War on Terrorism

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Face of Defense: Officer Uses French-Speaking Skills in Africa

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Heather Stanton
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Public Affairs

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti, Dec. 30, 2010 – An Air Force officer deployed here employs her ability to speak French to communicate with local Djiboutians and with other international partners throughout eastern Africa.

Capt. Sylvia Kim speaks fluent French, one of the official languages of Djibouti and a dominant language throughout the African continent. Realizing her skill could benefit Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, Kim volunteered for her current position as medical planner for the Joint Operations Directorate with CJTF-HOA.

"The knowledge of the language has been essential [while deployed to CJTF-HOA]," Kim said. "French and Arabic are the official languages in Djibouti, French being the operational language. It's been essential in communicating and networking with the local Djiboutians and the camp staff and also imperative with correspondence with the Djiboutian government."

Kim accomplishes much of the official correspondence translation for the task force commander as well as translating presentations.

Not only does Kim use her talent at work, she also shares her knowledge as a basic French language course instructor on Camp Lemonnier in her free time.

"Captain Kim is well organized, inspirational and a patient teacher," said Navy Lt. Kittima Boonsirisermsook, the camp dental officer and one of Captain Kim's French students. "Most of us [students] had hardly ever spoken a word of French before our first class. We were given a lot of class material, a lot of instruction, repetition and practice."

During the course, Kim talked of her time in France, which helped motivate the students, Boonsirisermsook said. She also encouraged the students to talk with Djiboutians on base to brighten their day and show interest in local culture.

A Los Angeles native, Kim began speaking French at a young age because it was a school requirement to learn a foreign language. But by choice, she continued to learn the language, eventually double-majoring in philosophy and French while at the University of California Los Angeles and spending her senior year of study abroad at the prestigious Sorbonne University in Paris.

Kim joined the Air Force in December 2005 after working eight years in the international affairs arena because of her love of travel and the numerous overseas opportunities the military offered.

"Apart from my year in France, I've worked in Hungary, Slovakia, Morocco and Yemen and language has been imperative in each foreign country and I'm happy to learn, share my knowledge, and build lasting partnerships and relationships," she said. "In my previous positions, I found that language was the key to furthering partnerships and getting somewhere with my official duties."

During her Air Force career, Kim has been stationed in the Washington, D.C., area at both Bolling and Andrews Air Force bases. She then spent a year at Osan Air Base, South Korea, and is currently home-stationed in Geilenkirchen, Germany.

While in Korea, Kim used another language skill set to do her job as the Tricare operations and patient administration flight commander.

"I probably spoke Korean 80 percent of my day building partnerships with Korean hospitals where we were sending our patients for higher echelons of care," Kim said.

Kim grew up in a Korean household where her parents did not speak English or French. However, she now considers her French-speaking abilities to be stronger than her Korean.

Kim also has taken basic language courses in Spanish, Mandarin, German and Arabic.

"It bothers me if I'm not able to communicate in the language of the country I am in," she said. "As soon as I arrived at Camp Lemonnier, our Egyptian liaison officer was offering a basic Arabic course and I enrolled in that right away."

When Kim completes her deployment to CJTF-HOA she will return to Germany. However, she dreams of future assignments.

"My dream is to move on to U.S. Africa Command and stay within this sphere of amazing work and amazing partnerships that we are creating throughout CJTF-HOA and the continent of Africa," she said.

ISAF Condemns Bomb Attack in Helmand Province

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2010 – NATO’s International Security Assistance Force condemned today’s indiscriminate insurgent improvised-explosive-device attack in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that killed at least 10 Afghan civilians and injured several more, military officials reported.

“This despicable attack blatantly targeted Afghan civilians. We offer our sincere condolences to the families of the murdered civilians, and we wish for a hasty recovery for all those injured by this attack,” said Navy Rear Admiral Vic Beck, ISAF director of public affairs. “We will continue to focus our efforts to assist the Afghan government in bringing those responsible to justice.”

The IED exploded in a crowded area in the Nahr-e Saraj district. Afghan security forces and ISAF personnel responded to the blast scene to provide medical assistance and evacuate wounded.

In other Afghanistan news, Afghan and coalition forces yesterday detained a key Taliban facilitator linked to the murder of a local Afghan in March in Kandahar province. The Taliban facilitator also was responsible for supplying, planning and reporting attacks against coalition forces. Four additional suspects were detaining during the operation that was conducted in the Kandahar district.

Evidence at the site linked the man to a murdered Afghan found in March in the Zharay district of the province. The murdered man was found with a Taliban night letter stating, “People working with Americans will be killed and they have no right to complain.” Night letters are a Taliban tactic used to intimidate local Afghans. The letters, bearing the Taliban letterhead, deliver threats of death and harassment to locals who either refuse to support terrorist efforts or maintain support of coalition efforts, or both.

“We will not let these senseless murders go without reprisal,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patrick Hynes, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director. “We will continue to track down and capture those responsible for crimes against local citizens who are standing up for a terror-free life.”

The joint security team conducted the operation in the hours of darkness to minimize the risk to local citizens. No women or children were injured or detained during this operation. The security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

In other news yesterday:

-- Afghan and coalition forces targeted a Taliban leader in Kunduz province who has key ties to Afghanistan- and Pakistan-based Taliban leadership, detaining several suspected insurgents during a joint security operation. The Taliban leader has direct ties to the Baghlan province Taliban network and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Kunduz and Pakistan. He teaches affiliates how to build IEDs and also purchases and distributes IED-making materials. He works in the province with autonomy, reporting directly to the Taliban shadow governor. Forces followed leads to a series of buildings in the Kunduz district. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call occupants out of the buildings peacefully before conducting a search. Several men were detained after initial questioning. The joint security team conducted the operation in the hours of darkness to minimize the risk to local citizens. No women or children were injured or detained during this operation. The security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

-- ISAF officials confirmed that Sayid Rahman, a Taliban senior leader, was killed during a precision airstrike targeting a group of armed insurgents in Pachir wa Agam district in Nangarhar province. Sayid Rahman was the senior leader in a group responsible for planning and conducting attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. Recent reporting indicated the group was coordinating the use of suicide bombers within the district and may have been planning an attack at an Afghan border checkpoint. Also killed in the airstrike was Zehrie Gul, a Taliban leader who also operated in the Pachir wa Agam district with Sayid Rahman. Following intelligence tips, the precision airstrike was conducted after ensuring no civilians were present. A follow-on force conducted a ground assessment verifying Sayuid Rahman, Zehria Gul and several additional insurgents were killed. The force found multiple AK-47 rifles, chest racks, rocket-propelled-grenade rounds and grenades.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained a Taliban IED and narcotics facilitator during a joint security operation in Kandahar province. Two suspected associates of the facilitator also were detained. The Taliban operative coordinated and transported money and narcotics across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in exchange for explosive components. He has extensive contacts with senior Taliban IED facilitators. This was one of nearly 20 operations this month resulting in more than 60 detainees in the Kandahar province.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Cpl. Tevan L. Nguyen, 21, of Hutto, Texas, died Dec. 28, while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 1st Marine Division public affairs office at 760-725-8766.

Senior Wisconsin Guard leaders visit deployed troops

Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Wisconsin Army National Guard senior leaders have found that 2010 has been a busy but productive and successful year for Wisconsin Guard units deployed in Iraq. Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and Command Sgt. Major George Stopper, the Wisconsin Army Guard's senior non-commissioned officer, visited the 724th Engineer Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment Dec. 7-9. They found both units engaged in a brisk operation tempo as they assumed greater areas of responsibility as a result of troop reductions in Iraq.

"The sheer number of missions has increased tremendously," Anderson said. "They're taking it in stride. Senior commanders were extremely complimentary."

The 724th heads up Task Force Badger, the sole combat engineer asset in Iraq, which in addition to Wisconsin consists of National Guard Soldiers from Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico, and active component Soldiers as well. The 724th has about two months remaining on its deployment.

The 147th supports the lone aviation brigade in Iraq, and conducts such missions as command and control, quick reaction force, troop movement and general support. The 147th is about halfway through its deployment.

Both Anderson and Stopper pointed out how the 724th and 147th significantly improved the operation and availability of theater-based equipment inherited from previous units, and the high level of morale even as the troop drawdown requires relocation from one base of operations to another. Elements of the 147th, for example, have already moved three times.

"They recognize the fluidity of the situation," Anderson said.

That fluidity may lead to challenges in the future, Stopper said.

"It's not just combat units we're downsizing," he explained. "Everything else we had gotten used to is downsizing. The supply lines are changing - before, it was just stuff coming in. Now it's also stuff going out."

"Organizations need to position themselves for when the inevitable happens," Anderson said. "There will be a tipping point where parts are not available."

Both leaders also commented on a significant change since their last visit, one that was obscured by the relative calm in Iraq today.
"It didn't hit me until we left - the absolute absence of armored combat vehicles," Stopper said. "No tanks, no Bradleys [or] armored personnel carriers on bases, only the route clearing vehicles. There's still security on the bases, but it's obvious it's a new day in Iraq."

Anderson said that Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers clearly understand "where they are at, with moving away from kinetic operations to host nation support. They are embracing their mission during a very turbulent time due to the retrograde operations. They have the right attitude."

Stopper agreed.

"During our visit, I did not have a single Soldier from either organization who complained," he said. "The morale is awesome."

First Navy EOD Group To Assume Key Iraq Mission

By Commander, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1 Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group (EODGRU) 1 departed Naval Air Station, North Island Dec. 28 to assume duties as the first Navy EOD brigade to command Joint Task Force (JTF) Troy in Iraq.

Approximately 25 Sailors deployed for Baghdad to form the core staff of JTF Troy. JTF Troy is responsible for exercising command and control of operational EOD forces throughout Iraq.

As JTF Troy, EODGRU-1 will command specialized joint counter-improvised explosive device (IED) and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear forces, and conduct weapons technical intelligence collection and exploitation to assist Iraq in defeating IED networks.

Capt. Edward Eidson, commander, EODGRU-1 said this mission is critical to the safety and security of the people in Iraq and long-term stability for the country and the region.

"It is the job of the joint task force to protect coalition forces and assist Iraq's counter IED forces in maintaining the conditions that allowed a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq," said Eidson. "We are here to advise, train and assist Iraq forces in the conduct of counter-IED operations."

"The Iraqi security and military forces have demonstrated robust EOD capabilities. We will assist them in honing their skills while we continue to provide force protection for coalition forces," said Eidson.

EODGRU-1 has been training and qualifying to assume this mission over the past year.

From completing the Major Combat Operation certification in April to the pre-deployment sight survey in October, EODGRU-1 has achieved major milestones throughout the certification process, said Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Haywood, operations officer for JTF Troy.

"The training and preparation doesn't stop," said Haywood. "EOD Group One will integrate with coalition forces to support the JTF Troy mission and finalize transition of the mission to Iraqi forces."

On Feb. 27, 2009 the President of the United States directed that U.S. troops will leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011. Eidson said that EODGRU-1 is ready to ensure that the ISF has the skills and training required to protect and defend their country.

"The Iraqi security and military Forces are ready and are assuming responsibility for internal security," said Eidson, "We are here to build on the work already accomplished by those that came before us, who helped create the conditions for a sovereign, stable and secure Iraq. We will help the Iraqi security and military forces ensure they have the right skills to protect Iraq in the counter IED fight for years to come."

Airstrike Stops Enemy Attack in Afghanistan

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2010 – An International Security Assistance Force patrol that came under small-arms fire today in the Nad’Ali district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, called in an airstrike that killed one insurgent and derailed the enemy attack, military officials reported.

Afterwards, the ISAF patrol moved towards the enemy position and came across an Afghan civilian who claimed that insurgents had shot his daughter, who later died.

Also today, Afghan and ISAF troops discovered several caches in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

In Uruzgan and Kabul provinces, Afghan and ISAF patrols found four weapons and improvised explosive device component caches in Tarin Kot, Musahi and Kabul districts during separate clearing operations. The caches consisted of eight rocket-propelled grenades, 13 mines, 30 fuses, 770 7.62 mm rounds, nine 82 mm mortar rounds, five gallons of liquid explosive, one recoilless rifle round, one machine-gun and several improvised explosive device-making components.

In Paktiya province, an Afghan civilian tip led a combined patrol to a weapons cache in Jaji district. The cache consisted of two IEDs made of anti-tank rounds, nine rockets, three heavy machine-gun barrels and several electrical IED-making components.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained several suspects, including a senior Taliban leader who is a key link between two of Kandahar province’s district cells. The senior leader, operating out of Kandahar province’s Panjwa’i district, shares multiple associates within various Taliban cells. He is responsible for distributing supplies, kidnappings, the coordinating and planning of attacks, as well as instructing associates on improvised explosive device construction. The targeted individual is associated with both the Zharay-based suicide vehicle-borne IED network and the Kandahar City IED facilitation network. Forces followed leads to a series of buildings in the Kandahar district. The joint forces questioned the occupants at the location and conducted a search where they discovered multiple mortar shells. The shells were destroyed on site to ensure the safety of local Afghans. The suspects were detained based on initial questioning and evidence at the scene. The joint security team conducted the operations in the hours of darkness to minimize the risk to local citizens. No women or children were injured or detained during this operation. The security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained a Taliban facilitator and several suspects during a joint security operation in Kandahar province. Forces continued efforts to deny sanctuary to terrorists as they successfully conducted the operation, targeting the facilitator who operates out of Kandahar City. The targeted individual is an intelligence operative responsible for providing direction in the form of site selection and target sets for the suicide bombers who reportedly came into the city from Chaman, Pakistan. The facilitator additionally provides support to Taliban operations including recruitment and improvised explosive device facilitation. He is closely associated with senior facilitators and has connections within the Dand and Panjwa’i districts’ Taliban networks. Forces followed leads to a series of buildings in the Kandahar district. The joint forces questioned the occupants at the location and conducted a search where they discovered multiple assault weapons and ammunition. The suspects were detained based on initial questioning. The joint security team conducted the operation in the hours of darkness to minimize the risk to local citizens. No women or children were injured or detained during this operation. The security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained a Taliban leader during a joint security operation in Nimroz province yesterday. Forces conducted the operation in search of the now-detained man who leads a Taliban cell in the Khash Rod district. The captured leader recently coordinated the acquisition of mines and rockets for use against coalition forces. He authorized the employment of the weapons once they were acquired. He also has knowledge and involvement in the movement of suicide bombers into the area. The suicide bombers, according to intelligence reports, are intended to be a Taliban tool used to inhibit coalition forces’ freedom of movement. Forces followed leads to a series of buildings where the joint forces questioned the occupants at the location and conducted a search. The security team discovered an AK-47 assault rifle, a chest rack and multiple magazines at the site. The suspect was detained based on initial questioning. The joint security team conducted the operation in the hours of darkness to minimize the risk to local citizens. This operation is one of many in which Afghan and coalition forces continue to apply pressure and deny sanctuary to terrorists. The security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

-- Coalition forces conducted a precision airstrike targeting a group of armed insurgents in Pachir wa Agam district in Nangarhar province, killing several insurgents. It is believed that there was a senior leader in the group responsible for planning and conducting attacks against Afghan and coalition elements. Recent reporting indicates the group was coordinating the use of suicide bombers within the district and may have been planning an attack at an Afghan border checkpoint. Following intelligence tips, the precision airstrike was conducted after ensuring no civilians were present. A follow-on force conducted a ground assessment verifying the insurgents were killed. The force found multiple AK-47s, chest racks, rocket propelled grenade rounds and grenades. The International Security Assistance Force is gathering information to confirm if the senior leader was the one of the insurgents killed in the strike.

-- More than 15 insurgents were killed by Afghan and ISAF troops during separate operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

In Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand province, a combined Afghan police and ISAF patrol was engaged by insurgents with small-arms fire. After gaining positive identification, the combined forces returned fire, killing one insurgent. In the same province, a coalition patrol was engaged by insurgents in Kajaki district. After gaining positive identification, coalition forces engaged the enemy position with mortar fire, killing several insurgents.

An ISAF forward operating base declared an imminent threat when numerous insurgents were reinforcing an enemy position in Tagab district, Kapisa province. Coalition forces called for air support and the air weapons team on scene engaged the enemy position, killing more than 10 insurgents.

Afghan security forces and ISAF troops discovered several caches in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

In Uruzgan and Helmand provinces, Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF patrols found three weapons and improvised explosive device component caches in Tarin Kot and Sangin districts during separate clearing operations. The caches consisted of five rocket-propelled grenades, two RPG boosters, three RPG warheads, one hand grenade, one smoke grenade and one heavy machine-gun. The caches also contained several IED-making components, such as 14 pressure plates, one large anti-vehicle pressure plate, 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate, detonation cord and six blasting caps.

In Shaybar district, Bamyan province, an Afghan civilian tip led a separate ISAF patrol force to another weapons cache consisting of 16 107 mm rockets, 77 82 mm mortar rounds and six 75 mm recoilless rifle rounds.

In Kandahar province, a combined patrol found a large weapons cache in Arghandab province. The cache consisted of four anti-personnel mines, explosives, three recoilless rifle rounds, two RGPs, 680 7.62 mm rounds, 50 feet of detonation cord, 12 blasting caps, 10 pressure plates, 40 firing pins and several radio and electrical components.

Initial reports indicate no civilians were injured and no damage was reported during the weapons clearing operations. The weapons from all provinces were confiscated and will be destroyed.

“We want to thank Afghan civilians who cooperate with Afghan and ISAF forces to provide tips that lead us to safely remove these lethal devices,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patrick Hynes, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Colonel Cites Measurable, But Fragile, Afghan Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2010 – Measurable progress has been achieved in Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktia provinces, but it is fragile, Army Col. Viet Luong, commander of the American task force in the area, said today.

Luong spoke to the Pentagon press corps via teleconference. The commander of the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team also said that Afghan security forces in his area are operating independently.

Task Force Rakkasan’s mission –- Rakkasan is what the Japanese called the unit in 1945 –- is to protect the Afghan population and increase the capacity, capability and credibility of the Afghan national security forces in support of the Afghan government. This is counterinsurgency doctrine at its basics, the colonel said.

The unit took over its area of responsibility in February and will begin rotating back to Fort Campbell, Ky., shortly.

“In the last 11 months, we have seen gradual but measurable progress,” Luong said. “First and foremost, the combined coalition/Afghan national security forces team has taken approximately 2,000 fighters out of the fight.”

This security achievement has given local governance a chance to establish roots and begin serving the people. Afghan elders are taking part in regional shuras and in determining what projects are needed in their towns and villages, Luong said.

“Kids are now going to school, playing cricket, flying kites -– activities strictly forbidden under Taliban rule. To me, it's a subtle sign,” he said.

Luong is hearing from the Afghan people that the improved security is making a difference. “More importantly, for the first time, they’re feeling that the provincial government is now working for the people,” he said. “In short, while fragile, we’re seeing progress across the board in Paktia and Khost.”

However, the enemy has a vote, Luong said, noting the main enemy in his area is the Haqqani network.

“I can tell you that at least in Paktia, Paktika and Khost [provinces], the Haqqani network is sort of on its heels,” he said. “We have captured and killed many, many of their fighters and mid-level leaders. The senior leadership routinely hides in the tribal areas in Pakistan now for the fear of being captured or killed.”

Meanwhile, Luong said, coalition and Afghan forces are keeping the pressure on the terrorist network.

“We have increased fourfold … the number of operations and patrols, up to 12,000 in the last year, with 600 named operations,” the colonel said.

Luong said the Haqqani insurgents have changed their tactics due to their losses of trained fighters and mid-level leaders.

“Lately the trend has been assassination, because that’s all they can resort to doing to target a very, very vulnerable Afghan officials,” Luong said. The terrorists also are responsible for a tremendous number of civilian casualties. The Haqqani plant roadside bombs and mines and launch indirect-fire attacks primarily against civilians.

“That's about all they can do at this stage,” he said.

Luong said his unit also has responsibility for more than 250 kilometers of Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. The colonel has met with Pakistani officials opposite the Rakkasans and was working to coordinate operations with Pakistani units.

Unfortunately, he said, the monsoon rains pummeled Pakistan, and many Pakistani soldiers who would have participated in such border operations were assigned to the humanitarian mission.

“I know up north up in Nangarhar, Lowgar … they were able to reach complementary operations,” Luong said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to replicate down here.”

The unit that replaces the Rakkasans -– the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team -– will take up that task.

Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. Garrett A. Misener, 25, of Cordova, Tenn., died Dec. 27 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 2nd Marine Division public affairs office at 910-449-9925 or http://www.marines.mil/unit/2ndmardiv/Pages/Media/default.aspx .

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2010 – Afghan and coalition forces yesterday captured a Haqqani network leader during a security operation conducted in Khost province, military officials reported.

Intelligence reports indicate that the insurgent leader facilitated movement of improvised explosive device-making materials from Pakistan into Khost province. He also was responsible for IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force followed intelligence tips to a compound in Terayzai district to search for the leader.

Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit peacefully before the combined security force cleared and secured the building. The Haqqani leader identified himself to authorities during questioning at which time he was detained. Two other suspected insurgents also were detained.

A search of the insurgent’s house resulted in finding a mortar round and military-style equipment. The operation was conducted during hours of darkness to minimize risk to local residents. No women or children were injured or detained during this operation. Security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

In other Afghanistan news yesterday:

-- Afghan and coalition forces conducted three operations against Taliban insurgents in northern and southern parts of the country resulting in several suspected insurgents being detained.

In Kunduz province, Afghan and coalition forces conducted a deliberate clearing operation aimed at disrupting the Taliban’s freedom of movement in northern Afghanistan, detaining two suspected insurgents. The combined security force is continuing efforts to disrupt enemy safe havens, where Taliban leaders use villages throughout the area to conduct operational planning and facilitate their attacks. This operation focused on an area near Chem Tepa village in Chahar Darah district. Afghan and coalition forces cleared five compounds suspected of insurgent activity in the area. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compounds peacefully before the security force cleared and secured the areas. After initial questioning, two suspected insurgents were detained.

In Zabul province, combined forces detained a man suspected of conducting IED attacks on a major southern thoroughfare. Forces conducted the operation in search of a Taliban facilitator operating in the province’s Shah Joy district. He is known for conducting IED attacks against coalition forces along Highway 1, as well as coordinating command and control over terrorist operations in the district. Security forces made it a priority to secure Highway 1 in an effort to further the safety of local Afghans and coalition forces as well as provide a conduit to further stabilization in the southern provinces. This operation is one of a dozen conducted over a five-week period in the province. The major thoroughfare extends from Kabul, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, through the southern provinces and terminates on the Iranian border. Southern forces killed four insurgents including a significant Taliban leader, Amarat, and have detained more than 50 suspects in the district since Nov. 18.

In Nimroz province’s Khash Rod district, Afghan and coalition forces detained two suspects during an operation targeting another Taliban leader. Forces conducted the operations in search of the leader who is involved in the facilitation of IED materials and weapons. He also directs attacks and is involved with attack coordination against coalition forces. The targeted individual conducts visual observations of coalition forces within the area to provide Taliban associates with reports of friendly forces’ movements and locations. Forces followed leads to a series of targeted buildings where they questioned the occupants at the locations and conducted a search. The two suspects were detained based on initial questioning at the scenes. The combined security team conducted these operations during hours of darkness to minimize risk to local civilians. No women or children were injured or detained during these operations. The security forces conducted these operations without firing their weapons.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained a Taliban leader and a Taliban facilitator during a combined security operation in Nangarhar province. Combined forces have detained six Taliban leaders and 18 suspected insurgents in the province since Dec. 1. The Taliban leader operated within Pachir wa Agam district, facilitating foreign fighters and suicide bombers to attack coalition forces and government officials in Jalalabad, Behsud and Pachir wa Agam districts. The Taliban facilitator was involved in facilitating weapons and suicide bombers as well as planning attacks in the Pachir wa Agam district. Recent reporting indicates he and several associates were acquiring compounds necessary to make suicide bombs south of Jalalabad City. Forces detained the two Taliban leaders at a targeted location in Chaparhar district. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call occupants out of the buildings peacefully before conducting a search. The men were detained after initial questioning. The joint security team conducted the operation during hours of darkness to minimize risk to local civilians. No women or children were injured or detained during this operation. Security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

-- Afghan and coalition forces targeted and detained a Taliban attack leader during a combined security operation in Kandahar province. Forces conducted the operation in search of the leader, who bears the title “doctor” due to his intricate knowledge of IEDs. The leader trained Taliban members on how to build, emplace and detonate IEDs. In addition, he gave tactical guidance on where and how to conduct such attacks. He is associated with the Dec. 12 suicide vehicle-borne IED attack in Sangisar and was involved in moving money and supplies in support of suicide vehicle-borne IED operations in Kandahar City. The now-detained individual also was in direct contact with an array of suicide vehicle-borne IED cell leaders and suicide-attack facilitators.

Forces followed leads to the target location in Kandahar City, where Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call all occupants to exit the buildings peacefully before conducting a search. The security team determined the targeted individual and one suspected insurgent would be detained based on initial questioning at the scene. The security team conducted the operation in the hours of darkness to minimize the risk to local civilians. No women or children were injured or detained during this operation. The security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Task Force Rakkasan Commander and 3rd Brigade Combat Team Commander to Brief Live from Afghanistan

Army Col. Viet Luong, commander of Task Force Rakkasan and 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, will brief the media live from Khost Province, Afghanistan, at , Dec. 28, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973) to provide an update on current operations.

Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the River Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort into the building.

Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Kenneth A. Corzine, 23, of Bethalto, Ill., died Dec. 24 of wounds received Dec. 5 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 1st Marine Division public affairs office at 760-725-8766.

NATO Condemns Suicide Attack in Afghanistan

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27, 2010 – NATO’s International Security Assistance Force joined Afghan President Hamid Karzai in condemning today’s insurgent suicide attack that killed at least one civilian in Kandahar City, military officials reported.

The attack also wounded at least six civilians and eight Afghan security force members, and resulted in substantial damage to a nearby mosque.

“This attack clearly shows how desperate insurgents are to prevent the Afghan people from governing their own stable and free country,” said Navy Rear Adm. Vic Beck, ISAF director of public affairs. “We offer our sincere condolences to the families of the murdered civilian, and wish for a quick recovery for all those wounded in today’s attack. We will continue to work with our Afghan counterparts to ensure that those responsible will be brought to justice.”

In other news, more than 10 insurgents were killed and others wounded by Afghan and ISAF forces during separate clearing operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan over the last 24 hours.

In Helmand province’s Musa Qal’ah district coalition forces spotted insurgents emplacing an improvised explosive device. After gaining positive identification, coalition forces engaged the enemy position with small arms fire, killing several insurgents.

In Kapisa province’s Tagab district insurgents engaged a combined patrol with small arms fire. After gaining positive identification, combined forces returned fire to the enemy position, killing and wounding numerous insurgents.

Afghan and ISAF forces also discovered several caches in eastern and southern Afghanistan. In Kandahar, Ghazni and Logar provinces, combined patrols found four weapons and IED components in caches in Panjwa’i, Bahram-e Shahid, Muhammad Aghah and Arghandab districts during separate clearing operations. The caches consisted of 1,600 .50-caliber rounds, 1,650 12.7 mm rounds, 12 chest racks, 11 pressure plates, 260 14.5 mm rounds, three rocket-propelled grenades, 200 7.62 mm rounds, 122 82 mm mortar rounds and several IED-making electrical components.

A combined patrol discovered a large weapons and IED components cache in Uruzgan province’s Chorah district consisting of 30 .50 caliber, 100 .50-caliber armor-piercing rounds, 500 7.62 mm rounds, four AK-47s, 30 9 mm rounds, two guns, three chest racks, one radio rigged for radio command device, six RPGs and two fuses. Initial reports indicate no civilians were injured and no damage was reported during the weapons clearing operations. The weapons were confiscated and will be destroyed.

In operations yesterday:

-- Several insurgents were targeted during a joint Afghan-ISAF vehicle interdiction operation in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Numerous insurgents were killed in two separate incidents when they fled from their vehicles and attempted to engage the force. Several suspected insurgents were also detained during the operation. They were taken by Afghan authorities for processing and further questioning.

-- Coalition forces conducted a precision airstrike in Ghazni province targeting a suspected Taliban IED construction facility. Intelligence sources indicated that a compound frequented by a Taliban leader responsible for attacks on Afghan security forces in the Gelan district was likely being used as an IED-making facility in order to kill Afghan and coalition security force personnel. Recent reporting indicates his group was also making two suicide vehicle-borne IEDs to be used against coalition forces operating in the province. After careful planning to protect any civilians and property in the area, coalition forces conducted a precision airstrike on the compound.

-- In Kunduz province, Afghan and coalition forces targeted a Taliban leader for Chahar Darah and Aliabad districts, detaining three suspected insurgents. The targeted leader has connections to a Taliban explosives and weapons facilitator who is involved with producing and distributing IEDs and facilitates the movement of suicide bombers. The security force followed intelligence tips to the potential compound of the Taliban leader in Kunduz district. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compound peacefully before the joint security force cleared and secured the building. While securing the building, they found a child who had been injured during the clearing. The security force provided first aid to the child’s minor injury. After the area was secure, the security force conducted initial questioning at the scene before detaining three suspected insurgents.

-- In Nimroz province, Afghan and coalition forces detained six detainees during a joint security operation targeting a Taliban attack facilitator. Forces conducted the operation in search of the facilitator who moves munitions and IED materials within northern Nimroz for attacks against coalition forces and also facilitates the movement of materials to Taliban associates within Kandahar. Forces followed leads to a series of targeted buildings in Khash Rod district. The joint forces questioned the occupants of the location and conducted a search. The suspects were detained based on initial questioning. The security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

In Dec. 25 operations:

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained eight suspects during three joint security operations targeting the Taliban network in Ghazni and Kandahar provinces. In Ghazni province, Afghan and coalition forces targeted a Taliban leader responsible for attacks on Afghan security forces in Gelan district, detaining two suspected insurgents during a security operation. The targeted Taliban leader receives early warning from fellow insurgents who watch Highway 1 and Afghan bases in order to conduct attacks on Afghan and coalition forces. He also focuses on IED and suicide bomber facilitation. Recent reporting indicates his group was making two suicide vehicle-borne IEDs to be used against coalition forces operating in the province.

The security force followed intelligence tips to the potential compound of the Taliban leader in Gelan district. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compound peacefully before the combined security force cleared and secured the building. After the area was secure, the security force conducted initial questioning at the scene before detaining two suspected insurgents.

In Kandahar, Afghan and coalition forces detained six detainees as they focused two operations on a Taliban attack facilitator. The security team conducted the operations in search of the facilitator who supplies, plans and reports attacks against coalition forces and has multiple affiliations with other insurgents. Forces followed leads to a series of targeted buildings in two areas of Zharay district. The joint forces searched the areas where, in one location, they discovered a 40-pound IED, 40 pounds of homemade explosives, 20 pressure plates used in the construction of IEDs, rockets and mortar rounds. Forces conducted a controlled detonation of the explosives at the site to ensure the safety of local residents. No women or children were injured or detained during these operations.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained a Haqqani network leader along with three suspected insurgents in a joint security operation in Khost province. The Haqqani leader operated in Sabari, Terayzai and Bak districts in Khost province. His group is responsible for recruiting suicide bombers to attack Afghan schools, district centers and coalition forces. He is also involved in the attempted kidnapping of Afghan army officers. Forces detained the facilitator at a targeted location in Sabari district. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call the occupants out of the buildings peacefully before conducting a search. After the area was secure, the security force conducted initial questioning at the scene before detaining the network leader and three suspected insurgents. No women or children were injured or detained during this operation. The security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

In Dec. 24 operations:

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained a Taliban facilitator along with several suspected insurgents in a joint security operation in Logar province. The Taliban facilitator was involved in planning of attacks against the Afghan government and coalition forces in Kabul City. Forces detained the facilitator at a targeted location in Pul-e ‘Alam district. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call the occupants out of the buildings peacefully before conducting a search. The targeted individual identified himself to authorities during questioning, at which time he was detained. The other suspected insurgents were detained after questioning as well. No women or children were injured or detained during this operation. The security forces conducted the operation without firing their weapons.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained several suspects and killed two armed insurgents during two combined security operations targeting Haqqani and Taliban networks in Khost and Logar provinces.

In Khost province, Afghan and coalition forces targeted a Haqqani leader for the province, detaining two suspected insurgents and killing two armed insurgents during an operation in Sabari district. The targeted insurgent is responsible for coordinating indirect fire and IED attacks targeting coalition bases in the area. Recent reporting links him to an indirect fire attack against coalition forces operating in the province. Intelligence reports led the security force to a compound in the district to search for the leader. As the security force arrived at the targeted location, armed insurgents threatened the security force resulting in two armed insurgents being killed. The force continued to secure the targeted compound where Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compound peacefully before the force cleared and secured the buildings. Afghan and coalition forces detained two suspects based on initial questioning at the scene. The force recovered multiple weapons to include a pistol, chest racks, AK-47 with ammunition, a machine gun with hundreds of rounds, a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher with boosters and ammunition and a recoilless rifle with rounds.

In Logar province, Afghan and coalition forces targeted a Taliban leader responsible for orchestrating attacks against coalition forces in Baraki Barak district, detaining two suspected insurgents during a security operation. The targeted Taliban leader is responsible for orchestrating IED attacks and direct- and indirect-fire attacks against coalition forces in Baraki Barak district. He is also the acting Taliban leader for the district and is linked to several IED attacks. The security force followed intelligence tips to the potential compound of the Taliban leader. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compound peacefully before the security force cleared and secured the building. After the area was secure, the force conducted initial questioning at the scene before detaining two suspected insurgents. No women or children were injured or detained during these operations.

-- ISAF confirmed that a senior Taliban leader was killed during a Dec. 13 airstrike in the Pasaband district of Ghor province. Shafiq, the targeted senior Taliban leader, was a facilitator of money and small arms who specialized in IED construction. He planned, coordinated and executed numerous IED and direct-fire attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. Multiple intelligence sources and tips from local citizens led ISAF to Shafiq’s location. Forces tracked him for several hours and as he was leaving a known insurgent location, he was engaged with a precision air strike while travelling on his motorcycle with another insurgent. Initial reports indicate there were no civilians harmed during the operation.

-- A combined Afghan-ISAF patrol killed two men during an operation in Kabul. After receiving a credible threat to attack the U.S. Embassy, ISAF coordinated with Afghan security forces to move on an area of interest. The force moved to the target area near an office building in downtown Kabul. Intelligence reports indicated there were two vehicles parked there that were thought to be loaded with explosives. The forces were instructed to approach the target area with caution and to announce their identities. A cordon was in the process of being established while other elements of the force moved to search the area on foot. As they moved towards the target area, they announced themselves and immediately received small-arms fire from the target area. The force returned fire, killing two of the shooters. A third armed person was seen running into the building nearby. The force used a non-lethal device to disorient any armed personnel inside. They cleared the building and secured 15 people, including two people who had been wounded. A medic assigned to the group treated the injured. The wounded were offered treatment at an ISAF facility but instead opted to be taken by Afghan security forces to a local hospital. As the force reached the roof, one man who had been among the initial shooters surrendered. A large number of weapons, including the small arms used by the men who fired on the patrol, were found during the operation. A high-ranking Afghan officer arrived and he personally vouched for those detained in the operation and they were subsequently released.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Afghan, Coalition Forces Engage Enemy in East, South

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2010 – Afghan and coalition forces killed numerous insurgent fighters and seized weapons caches in eastern Afghanistan today, military officials reported.

Afghan and International Security Assistance Force troops were on patrol when they spotted insurgents carrying weapons in the Darah-ye Pech district of Kunar province. After gaining positive identification, the combined forces engaged the group, killing numerous insurgents.

Afghan and ISAF teams also destroyed several enemy weapons caches in the south and east. In Kandahar and Khost provinces, they found three weapons caches in the Panjwa’i, Bak and Terayzai districts. The caches consisted of three rocket-propelled grenades, four mortar rounds, several Chinese and Russian mortars, 100 AK-47 rounds, 25 grenades, 80 40 mm rounds and 10 blasting caps. In Uruzgan province, after retrieving an improvised explosive device, combined forces also found a weapons cache in the Chorah district consisting of 600 7.62 mm rounds, one .50 caliber, one artillery fuse and three rocket fuses.

Initial reports indicate no civilians were injured and no damage was reported during the clearing operations. All the weapons were confiscated and will be destroyed.

Also today, five Afghan civilians were wounded in an insurgent suicide attack in Kunduz City.

Afghan and ISAF forces responded to the scene of the blast to assist the wounded and investigate. A hand grenade was found in the area and will be disposed of by Afghan forces.

In operations yesterday, coalition forces conducted a precision air strike in Ghazni province targeting a Taliban IED cell. The air strike killed a man identified as Abdul Hai, the Taliban leader for the province’s Andar district who was responsible for attacks against military forces there. He also was believed to be involved with the double suicide attack on an Afghan National Army bus in Kabul on Dec. 19, resulting in numerous soldiers being killed and injured.

Based on intelligence sources, coalition forces tracked the cell to an area in Waghaz district where the targeted men were seen carrying weapons and attempting to emplace an IED on the side of the road. After careful planning to protect civilians and property, coalition forces conducted the air strike. A follow-on force conducted a ground assessment and recovered 40 pounds of IED-making material, multiple AK-47s, a chest rack, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with multiple rounds and grenades. The ground force verified three insurgents were killed.

Following further intelligence sources, an Afghan and coalition force searched a compound in the Waghaz district where the remaining IED cell members were located. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compound peacefully before the combined force cleared and secured the building. As they were doing so, they were threatened by an armed man whom they shot and killed.

After the area was secure, the security force conducted initial questioning at the scene before detaining two suspected insurgents. A large quantity of ammunition, as well as IED components, were found with the detainees.

No women or children were injured during the operation.

In other news from Afghanistan yesterday:

- A combined force killed several insurgents in the Nad ‘Ali district of Helmand province. The team was targeting a Taliban leader responsible for attacks against servicemembers there. As the combined patrol approached the targeted compound, they conducted a call-out to give the inhabitants a chance to exit safely. The inhabitants did not follow the instructions. As the force entered, they killed several men who attempted to engage them. During a search of the compound, the patrol discovered a number of 105 mm mortar shells and IED components. Numerous suspects were detained.

- Combined forces detained a Haqqani network leader who operates out of Khost’s Sabari district, along with several suspected insurgents. The force followed intelligence tips to a compound to search for the leader. Afghan forces called for all occupants to exit the compound peacefully before the force cleared and secured the building. The security force conducted initial questioning at the scene before detaining the Haqqani leader and several men with an automatic weapon and a large quantity of ammunition.

- ISAF officials condemned the terrorist assassination of an Afghan district official and his son in Herat province’s Shindand district. Mullah Ammanullah was the district shura chairman, and a prominent Shindand leader since the Russian occupation. He was actively involved with Afghanistan’s Department of Anti-Terrorism on reintegrating and reconciling with insurgents, and helping to establish a stronger national police presence. He and his son were gunned down in their car by two insurgents.

“Mullah Ammanullah was very well known throughout his district for his efforts to bring stability to his people. We offer our sincere condolences to his family, as well as the Afghan civilians who had looked to him for guidance and leadership,” ISAF spokesman Rear Adm. Vic Beck said. "Thanks to the efforts of Afghans like Mullah Ammanullah, the insurgency is losing momentum. We want all peace-loving Afghans to know that we feel the loss of Mullah Ammanullah as our loss, and we will strive to bring the responsible individuals to justice.”

Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. William H. Crouse IV, 22, of Woodruff, S.C., died Dec. 21 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 2nd Marine Division public affairs office at 910-449-9925 or http://www.marines.mil/unit/2ndmardiv/Pages/Media/default.aspx.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

U.S. Officials Applaud Formation of New Iraqi Government

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2010 – American officials praised Iraqi leaders for the formation of an inclusive, broad-based government in Baghdad yesterday.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government includes members from many different parties and all ethnicities.

President Barack Obama called the formation a major step toward national unity and a significant moment in Iraq’s long history.

“I congratulate Iraq’s political leaders, the members of the Council of Representatives and the Iraqi people on the formation of a new government of national partnership,” Obama said in a written statement released by the White House. “Their decision to form an inclusive partnership government is a clear rejection of the efforts by extremists to spur sectarian division.”

The election was held March 7, and Iraqi politicians have been haggling and negotiating with each over the new government since.

The new government has many issues to confront. These include a new hydrocarbon law and the future relationship with the United States.

“The United States will continue to strengthen our long-term partnership with Iraq’s people and leaders as they build a prosperous and peaceful nation that is fully integrated into the region and international community,” Obama said.

American officials in Baghdad welcomed the news. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James F. Jeffrey and Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, issued a joint statement. The two called the formation a victory for the Iraqi people.

“We look forward to working with the new coalition government in furthering our common vision of a democratic Iraq that is reintegrated fully into the community of nations and serves as a force for stability in the region,” the two men said.

Maliki has served as the prime minister of the nation since 2006. “The new government is the product of a credible, Iraqi-led process in which leaders achieved compromise through peaceful dialogue and demonstrated commitment to unity and reconciliation,” Jeffrey and Austin said. “This process was successful because of the strength and resolve of the Iraqi people and the courage and professionalism of Iraq’s security forces.”

U.S. officials will continue to work with Iraqi partners under the Strategic Framework Agreement. The agreement calls for cooperation in the fields of security, economics and trade, energy, science and technology, education, health, rule of law, regional relations and culture.

Face of Defense: Mortarman Shares Close Calls

By Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell
Task Force Bastogne

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2010 – Army Spc. Joshua R. Wood is a calm person; his voice barely rises above a whisper.

Maybe that’s because waiting for the enemy to attack in a hastily built fighting position in the Hindu Kush Mountains makes everybody whisper, or maybe it’s because he just doesn't get that excited anymore.

Whatever the reason, Wood rarely raises his voice when asked about his three combat tours during his seven years in the Army. Rarely that is, until he starts talking about blowing things up.

"I don't like troops in contact, but I enjoy dropping rounds and knowing that most of the time I hit the enemy," Wood said. "It's awesome to fire. It's just a thrill to drop explosives. The enemy stops firing after you drop your rounds and that's just a great feeling."

Wood, a mortarman from Pontotoc, Miss., assigned to 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, comes alive when asked about his job firing mortars in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province.

"Out here, we play a pretty big role," Wood said. "Usually when the troops get in contact, the mortars are there. They call us in to provide indirect fire on enemy locations to either destroy or disrupt them so we can move or gain fire superiority."

Just then Wood got a call. He began preparing fuses on the mortar rounds and punching numbers into his handheld computer.

Wood raised the pitch of his voice ever so slightly when he explained the technical specifications of his job and what's necessary to prepare for another fire mission.

Next, he fired a few rounds at the enemy, listened for impact and plunked back down into his fighting position to wait for more instructions from his forward observer.

Settled, he continued his conversation in his calm, relaxing southern accent.
"I almost got a bullet to the face once," Wood recalled. "It went right past my face and hit the wall behind me and cut my face up from the rock. I thought I was shot.

"That was probably the closest I've come to a bullet," he said. "I could feel the burn on my face for about 10 minutes. That was pretty intense, but we actually killed three dudes with a mortar round. That ended the fight there and I walked out of that valley."

He chuckled and had a faraway look on his face.

"I've had bullets crack around my face, around my cover. I mean, we all have. We've all been in some crazy firefights," Wood said.

But not everybody has done what Wood did a few months ago while in one of those firefights.

"We were walking through the Ghaki Valley," Wood said. "Our group took contact and, as we bounded back to hard structures, my platoon leader fell. I was about a 100 meters ahead of him. I turned around and saw that he fell. I ran back under heavy fire, picked him up and took him to safety."

He didn't raise his voice when talking about the incident. It was almost like he was explaining what he had for lunch.

"Later, another Afghan National Army soldier was walking around in the middle of the firefight with a bullet wound to his head," Wood explained. "I ran out with another soldier and we picked him up and put him behind some vehicles to let the medic patch him up.

"You just do it. You're just trained to do it. I didn't want to leave a friend out there," Wood continued. "I don't know, you just react to things and do what you're trained to do: to go help soldiers whenever you can, whether you're under fire or not."

He didn't seem especially impressed that he was awarded a Bronze Star with valor for these actions. For Wood, it was just another day deployed.

"The [platoon leader] I saved said that, as I was running, he could see bullets bouncing around my feet and around my head on the mountainside," Wood recalled. "I really wasn't paying attention to it, but it was pretty effective fire. It was pretty close. It was ricocheting off the vehicles and across the ground. You could hear it whizzing by your head. I don't know, I just remember running and picking him up. I wasn't thinking about the bullets. It was pretty heavy fire, though."

For a guy who joined the Army right out of high school because he wanted to do something different, this mortarman has seen a lot.

The forward observer called to Wood and his crew. It was time for another fire mission to quell the enemy. Wood perked up and started hollering coordinates back and forth. Well, not hollering, but there was definitely a little excitement in his voice.