War on Terrorism

Friday, December 30, 2011

Innospec Agent Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Bribing Iraqi Officials and Paying Kickbacks Under the U.N. Oil for Food Program

WASHINGTON – A former agent for Innospec Inc., a U.S. company, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine for his participation in a conspiracy to defraud the United Nations Oil for Food Program (OFFP) and to bribe former Iraqi government officials in connection with the sale of a chemical additive used in the refining of leaded fuel, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.

Ousama Naaman, 62, of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, was indicted on Aug. 7, 2008, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Superseding charges were filed on June 24, 2010. Naaman was arrested on July 30, 2009, in Frankfurt, Germany, and extradited to the United States. He pleaded guilty on June 25, 2010, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and falsify the books and records of a U.S. issuer, and one count of violating the FCPA.
Naaman and his companies were the Iraqi agents of Innospec Inc. On March 18, 2010, Innospec pleaded guilty to a 12-count indictment charging wire fraud in connection with its payment of kickbacks to the Iraqi government under the OFFP, as well as FCPA violations in connection with bribe payments it made to officials in the Iraqi Ministry of Oil.
F rom 2001 to 2003, acting on behalf of Innospec, Naaman offered and paid 10 percent kickbacks to the then-Iraqi government in exchange for five contracts under the OFFP. Naaman negotiated the contracts, including a 10 percent increase in the price to cover the kickbacks, and routed the funds to Iraqi government accounts in the Middle East.
In addition, Naaman admitted to paying and promising to pay more than $6.8 million in bribes from 2004 to 2008, in the form of cash, travel and entertainment, to officials of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and the Trade Bank of Iraq to secure sales of tetraethyl lead in Iraq, as well as to secure more favorable exchange rates on the contracts. Naaman provided Innospec with false invoices to support the payments, and those invoices were incorporated into the books and records of Innospec. Naaman earned $2.7 million in commissions on the contracts and would have earned an additional $5.3 million had the final contract not been halted as a result of the investigation.
In addition to bribes actually offered and paid to Iraqi officials, Naaman convinced Innospec to pay him $750,000 for additional bribes that Naaman never paid, instead keeping the money for himself.
Naaman separately settled civil charges on Aug. 5, 2010, with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the same misconduct. Naaman disgorged $877,096 in profits and prejudgment interest in connection with the settlement. The SEC civil penalty of $438,038 will be satisfied in part by his criminal fine.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Kathleen M. Hamann and Assistant Chief Nathaniel B. Edmonds of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the dedicated FCPA squad at FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Counter Proliferation Investigations Unit of the Washington Field Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Significant assistance was provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the SEC’s FCPA Unit.
The Innospec matter has been investigated with assistance from the SEC and in cooperation with the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office.

ISAF Commander Condemns Roadside Bomb Attack

 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2011 – The commander of the International Security Assistance Force condemned a roadside bomb attack that reportedly killed four civilians in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province today.

A fifth male was listed as critically injured.

"Today, another cowardly insurgent attack killed four innocent Afghans," Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen said of the attack in the province’s Trinkot City. "Our heartfelt thoughts are with the families of those killed and injured. Those responsible for this shameful attack must be held to account for their actions against the people of Afghanistan."

Elsewhere, an Afghan-led and-coalition-supported security force captured two Taliban leaders today during an operation in Kandahar province’s Zharay district, military officials reported.

Both leaders planned attacks against Afghan forces and moved weapons and explosives to include rocket-propelled grenades throughout the district.

The force confiscated multiple firearms during the operation.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- In Helmand province’s Nahr-e Saraj district, a combined security force captured a Taliban leader who was involved in multiple attacks against coalition forces and served as a judge for the Taliban. The force detained two additional suspected insurgents.

-- A combined security force in Kandahar province’s Panjwa‘i district discovered and seized about 660 pounds of marijuana. The drugs will be destroyed at a later date.

--An Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force captured a Haqqani facilitator in Khost province’s Sabari district. The facilitator moved rockets and roadside bombs from Pakistan to Afghanistan. The force confiscated multiple weapons and detained three additional suspected insurgents.

-- In Wardak province’s Nerkh district, a combined security force captured a Taliban facilitator who supplied bomb-making materials, acquired weapons and ammunition, and participated in attacks in the Maidan Shahr district.

-- An Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force captured a Taliban leader during an operation in Logar province’s Baraki Barak district. The leader distributed weapons, specialized in the construction of roadside bombs, and conducted attacks against Afghan forces. The force detained two additional suspected insurgents.

-- An Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force searched for insurgent leaders in Farah province’s Bakwah district earlier this week. As the force approached an identified enemy position, several insurgents opened fire. Assessing an immediate threat, the security force engaged the insurgents. Mullah Toyeb, a high-level insurgent leader, was killed along with insurgent commanders known as Iliyas and Delawar, and a number of additional insurgents.

Security forces also recovered several weapons, ammunition, rockets and bomb-making equipment from the scene. No Afghan or coalition forces were injured during the operation.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:
-- A coalition airstrike killed an insurgent after troops positively identified him carrying weapons in Kapisa province’s Tagab district.

-- Afghan National Army troops with 3rd Kandak, 201st Corps, detained five individuals wanted for questioning in Tagab district.

-- Combined forces detained five insurgents after a small-arms fire engagement in Ghazni province’s Dehyak district.

-- Afghan soldiers troops with 4th Kandak, 203rd Corps detained two individuals for suspicious activities in Logar province’s Pul-e-alam district.

-- Afghan police officers in Nangarhar province’s Khugyani district detained an individual who tested positive for explosives.

-- Coalition forces seized 10 pounds of poppy seeds, two bags of fertilizer, two jugs of ammonia, 20 rounds of assorted 7.62mm x .45-caliber, a scope, a shotgun and a .22-caliber rifle in Laghman province’s Alingar district.

-- An unmanned aerial vehicle crashed in Khost province’s Khost district due to mechanical problems. The UAV was recovered and there was no enemy activity in the area prior to the crash.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Deployed Sailor Leads Team in Afghanistan

By Marine Corps Cpl. Meredith Brown
American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Afghanistan, Dec. 29, 2011 – When Kimberly Ryan stepped into the Navy recruiter’s office at age 18, she had no idea what she wanted to do. All she knew was she wanted to get out of Connecticut and broaden her horizon.
Click photo for screen-resolution image
“The recruiter said, ‘Do you want to be a corpsman like me?’, and I said, ‘Sure!’” recalled now-Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan, a Norwich, Conn., native. “I ended up loving it.”

Seven years later, after serving overseas in Sasebo, Japan, Ryan now serves as the team leader for Female Engagement Team 8 in the Sangin district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

When she stepped up and accepted the team-leader challenge, Ryan thought she would be the equivalent of a female infantryman during her first deployment, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“[The team] is actually completely different,” she noted. “The female engagement team is all about counterinsurgency, and I actually like what it ended up not being.”

Ryan’s day-to-day activities vary depending on the mission and support requirements. The team works in direct support of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8 in 2nd Marine Division (Forward).

Each week, however, Ryan and her fellow team member, Marine Corps Cpl. Brandy Bates, work together with Afghan National Security Forces to plan and host a children’s meeting for local children in the Sangin district in southwestern Afghanistan.

Ryan said the experience she’s gained over the last three months enables her to interact with Afghan security forces and local residents with confidence.

Ryan’s determined attitude contributes directly to her successes with the engagement team and as a team leader, Bates noted.

“She definitely keeps me informed on everything that is going on,” said Bates, an Ann Arbor, Mich., native. “She definitely takes charge of everything that needs to be taken care of.”

With just a few months left in her deployment, Ryan said she’ll continue her work to make progress with the women in Sangin and to impact as many lives as possible.

Navy Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Petty Officer Stacy O. Johnson, 35, of Rolling Fork, Miss., died July 18, while supporting operations in Bahrain.  Johnson was a master-at-arms assigned to Naval Security Force Bahrain.

For further information related to this release, contact Naval Support Activity Bahrain Public Affairs at 011-973-1785-4520.

The joy of giving

12/29/2011 - Lt. Col. Jason Wollard, Commander of Detachment 1, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, Kabul, Afghanistan, and members of his team hand out school supplies to Afghan children near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Dec. 25. The 438th AEAG team was on a security mission with the U.S. Army and members of the Afghan Air Force when they stopped to distribute school supplies donated by families of U.S. Army personnel and members of the 438th AEAG to two tribal maliks, or chieftains, and the headmaster of a local school. Lt. Col. Wollard is deployed from the Safety directorate at Air Force Global Strike Command, Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (U.S. Army photo by Specialist Erika Clarkson)

DOD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. 

They died Dec. 27, in Paktia, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.  They were assigned to the 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas. 

Killed were:

Sgt. Noah M. Korte, 29, of Lake Elsinore, Calif.,
Spc. Kurt W. Kern, 24, of McAllen, Texas, and
Pfc. Justin M. Whitmire, 20, of Easley, S.C. 
              
For more information related to this release, the media may visit http://www.forthoodpresscenter.com or contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at 254-287-9993 or 254-287-0106.

Afghan, Coalition Forces Partner to Destroy Explosives

By Air Force 1st Lt. Mark Graff
Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah Public Affairs

FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Dec. 29, 2011 – Afghan soldiers, U.S. sailors and members of a local provincial reconstruction team partnered to dispose of more than 250 pieces of confiscated unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive device materials, mines and ammunition here Dec. 27, officials said.

The weapons totalled more than 1,300 pounds of explosive material and more than 50 types of ordnance. The items were carefully transported from a secure location in Farah City and safely destroyed by Explosive Ordnance Disposal Platoon 815 technicians on Forward Operating Base Farah.

“Most of these items were emplaced [as weapons] … and [we] came and got them,” said Afghan National Army Col. Abdul Razak, who organized the handover of the weapons.

Razak, the director of the Disarmament of Illegally Armed Groups program here, said the items were accumulated through Afghan army cooperation with officials from Farah’s National Directorate of Security. The weapons, he said, were gathered through insurgent reintegration programs, during ANSF patrols and sometimes, after reports from local citizens.

The weapons were a danger to the public and to Afghan and coalition forces, Razak said.

“Insurgents want to use these [weapons] against NATO, ANA and ANP,” he said.

The weapons were collected throughout Farah province over the course of the last six months. The confiscated materials were stored in a secure location until the handover was arranged.

PRT Farah leadership enlisted the support of the EOD team due to their expertise with these scenarios. The situation, while dangerous, was kept under control by the team’s methodical approach to handling the items.

“The amount of things that were in moderate to unstable configuration was significant, so it was definitely a ‘take it slow’ approach, and triage the explosive threats and make sure that we have a safe workspace,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer Sam Crumbaugh, EOD Platoon 815’s team leader. “With regard to … moving it to a range … you still want to ensure that during transport you’re safe and that’s what we did.”

Navy Cmdr. Shane Voudren, who leads PRT Farah, said the Afghan army’s leadership and the Navy EOD experts were in the lead throughout the mission.

“This was an ANA and EOD show. As the PRT, we act as enablers a lot of the time. We ask ourselves, ‘How can we enable better security or governance,’ and this was a way to do that,” Voudren said.

The Afghan soldiers and police demonstrated their improved skills and capabilities during this mission, he said.

“They’ve got some solid leadership,” Voudren said. “They’re a formidable security force. And most importantly, they’re keeping Farah City secure and making some strides in some key districts in the province.”

The commander added that the PRT and other coalition forces at Forward Operating Base Farah have developed a rapport with provincial government officials and Afghan security forces that led to this event.

“[Col. Razak] approached us recently and asked for our assistance. Because we’ve developed a strong relationship over the course of the PRT’s history, things like this are possible,” Voudren said.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Iraq: And so it Ends

December 28, 2011 by Deniz Emre

With lots of press but little fanfare, the last remaining troops stationed in Iraq began packing up shop and heading home. After nearly nine years of conflict (the second longest in American history), countless billions of dollars, the lives of over 4000 of our troops and over 30,000 wounded, the U.S. mission in Iraq is now “officially” over. While this quiet ending was long in coming, it will undoubtedly leave behind an eerie feeling of dissatisfied relief amongst the Veterans who have fought there throughout the past decade. 

From Saddam Hussein and his illusive weapons of mass destruction, to the following years of roadside bomb’s, IED’s, kidnappings, insurgency, Fallujah, and beyond… America’s Veterans have paid a heavy toll for what was once dubbed as “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”  However future generations may recall it, may they never forget the sacrifice of those that fought there, and of our fallen heroes that never made it home.

So on this day, when many of you are probably feeling a little surreal about the occasion. I wanted to take a moment to thank my fellow Iraq Veterans for all of their dedicated service over the years. Although the “official” war may have ended in Iraq, its memories will fade hard and linger on in its wake for many years to come. When you think back though, take pride in knowing that against all odds you kept the faith and performed brilliantly.

Marine Corps Veteran Sgt. Deniz Emre served on active duty from 2002-2007. In 2003 he fought in the invasion of Iraq as an Infantryman with Alpha Company, 3rd LAR Battalion, subsequently serving out the remainder of his enlistment on overseas assignments in Europe and West Africa. In July of 2007, Deniz enrolled as a full-time and graduated this past May with honors with a B.A. in Economics from Suffolk University in Boston. He helps his fellow post-9/11 era Veterans to successfully navigate the difficult transition home by providing them with a familiar voice at www.militarytocivilianlife.com

Missouri Reservists head to Afghanistan

by Staff Sgt. Danielle Wolf
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs


12/28/2011 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Approximately 130 Citizen Airmen from the 442nd Maintenance and Operations groups here deployed to Afghanistan today in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The units maintain and operate the A-10 Thunderbolt II, which provides close air support to ground troops and is most notable for its 30-millimeter gatling gun.

"The purpose of A-10 combat power is to keep others safe," said Col. Eric S. Overturf, 442nd FW commander to the deploying Airmen at their final out brief. "Because you're going over there to employ this aircraft and its munitions, you are ensuring that a soldier, sailor, Airman or Marine can return home safely to his family."
Members from throughout the community, to include the Whiteman Base Community Council and local retirees had to opportunity, Dec. 28, to wish the reservists well on their deployment. The Whiteman BCC made hundreds of cookies that each reservist got to take with him to make the flight more comfortable.

"The support from the local community is outstanding," Overturf said. "They not only support our Airmen, but they support the families the Airmen have to leave behind, which makes it much easier for them to accomplish the mission in theater."

Despite the 3 a.m. takeoff, the reservists had dozens of people sending them off.
The wing has a rich history in deployments - four deployments since 9/11 - where it has sent a package of maintainers, operators and aircraft to the area of responsibility.

Hundreds of reservists from other parts of the wing have also deployed in previous years, but most recently the 442nd Security Forces Squadron, and currently, the 442nd Civil Engineers Squadron.

The reservists are scheduled to return in the spring.

Force Captures Taliban Leader in Helmand Province

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2011 – An Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force captured a Taliban leader during an operation in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The leader is believed to have conducted roadside bomb attacks in the province.
The force also detained an additional suspected insurgent.
In other Afghanistan operations today:
-- A combined force in Paktia province’s Gardez district detained multiple suspected insurgents while searching for a Taliban leader who coordinates attacks against Afghan forces in the district.

-- A combined Afghan and coalition security force discovered and destroyed 660 pounds of opium in Kandahar province’s Spin Boldak district.
In Afghanistan operations yesterday:
-- A coalition security force in Kandahar province’s Zharay district discovered four improvised explosive devices at different locations. Each IED had about 11 pounds of homemade explosives. The force destroyed three of the four IEDs on site and confiscated the fourth IED for destruction at a later date for safety reasons. The force also found and destroyed about 1,300 pounds of hashish.

-- A combined security force in Kandahar province’s Maiwand district discovered and destroyed about 200 pounds of hashish.

-- A combined security force in Uruzgan province’s Tarin Kot district confiscated about 2,700 heavy machine gun rounds. The ammunition will be destroyed at a later date.
-- A coalition security force in Herat province’s Shindand district confiscated four 105 mm artillery rounds and four antitank rockets. The weapons will be destroyed at a later date.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

First Reserve Command Chief to serve in Iraq is among last to leave

by Capt. Cathleen Snow
920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs


12/22/2011 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Command Chief Master Sgt. Gerald Delebreau, the 920th Rescue Wing's top enlisted man here, was not only the first Reserve command chief to support the war in recent years, but recently he became among the last 62 Airmen out of Iraq, just in time for the holidays Dec 22.

Being among the last to oversee the closure of Sather Air Base and the safe departure of its final 62 Airmen and 100 Soldiers "was a hair-raising experience," according to the Command Chief.

"I think it will take a couple of weeks to sink in. Like we really went down in history," he said.

The chief deployed last May and was supposed to be home around the Thanksgiving holiday after serving six months, but when the president announced the end of the war in recent months, he was extended to see things through.

Reeling with excitement to have him home for the holidays, his wife Maritza said, "Oh my God it's very exciting. I'm very happy because he came just before Christmas!"

Delebreau has been a busy man over the past few years with a four-month deployment to Haiti during Earthquake relief efforts in 2010, and in 2009 a six-month deployment to Ali Air Base, Iraq.

Committed to addressing the needs of Airmen and serving as the wing commander's advisor on the morale, health and welfare of the force, he was impressed by the nation's U.S. Airmen serving with him in Iraq.

"Every Airman there was totally amazing," he said. "A lot of good happened while we were there."

During his deployment, the elevated danger of rocket attacks cancelled all visits by outsiders, to include morale visits by entertainers, which made one of their first stops after shutting down the war very special.

The Airmen, Soldiers, Delebreau and Sather's wing commander, Maj. Gen. Anthony Rock, 321st Air Expeditionary commander, were treated to a performance by the Air Force Tops in Blue entertainment performance troupe on their way home for the holidays.

Afterward, the chief and the commander talked with the performers and told them they were a reflection of every Airman. Their primary jobs in the Air Force ranged from mechanic to medic and their passion in performing was like the shining star examples they've seen among all Airmen.

Leaving Iraq left him with these thoughts which he passed on to the Tops in Blue Airmen, "Never forget the energy and passion you have for this and carry it with you throughout your military career."

He maintains that every Airman must carry with them what motivates and inspires them to perform with excellence as he witnesses habitually.

In addition to pride in the troops, he has another reason to expand his chest. In addition to being the only Reserve command chief of a deployed U.S. Central Command wing consisting of Airmen from units across the globe, Chief Delebreau was an advisor to the senior enlisted Iraqis, teaching them how to better train their enlisted forces - a vital contribution during the transition.

But more than that, after nearly a decade at war, being the first Reserve command chief in the Middle East and Iraq is significant for Delebreau because he said it reinforced the fact that Reserve forces are willing and able to contribute to ongoing operations alongside active-duty and Guard members.

He said nearly half of the Airmen deployed there were Reservists and Guardsmen.

Now that he's home, "It's surreal to realize it was done. Okay the mission is done. We had one of the ceremonies in one of the Palaces. Everything was empty. It was a ghost town. Eerie," he said.

As their aircraft lifted of the Sather runway, Iraqis working in the nearby airfield operations tower left them with their last transmission. They "wished us well and thanked us."

Before leaving Iraq though, General Rock during his recent promotion ceremony there said in a speech, "We have shed blood together and what is built upon blood can never be torn down. I will always remember that."

Delebreau said he will never forget his experiences supporting Operation New Dawn and shutting down the war.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Altmann, 27, of Marshfield, Wis., died Dec. 25, in Kunar province Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.
He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.  For more information, media may contact the 3rd Brigade Combat Team at 808-655-0054.

305th Airmen facilitate return of last Airmen from Iraq

by Tech. Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
Defense Media Activity

12/27/2011 - BALTIMORE -- Airmen with the 305th Aerial Port Squadron Detachment 1 facilitated the return of more than 250 Airmen from Iraq Dec. 20 at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The Airmen were the last of the Air Force contingent in Iraq and were home in time for the winter holidays as stated by the president.

Airmen with the 305th APS Det. 1 processed the returnees through Air Mobility Commands largest passenger gateway, the AMC Passenger Service Center, at BWI.

The 305th APS Det. 1 is a detachment of Air Mobility Command's 305th Air Mobility Wing based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

"This is what they do," said Maj. Edward Hogan, 305th APS commander originally from Shiloh Village, Ill. "Our Det. 1 professionals strive to make their small part of AMC's mission a reality every day. Watching them receive our warriors back with first-class professionalism and in a quiet and unassuming way, is just simply fulfilling. Although they work and reside hours from the 305th Air Mobility Wing they epitomize the 'CAN-DO' attitude without fail."

Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Rivera, 305th APS Det. 1 superintendent, originally from El Paso, Texas, and his team provide a complete range of passenger services to hundreds of thousands of DOD travelers between the Continental United States, Europe, and Southwest Asia at AMC's premier commercial gateway.

"I am fairly new to Baltimore and have been assigned here for only two and a half months. The missions we handle are equally special because they contain personnel who have family members eagerly awaiting the return of a loved one," said Rivera. "Though welcoming home the final personnel serving in Iraq was unique in itself as we, the United States, are closing a chapter in history and I am very fortunate to be directly involved."

Not only was Rivera involved in facilitating the retirees' transition back to America soil, but he was also exposed to large crowds of families, media outlets and Air Force senior leaders as he and his team fulfilled their mission.

Among the senior Air Force leaders on hand to celebrate the return of Airmen from Iraq and welcome them was Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton, the assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force.

"We've been a part of a terrific joint team," Newton said. "We've made great strides in lifting up the Iraqi people so that they can now support and defend their nation, and now they can look forward to enjoying the freedoms they richly deserve. Our United States Air Force has made great contributions toward making that happen. It's been a worthy cause and it's great to bring them home now."

Tech. Sgt. Jason Harper, an airfield manager assigned to Yokota Air Base, Japan, was deployed to Sather Air Base and managed the airfield at Baghdad International Airport along with supporting Iraqi civilian air traffic control functions.

"It was a good feeling knowing we have given them all the tools they need to succeed," Taylor said of assisting the Iraqi military. "It was a very unique experience - something that I don't think I'll ever get the opportunity to do again - to go into Operation New Dawn and see the mission change into what it is now. I thoroughly enjoyed it. "

Maj. Gen. Anthony Rock, the director of Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission - Air Force, U.S. Forces - Iraq, U.S. Central Command, also returned home on the flight with Airmen who were under his command in Iraq.

"This represents the final chapter in Operation New Dawn, but I think the important thing to remember is this is not just the end of eight years of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn," Rock said. "This is the end of 21 years of Air Force and U.S. military involvement in and around Iraq."

A crowd of family members, USO volunteers, co-workers and well-wishers greeted the Airmen as they made their way through customs and into the lobby of the airport.

"It just makes your heart sore," Rock said of the outpouring of support from the community. "It really makes it all worthwhile."

The return home was the perfect Christmas present for the returning Airmen this holiday season, some after being away from their loved ones for up to a year.

Staff Sgt. Jerry Whitehurst was one of those eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Airmen at the airport. Whitehurst, who is stationed at Dover Air Force Base, Del., was serving in South Korea five of the six months his wife, Lt. Col. Pamela Howard-Whitehurst, who is assigned to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., was deployed to Iraq. Whitehurst arrived back in the U.S. just two days before his wife.

While the couple was away from home serving their country, their two children stayed in Maryland and were cared for by an aunt and their nanny.

"This would've been our first missed Christmas, but we're flexible," Whitehurst said. "We're military, so we adapt easily and the kids would've been OK with it."

Whitehurst said his children were hoping their mother would be home in time to celebrate with them, but they weren't sure. He said he didn't tell the children the day their mother was arriving, and they plan to pick them up from their piano lessons after school to surprise them.

"They're going to go crazy," Whitehurst said. "I Skyped them every day, sometimes even two times a day while I was gone, but Mommy wasn't able to do that, so they miss her a lot more."

Whitehurst said there was one more gift his family received through his wife being deployed in support of the newly completed Operation New Dawn.

"We realized that life is a lot shorter than most people think, so we're planning a lot more vacations and spending more time together," he said. "We have to enjoy each other while we can."

These 250 Airmen expected the 2011 holiday season to be the last holiday spent in Iraq. Instead, the last thing they should see this season is the Iraqi landscape.

"There are many 'last of ... ' moments associated with the end of the Iraq mission for the DOD; however, to be part of welcoming home the last contingent of Airmen is indeed special," said Hogan. "The shaking of hands, high-fiveing and cheering as they exited customs was a small gesture that clearly made these specific Airmen's homecoming memorable for all involved. Additionally, to see so many Air Force senior leaders attend today's homecoming; mingle with the families; and welcome the Airmen home was inspiring and it made the moment very special."

Combined Force Captures Taliban Facilitator

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27, 2011 - An Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force captured a Taliban facilitator during an operation in the Pul-e 'Alam district of Afghanistan's Logar province today, military officials reported.

The facilitator moved weapons and explosives used in attacks against coalition forces. He also allegedly was involved in a car bomb attack in Logar province that killed one civilian and injured nine others.

One additional suspected insurgent was detained during the operation.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- An Afghan-led force in Helmand province's Garm Ser district captured a Taliban weapons facilitator who moved weapons throughout the province. No civilians were injured.

-- In the Zharay district of Kandahar province, an Afghan-led force detained two suspects while searching for a Taliban leader who moves supplies, emplaces roadside bombs and coordinates attacks against coalition forces.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A coalition patrol discovered one anti-personnel mine, two rocket-propelled grenade warheads, two 82 mm mortar rounds, and homemade bomb-making components in Ghazni province's Andar district.

-- A coalition patrol discovered four 82 mm mortars, one landmine and bomb components in the Now Zad district of Helmand province.

-- A combined force captured a Haqqani network facilitator and two other suspects in the Bak district of Khost province.

The facilitator supplied explosives to insurgents and conducted attacks against coalition forces.

-- A combined force in Baghlan province's Baghlan-e Jadid district detained one suspect while searching for a Taliban leader who plans direct fire and roadside bomb attacks against Afghan forces.

In Dec. 25 Afghanistan operations:

-- International Security Assistance Force Commander Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen traveled across Afghanistan to wish troops a happy holiday. "I know we can't be with our families on Christmas Day, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, if I can't be with my family, than standing here with you and serving with you," Allen told troops at Forward Operating Base Shindand in Herat province.

"It's not every day you get to see a general come here, especially on Christmas Day, to tell everybody they are doing a good job," Marine Corps Sgt. John Mohlenhoff said.

Allen also visited troops at Camp Stone and FOB Andraskan in Herat province, and Camp Marmal and Camp Spann near Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province. "In a very real sense, this is a family you'll never forget because of the things that you have shared, things that you do, and the cause in which we're all engaged," Allen said. "For the rest of your lives, you will share this moment together -- a moment when you were a part of something bigger than yourselves. Every one of you here is contributing to the liberation of a country and giving Afghanistan hope."

-- A coalition force discovered a drug cache containing more than 900 pounds of marijuana in the Panjwa'i district of Kandahar province. All of the drugs were destroyed.

-- A combined force killed two insurgents and seized bomb-making material and grenades during a search for a Taliban leader in the Baghlan-e Jadid district of Baghlan province. A third insurgent died after self-detonating a grenade. The leader trains insurgents to use roadside bombs and provides explosives for use in attacks against Afghan forces.

-- In the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province, a combined force captured a Taliban leader and detained several other suspected insurgents. The insurgent leader provided equipment and trained fighters in the province.

-- A combined force in Kandahar province's Zharay district detained two suspected insurgents and seized about five pounds of black tar heroin while searching for a Taliban facilitator who moves explosives and weapons throughout southern Afghanistan.

-- In the Nadir Shar Kot district of Khost province, a combined force captured a Haqqani network facilitator, detained one other suspect and seized multiple weapons. The facilitator moved and stored weapons throughout the area.

-- A combined force in Nangarhar province's Pachir Wa Agam district captured a Taliban facilitator. who distributed weapons and munitions to insurgents for use in attacks in Jalalabad.

-- Allen, ISAF commander, condemned the suicide attack on a funeral ceremony in Takhar province that reportedly killed numerous civilians, including a member of the Afghan parliament, and wounded many others.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those affected with the loss of life and injuries in today's barbaric attack," the general said. "These attackers are cowards, callously targeting and killing families and friends who had gathered to mourn a loved one. Those responsible for this shameful act must only be interested in destruction, alienating themselves from the Afghan people. They are neither Afghan nor are they true Muslims."

In Dec. 24 Afghanistan operations:

-- Allen extended his and his command's sincere condolences to the Afghan families who lost loved ones in the Baghlan province mine tragedy.

"Our hearts go out to the families of this tragedy and we will, of course, stand ready to provide any additional assistance necessary if called upon by the Afghan government," the general said.

The collapse of the mine in Nahrin district claimed the lives of 13 Afghans and injured another 12 workers. Provincial Reconstruction Team Pul-E Khumri provided medical and humanitarian support.

-- Combined forces discovered two drug caches in Kandahar province. The first drug cache was found in the Spin Boldak district and contained 11 tons of hashish. All of the drugs were destroyed and one person was detained. The second cache was discovered in the Panjwa'i district and contained about 300 pounds of marijuana. The drugs were destroyed.

-- A combined force seized four rocket-propelled grenades and some small-arms ammunition in Uruzgan province's Tarin Kot district.

In Dec. 23 Afghanistan operations:

-- Afghan soldiers with the 1st Brigade, 205th Afghan National Army Corps completed a week-long independent operation in the Panjwa'i, district of Kandahar province. Operation Hope Hero 58 was the first of its kind in Kandahar province where the Afghan National Army has taken the lead in an operation to include planning, coordinating and executing the mission separately from their U.S. partners. The Afghan army worked closely with Afghan police, Afghan National Civil Order Police and Afghan National Defense Services to conduct clearing operations in the Kenjekak and Zangabad villages of the Panjwa'i district of southern Kandahar province. During the six-day operation, more than 400 Afghan National Security Forces discovered multiple caches containing a large amount of bomb-making material to include ammunitions, more than 10 pressure plates, ignition systems and more than 1,000 pounds of homemade explosives -- enough material to make more than 60 homemade bombs.

In Dec. 22 Afghanistan operations:

-- A combined force seized a drug cache containing 910 pounds of marijuana in the Daman district of Kandahar province. The drugs were destroyed.

-- In the Zurmat district of Paktia province, a combined patrol found 20 anti-personnel mines and 60 blocks of explosives.

-- Also in Zurmat, a combined patrol found five RPGs, three 82 mm rockets, 440 rounds of small-arms ammunition and one radio-controlled receiver. Security forces destroyed all of the items.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Soldiers in Afghanistan Focused on Allen’s 2012 Objectives

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 23, 2011 – As the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan looks to 2012 as a time to build on gains made and extend the security zone east of Kabul, the soldiers of Regional Command East know they have a vital role to play in making that possible.

Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of U.S. and International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan, told reporters traveling here last week with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta he hopes to consolidate gains made in Afghanistan’s north, south and west over the next year.

And as “significant counterinsurgency operations” continue in the east, Allen said his goal is to push the security zone east of Kabul.

In addition, he cited an evolution toward an advisory mission in Afghanistan to enhance capability within the Afghan security forces as the United States looks toward scaling back its combat mission there.

Army Col. Edward T. Bohnemann, commander of the 172nd Infantry Brigade, recognizes the emphasis that puts on his soldiers in remote but strategically important Paktika province.

Bohnemann’s brigade is deployed from Grafenwoehr, Germany, with its headquarters just 30 miles from the Pakistan border at Forward Operating Base Sharana. Among his combat outposts sprinkled through the province, some are directly west of the border.

Paktika province is home to historic transitory routes between the two countries. It’s also an infiltration point for fighters, munitions and weapons filtering into Afghanistan bound for Kabul, Kandahar and the northern regions.

Bohnemann noted the challenge of stretching his soldiers and their Afghan counterparts to cover such a vast region. “There are too many small goat trails [and] small dirt roads to say I am going to have a hard stop at the border,” he said. “It’s too big of a border.”

Some of the border areas are so remote that when an incident occurs, “trying to get there rapidly becomes problematic,” he said.

So Bohnemann and his soldiers concentrate on improving the trends and making the most effective use of the capabilities they have. “I focus my soldiers on, how do we interdict, neutralize, slow the flow so that other places can build capacity [and] build on the security gains they have seen throughout the areas of Afghanistan,” he said.

Choking that flow, he recognizes, will be critical to Allen’s goal of expanding the security zone around Kabul. “My piece of that is … to stem the flow of weapons [and] fighters to the security zone,” he said.

Exacerbating the challenge, he acknowledged, is Pakistan’s decision to scale back cross-border coordination following the Nov. 24 border incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

“There is not a whole lot of cross-border coordination right now,” he lamented. “I would love to see the lines of operation open up.”

On the positive side, Bohnemann told reporters he’s seen enemy attacks drop significantly during the five months since his brigade arrived here.

He expressed growing confidence in the capability of Afghan security forces in his area of responsibility, and in the work his troops have done to establish conditions for their long-term success.

“Every day, when you look at the Afghan security forces, they are in the lead,” he said, noting that Afghans are independently leading two-third to three-quarters of operations here.

“The Afghans are in charge in Paktika province,” he said. “And they are doing more and more every day.”

Based on their growing capability, Bohnemann said he believes, “there is no insurgent force in Paktika that is going to overwhelm the Afghan security forces out there.”

“They have had some fights, [and] the Afghan security forces have stayed and held their ground,” he said. “On occasion, they have called for us for support,” particularly when they need to evacuate a wounded or fallen comrade. “But they are holding their ground.”

Bohnemann said he anticipates a natural progression as his soldiers transition toward an advisory role with the Afghan security forces.

He acknowledged areas where the Afghans still need assistance, including logistics and the systems to make the supply train more efficient. “What I am focused on is: Are they tactically sufficient to maintain security in the province? Can they support themselves?” he said. “My mission, my focus is getting the Afghans ready for the future.”

Bohnemann said he’s confident he has “the right soldiers in the right units” on the ground to support that mission.

Looking to the future, he said he expects the U.S. and ISAF drawdowns to maintain that balance, based on conditions on the ground and “not on a particular glide path to zero.”

During his visit here last week, Panetta told Bohnemann’s troops he believes the effort in Afghanistan has reached a turning point, thanks to the work they and other coalition and Afghan forces are doing.

“I really think that for all the sacrifice that you’re doing, the reality is that it is paying off,” he told them. “We’re moving in the right direction. And we’re winning this very tough conflict in Afghanistan.”

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Mikayla A. Bragg, 21, of Longview, Wash., died Dec. 21 in Khowst province, Afghanistan.  She was assigned to the 201st Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.

For more information please contact Fort Knox public affairs office at 502-613-3051 or patrick.k.hodges@us.army.mil .

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Communications Failures Contributed to Border Incident

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2011 – U.S. forces acted in self-defense and responded with appropriate force after being fired upon during a Nov. 25-26 incident on Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, according to findings from a Defense Department investigation that was released today.

Twenty-four Pakistani soldiers were killed in the incident. Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, the investigating officer, also found no intentional effort to target people or places known to be part of the Pakistani military, or to deliberately provide inaccurate location information to Pakistani officials.

U.S. Central Command commander Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis appointed Clark, the director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments for Air Force Special Operations Command, to conduct the investigation. Clark briefed the Pentagon press on telephone from Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Clark said the incident was a result of inadequate coordination between U.S. and Pakistani military officers operating through the border coordination center. This includes relying on incorrect mapping information shared with the Pakistani liaison officer, which resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units, DOD officials said. There were other gaps in information about the locations and activities of units on both sides of the border.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little again expressed the U.S. military’s “deepest regret” over the loss of life. “We further express sincere condolences to the Pakistani people, to the Pakistani government and most importantly to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed or wounded,” he said.

U.S. and NATO officials now want to focus on learning from the mistakes the investigation highlighted and correcting them.

But the problem is deeper than one incident, according to the report. “We must work to improve the level of trust between our two countries,” the report says. “We cannot operate effectively on the border -- or in other parts of our relationship -- without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us. We earnestly hope the Pakistani military will join us in bridging that gap.”

The results of the investigation have been briefed through the chain of command and also have been shared with Afghan and Pakistani officials, DOD officials said.

Clark gave a narrative on the operation. The operation was to put 120 personnel into Nawa village near the border with Pakistan. Because of the nearness to the border, the operation went up to the International Joint Command in Kabul for approval. Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the IJC commander, made some changes to the plan to avoid complications. The helicopter landing zone, for example, was moved farther away from the border.

“He also asked any known [Pakistani] border posts be identified,” Clark said.

Two border posts were identified, but not the ones where the actions subsequently occurred. “That is a critical point in part of this in that the two locations that were in question here were not identified on any chart to include the official chart in the Nawa Coordination Center,” Clark said.

The night of the operation, U.S. forces moved along goat trails through steep and climbing terrain toward Nawa village. “At about 11:09 p.m., they receive … direct and heavy machine-gun fire,” Clark said.

Overhead were two F-15 Strike Eagles, an AC-130 gunship, an MC-12 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and two AH-64 Apache helicopters. They identified that the fire and subsequent mortar fire was coming from the ridgeline. The tactical commander called for the AC-130 and an F-15 to fly low over the valley dropping flares. The low-level passes over the valley and the flares “is key for the ground tactical leaders’ mindset, in that there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that it’s now coalition forces in the area, which is the intent of the show of force,” Clark said.

Machine-gun and mortar fire continued, and the tactical commander received word that there were no Pakistani military posts in the area. “This is actually the first point where we have found a series of miscommunications to have occurred for the tactical event,” he said.

Regional Command East, the battlespace owner, said they were checking with the border coordination center, “but we are tracking no Pak mil in the area,” Clark said.

“That was heard at the lower headquarters as ‘no Pak mil in the area’ and radioed to the ground force commander and entered into an electronic chat room, which then began circular reporting back to the regional command, which then assumed the lower echelon had validated and confirmed there were no Pak mil in the area,” Clark said.

The general said this was the first point of communication failure that if had been detected and corrected might have prevented the incident.

The commander calls for support from the AC-130 onto the positions that were firing on the American troops. That engagement lasts about six minutes. A few minutes later there is a second engagement with the AC-130 and the Apaches firing on hasty battle positions -- rudimentary bunkers -- that are firing on the American forces. That action ends at midnight.

During this engagement, Pakistani liaison officers are calling Regional Command East to say that their forces are under fire.

“There is confusion caused by this because there is a lack of precision on where this is occurring,” Clark said. “When asked, the general answer back is, ‘Well, you know where it is because you are shooting at them,’ rather than giving a position.”

The border coordination center has the exact latitude and longitude of the fight. It is put on a computer but the map overlay was configured incorrectly. The computer shows the fight as occurring 14 kilometers away from the actual battle. “That's our second point of failure in clarification of where things were going and what has happening,” the general said.

There was a third engagement beginning at about 12:40 a.m. and lasting through 1 a.m. This was a bit north of the previous engagements and centered on a heavy machine gun.

“About that time there was confirmation and clarification across the net that in fact there were Pakistani military in the area and that there were border posts,” Clark said. “That word was then relayed down to the ground tactical leader, who immediately ceased engagement, and no rounds were fired after that time.”

Orange County Pharmacist Charged with Providing Material Support to Terrorists by Sending Money to Person in Pakistan

LOS ANGELES—A Turkish citizen who resides in Orange County was indicted late this afternoon on federal charges of providing material support to terrorists for allegedly sending money to Pakistan to help fund attacks against American military personnel.

Oytun Ayse Mihalik, 39, of La Palma, California, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, was named in a four-count superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury this afternoon.

The indictment alleges three counts of providing money to an individual located in Pakistan with the knowledge that the money would be used to prepare for and carry out attacks that would kill United States military personnel and other persons overseas. Mihalik allegedly sent a total of $2,050 in three wire transfers to the person in Pakistan over the course of three weeks at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.

The fourth count of the indictment charges Mihalik with making false statements to special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s HomelandSecurity Investigations. Mihalik allegedly lied to the agents during an interview at Los Angeles International Airport on August 8, 2011, after she arrived in Los Angeles following a six-month trip to Turkey. Mihalik is accused of making false statements in a matter involving international terrorism by falsely telling the agents that she had never used an alias when using Western Union to send money to a person who was overseas and that she had sent money only once via Western Union to a person who was overseas.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The charge of providing material support to terrorists carries a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison. The charge of making false statements in a matter involving international terrorism carries a statutory maximum sentence of eight years in federal prison.

Mihalik has been in federal custody since she was arrested on August 27 while preparing to board a flight to her native Turkey with a one-way ticket, according to court documents. She was initially indicted in this case on August 30 and charged with making false statements. Mihalik subsequently pleaded not guilty to the single count of making false statements alleged in the August 30 indictment.

The superseding indictment filed today adds the three counts of providing material support to terrorists. The charge of making false statements that was alleged in the initial indictment is now count four in the superseding indictment.

A trial in this case was previously scheduled for February 14 before United States District Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen.

Mihalik will be arraigned on the superseding indictment, but a date for that hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The case against Mihalik was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The JTTF includes special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, as well as investigators with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The Orange County Regional Computer Forensics Lab provided valuable assistance.

Department of Defense Statement Regarding Investigation Results into Pakistan Cross-Border Incident

The investigation into the 25-26 November engagement between U.S. and Pakistani military forces across the border has been completed.  The findings and conclusions were forwarded to the Department through the chain of command.  The results have also been shared with the Pakistani and Afghan governments, as well as key NATO leadership.

The investigating officer found that U.S. forces, given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon.  He also found that there was no intentional effort to target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani military, or to deliberately provide inaccurate location information to Pakistani officials. 

Nevertheless, inadequate coordination by U.S. and Pakistani military officers operating through the border coordination center -- including our reliance on incorrect mapping information shared with the Pakistani liaison officer -- resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units.  This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result.

For the loss of life -- and for the lack of proper coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses -- we express our deepest regret.  We further express sincere condolences to the Pakistani people, to the Pakistani government, and most importantly to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed or wounded.

Our focus now is to learn from these mistakes and take whatever corrective measures are required to ensure an incident like this is not repeated.  The chain of command will consider any issues of accountability.  More critically, we must work to improve the level of trust between our two countries.  We cannot operate effectively on the border -- or in other parts of our relationship -- without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us.  We earnestly hope the Pakistani military will join us in bridging that gap.

Odierno Visits Soldiers in Afghanistan

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie L. Carl
Army News Service

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan  – Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno today visited with soldiers deployed to Afghanistan to share a holiday message and convey his gratitude to troops deployed overseas during the holiday season.

Odierno began his visit here with a tour of Mustang Ramp, which is the temporary home to the 101st Airborne Division’s 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, the rotary-wing aviation asset for Regional Command South.

Odierno told soldiers from the 159th CAB about the role aviation has played in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It's because your experience, your expertise, what you bring to the table in ensuring that we have the capability to support everyone in the area of operations, no matter what it might be,” Odierno said. “It's your professionalism and attention to detail that's allowed us to do that.”

In addition to touring the aviation brigade's facilities, Odierno ate lunch with a few of the soldiers and fielded questions. The questions covered everything from international affairs to retirement benefits.

"There will be some changes," Odierno said on the topic of retirement. "We don't know what they will be yet; there's a lot of work to be done."

He reassured the soldiers, however, that both the commander in chief and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are intent on grandfathering current service members into the changes whenever they occur.

Odierno also presented awards to nearly 100 soldiers, and he administered the oath of enlistment to several soldiers from various units who were reenlisting, an event near and dear to his heart.

"I'm very proud that we have good men and women who are willing to stand up and raise their right hand and say, 'I want to be part of something that is bigger than myself -- I want to contribute, and I want to make a difference,'" the general said.

One of the soldiers Odierno reenlisted was Spc. David Ponce, a human resources specialist with the 159th CAB who reenlisted for four years and an assignment at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

"Being in the Army pushes you to do more," Ponce said. "It pushes you to do your best and then some. It was a huge honor tohave General Odierno reenlist me. Not many people can say they were reenlisted by the Chief of Staff of the Army."

Odierno said the honor was all his.

"No matter how many times you've been deployed, whether this is your first deployment or your last deployment,” he said, “you have made a huge difference and contributed to stability, whether it be in Iraq or Afghanistan, and you've given them a chance for a future.”

Odierno closed his remarks to the soldiers with a reminder to stay safe and have a happy holiday season. He also reminded them of the importance to look out for one another, particularly in those units like the 159th CAB that are preparing to redeploy.

"Remember that as you get ready to deploy home to your family, you've got to continue to take care of each other," he said. "Be there for one another.

"The bonds you've formed on this deployment and other deployments you've had you'll remember for the rest of your life -- I guarantee it," Odierno added. "Part of that is being part of a team, part of a unit, and that you were able to achieve something together that very few people get a chance to achieve."

Allen Checks Troop Outposts on Afghan Border

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON  – Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen surveyed coalition troops positioned along Afghanistan-Pakistan border this week, as members of the International Security Assistance Force continued operations to seize illegal weapons and drugs in Afghanistan’s southern and eastern provinces, military officials reported.

Allen, ISAF’s commander, conducted an on-site survey of coalition outposts in Paktika province on Dec. 19 to observe firsthand how the soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment at Observation Post Twins and Combat Outpost Margah secure their positions near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

British Royal Marine Col. Mark Gray, ISAF’S chief of operations, joined Allen.

“The guys at these outposts have a very important job monitoring what goes on and preventing the infiltration of insurgents into that area of Afghanistan,” Gray said. “Without going to see the environment they are in, you have no concept of the job they are doing and perhaps the risks they might face.”

The troops gave Allen an overview of the weapons they use to defend themselves.

“It’s important to understand what kinds of weapon systems are available to the soldiers at these outposts,” Gray added. “This helps General Allen know that the troops are adequately protected and to make strategic decisions that impact the tactical situation. Seeing the outposts firsthand helps him to think through the whole chain of consequences that his actions and decisions will have on these troops.”

In addition to receiving a tactical brief regarding the security situation that troops face on a daily basis, Allen also visited with soldiers individually and thanked them for their service.

In security operations today in Afghanistan:

-- A combined Afghan and coalition security force discovered a weapons cache in Logar province’s Muhammad Aghah district consisting of three rocket-propelled grenades, two unknown artillery rounds and a rocket. The weapons were confiscated to be destroyed at a later date.

-- A combined Afghan and coalition security force discovered a six improvised explosive devices in Uruzgan province’s Chorah district, which were confiscated to be destroyed at a later date. In Uruzgan’s Tarin Kot district, a combined force discovered a weapons cache consisting of an RPG, a 107 mm rocket and various small arms ammunition. Security forces confiscated all items to be destroyed at a later date.

-- A combined force discovered a weapons cache in Wardak province’s Sayyidabad district. The cache consisted of RPGs, 10 cans of RPG propellant and two pressure plate detonation devices. The weapons were confiscated to be destroyed at a later date.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined force discovered a weapons cache in Ghazni province’s Ghazni district. The cache consisted of 156 mortars of varying sizes, 19 rockets, 120 artillery rounds, 535 rounds of small-arms ammunition, 50 grenade fuses, 22 anti-personnel mines and 11 anti-tank grenades. Most of the weapons were destroyed on site and a portion was confiscated to be destroyed at a later date.

-- A combined force in Kandahar province’s Panjwa’i district discovered 441 pounds of hashish, which they confiscated to be destroyed at a later date.

-- A combined force discovered eight IEDs in Zabul province’s Kahh Kalay district. An explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed all of the IEDs without incident.

-- In the Nad Ali district of Helmand province, a combined force discovered a cache of IED-making materials including 64 pressure plate detonation devices, six bags of explosive materials, 14 remote detonators, five packs of electrical wire and a role of detonation cord. The security force confiscated all materials for destruction at a later date.