
It has been busy at Grand Junction Walker Field airport the past several days. Tonight while waiting after a soldier was bumped off his flight and hoping for the next one we had the honor of being there to greet some navy and army personnel that we hadn't had notifications on.
Those we have names for on the most recent welcome homes are Spc Cody Boden, Army, and Tyler Long, Marine.
Tyler had a difficult time making connections and getting a flight out of Phoenix but when his 9:30 flight finally arrived at 1:30 a.m. there were still plenty of us there to welcome him.
Cody was also bumped from his flight but an unknown traveler, resident of GJ, gave up his seat on the next flight. Tyler will be leaving for Hawaii in January and Cody to Alaska. Cody has earned 2 purple hearts.
I feel its a real honor to be able to be there to welcome home our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines -- as A Blue Star Mother, and as citizen.

Merry Christmas Salute to All of you!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Family Adopts Slain Son's Military Dog

" Dec 21, 2007 (10:22p CST)

ALBANY, Ga. - A military working dog wounded in Iraq during a rocket attack that killed its Marine handler was adopted Friday by the slain Marine's family.

Cpl. Dustin Lee's family planned to take home the bomb-sniffing dog - named Lex - on Saturday after the 8-year-old German shepherd was granted early retirement. It was the first time a working dog was granted retirement to live with the handler's family, officials said."

"Nobody can do anything to replace the void in this family," said Col. Christian Haliday, commander of the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, where Lee and Lex were assigned."We hope Lex can bring a small piece of his spirit and help maintain his memory," he said.On hand for a ceremony at the base were the Marine's parents, Jerome and Rachel Lee, his sister, Madison, 16, and brother, Camryn, 12, of Quitman, Miss. News:

Eat the Goat, Drink the Tea

Paul O'Friel has simple advice for his Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Team: 'Eat the goat, drink the tea,' he says. It's O'Friel's way of instilling in his team members the importance of engaging with the local leaders and people in an area of Iraq pulverized not by IEDs, but by poverty and thirst. 'There are some villages here that look like they came out of the Middle Ages,' O'Friel told me in a phone interview from Iraq yesterday morning."

More...Eat the Goat, Drink the Tea - Real Clear Politics - Mid Term Elections - Elections 2008 - TIME: "

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fort Bragg Set to Get More Soldiers

"Fort Bragg Set to Get More Soldiers
American Forces Press Service

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Dec. 20, 2007 – Fort Bragg will receive about 1,400 more soldiers as part of the Army's 'Grow the Army' stationing plan, base officials announced yesterday.
The Army is using the president’s January 2007 plan to increase the Army by 74,200 soldiers, and Fort Bragg will receive an additional 1,405 soldiers by the end of fiscal 2013.

The Army is adjusting its global footprint to support accelerated growth and force structure realignment and to improve readiness while complying with 2005 Base Realignment and Closure law, sustaining current global commitments, and preparing to meet future challenges, Army officials said."

more...DefenseLink News Article: Fort Bragg Set to Get More Soldiers:

Fort Carson gets more soldiers

KKCO - HomePage: "Fort Carson, Colo. (AP) -- The Army will put two newly-formed brigade combat teams at Fort Carson, bringing about 7,000 more soldiers to the post under a plan released on Wednesday.Fort Carson, Colo. (AP) -- The Army will put two newly-formed brigade combat teams at Fort Carson, bringing about 7,000 more soldiers to the post under a plan released on Wednesday.
The Army is adding four other brigade combat teams, two each at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Stewart, Georgia, plus eight support units at other posts.
The additions are part of a plan to expand the active-duty Army by about 65,000 soldiers.
Members of Colorado's congressional delegation praised the decision. They said earlier Wednesday that they were told about one of the new brigades, and said it was expected by 2011.
Republican Senator Wayne Allard has said the expansion would mean some $50 million yearly in government funding, plus about $500 million in construction."

Invasion of Panama / Opn Just Cause -

Invasion of Panama / Opn Just Cause - The Dropzone: "18 years ago on 20 Dec, 1989 elements of the 82nd ABN DIV (1-504 PIR, 2-504 PIR, 4-325 AIR) & the 75th Ranger Regiment conducted parachute assaults as part of Opn Just Cause. Please have a drink to these men and say a prayer for the families of the men who gave their lives in that brief conflict."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Red Cross to Deliver Holiday Cards to Wounded

"WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2007 – This holiday season, the American Red Cross will make sure holiday greetings generically addressed to wounded servicemembers at military medical facilities around the country will find a home.
With help from Pitney Bowes Government Solutions, and the support of the Defense Department and Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, the American Red Cross will collect, review and distribute holiday greeting cards to wounded military personnel."

“So many Americans want to show their support and gratitude by reaching out to wounded servicemembers at Walter Reed and other military medical centers during the holiday season,” said Neal Denton, American Red Cross Senior vice president for service to the armed forces. “With the support of the Department of Defense, Walter Reed leadership and Pitney Bowes, we can bring a little cheer to these brave men and women.”

More...DefenseLink News Article: America Supports You: Red Cross to Deliver Holiday Cards to Wounded:

Send cards to: (No Packages)

We Support You During Your Recovery!
c/o American Red Cross
P.O. Box 419
Savage, MD 20763-0419

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Northern Disclosure:

Northern Disclosure:: A personal account of an Infantry Squad leader in training and combat. Takes place with the train up at Fort Lewis and follows them around the U.S., the desert sands of Kuwait and ends in Mosul, Iraq. SFC Toby J. Nunn is a Canadian Citizen earning his citizenship for the United States of America.

"Sometimes, we get a break in the routine to experience something new or different from what we have been doing and it is so refreshing. The last week I have been living in a small combat outpost along the main route that our guys travel and work on to see things from another perspective and to share information and experiences. I was pleased with the group I got married up with first, SSG Strachan and his squad were a professional group of Paratroopers that brought credit upon their unit and country. They performed their duties with high levels of proficency and were respectful to the local nationals."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Artist Gives Music, Time to Troops

DefenseLink News Article: America Supports You: Artist Gives Music, Time to Troops: "America Supports You: Artist Gives Music, Time to Troops By Fred W. Baker III American Forces Press Service WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2007 – Johnny Ondrasik turns 8 years old this Christmas Eve, but he isn’t asking for any presents on his birthday -- at least not for himself.
...When finished, the musician will give away some 200,000 free CDs for U.S. troops, compliments of Ondrasik and some 13 superstar friends who partnered to make a “thank you” music disc for servicemembers. The contributing artists include Billy Joel, the Goo Goo Dolls, Brooks and Dunn, Melissa Ethridge and even actor Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band.

...CD available for download on AAFES site"

1-504 near al-Mutanabi

"A U.S. Army Soldier with the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment conducts a patrol near the al-Mutanabi Street Book Market in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 8, 2007.
The Soldier is providing security for Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq (MNC-I), and MNC-I Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola during their tour of the area.

DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Curt Cashour, U.S. Army. (Released)

Record ID No. (VIRIN): 071208-A-2224C-204
This item is cleared for public release "

Image Gallery Screen Resolution Image 071208-A-2224C-204:

Iraqi Army receives new equipment through FMS

"By Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq,

Public Affairs Office, Phoenix Base

Dec 11, 2007 - 3:22:43 PM

Blackanthem Military News

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi Army Gen. Nassir Abadi, deputy chief of staff, and U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Robin Swan, Coalition Military Assistance Transition Team commanding general, held a press conference at Old Muthanna air base to announce the delivery of more than 200 HMMWVs, 40 5-ton cargo trucks and 5 Rough Terrain Container Handlers and other types of support equipment that were purchased though the Foreign Military Sales program."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Eighty Deuce On The Loose In Iraq

"Im 25 years old and Im a team leader in an Infantry line squad with the 82nd Airborne. This is my first experience in Iraq, and being inspired by another blogger from before I joined, I decided to keep a record of my experience; a perspective of the war from boots on the ground. "

Eighty Deuce On The Loose In Iraq:

Paratroopers on Toy Jump

Paratroopers donate toys for kids
12/07/2007 06:51 PM
By: Ilin Chen
FORT BRAGG -- Christmas can be quite the international affair on Fort Bragg. Hundreds of soldiers on the base are fighting for a good cause for the chance to jump with some of their foreign counterparts.
With dolls in hand, soldiers at Fort Bragg waited in line Friday, not to see Santa Claus but rather to be Santa by donating a brand new toy to a child in need.
"I always like to make the holidays a little bit better for somebody that's less fortunate than I am because I'd like to think that growing up, I had a lot of privileges that kids didn't always have,” said Capt. Tara Kaiser, 16th Military Police Brigade. “I’m honored to be a part of something that helps bring a smile to a kids face."

Sunday, December 02, 2007

He's a winner -- and doesn't like it

He's a winner -- and doesn't like it
Army sergeant who was wounded in Iraq receives Purple Heart
McClatchy Newspapers"
WASHINGTON --Staff Sgt. Benjamin Dellinger got an award he never wanted Friday.
The Purple Heart was presented to the 25-year-old infantryman from Denver, N.C., and five others recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It is given to any service member injured or killed by enemy forces.
The Army had tried to give him the medal at earlier monthly ceremonies, but he resisted.
"I think it's embarrassing," Dellinger says. "... I always thought I was better than the bad guys. It's kind of humbling in a sense that I don't like.
"Just because you get a Purple Heart doesn't mean you're a hero. It just means you had a bad day."
He says he'd rather be back in Fayetteville, where he was stationed at Fort Bragg with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. But he doesn't think he'll get approval before March, because the Army wants to be sure he can get the same level of treatment he's getting at Walter Reed before releasing him.

More...Charlotte Observer 12/01/2007 He's a winner -- and doesn't like it: