Monday, December 31, 2007

Navy Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Petty Officer 1st Class Victor W. Jeffries, 52, of Honolulu, Hawaii, died Dec. 31, 2007 as a result of injuries suffered Dec. 24 in a vehicular accident in Kuwait. He was permanently assigned to the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group, Kuwait.

For further information related to this release, contact Navy Public Affairs at 011 (965) 389-6335 or DSN (318) 430-6335.

Team Helps Troops in Afghanistan Fight Stress

By 2nd Lt. Monika Comeaux, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2007 - Mechanics repair vehicles, small-arms repairmen fix weapons, and dentists fix teeth. Members of the Combat
Stress Control Detachment working with Company C, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, here help set troops' minds straight. A small team of airmen and soldiers work hand in hand to help deployed servicemembers battle stress here and at some 20 surrounding forward operating bases.

The issues troops for which troops seek help vary, team members said.

"It depends a little bit on where the individual is based out of," said
Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jeffrey Wiser, a psychiatrist with the Combat Stress Control Detachment. "I think a lot of people in the forward locations deal with combat stress reactions. FOB Fenty and some of the areas south and east of here tend to be more operational stress, home-front issues and difficulties within the unit."

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Laurie Wienclawski, a mental health technician on the team, said the team sometimes helps troops hours or days after they have witnessed tragic or shocking events. "The 173rd has lost a lot of people. Being back home, you hear about soldiers being killed and wounded in action. Until you are deployed and actually live it and see it and hear about it, it doesn't seem real until you are actually there," she said.

Servicemembers don't always come out to seek help with their problems. Some internalize issues, and only people who really know them notice a change in their behavior, daily routine or sleep patterns, the combat stress experts said. It is important for everyone to know the typical behavior of their battle buddies, or to know their "baseline," the experts said.

Wienclawski said she hoped being a woman would make it easier for troops to talk to her. When she hit the ground, she found out that was not the case. Now, she said, she can best relate to troops by finding things in common with them, like family situation or background.

Since not everyone comes running with their issues, the Combat
Stress Control Detachment sends out a small team to surrounding FOBs to "canvas" the neighborhood and see if someone needs their assistance. Weiser said Army Spc. Christopher Truax, a mental health specialist with Company C, is great at "mixing with soldiers and engaging them in conversation and prompting them to come in for evaluations or a more extensive interview."

Truax, who studied psychology in college, learned about his
military occupational specialty on the Internet. He said he finds his job rewarding. "We don't wait for someone to come and see us; we go see them," Truax said.

He usually travels with
Army Capt. Bryan O'Leary, a 173rd Airborne Brigade psychologist working with the Combat Stress Control Detachment.

"We support a lot of people, and we go where the action is, because that is where the help is going to be needed a lot," Truax explained.

Team members travel for three to four weeks at a time visiting remote locations. Since some places are really hard to get to, the team spends a lot of time at flightlines and trying to jump on convoys. There is no way to give out actual appointments, but they always notify command elements and aid stations that they are on the way so servicemembers can get the word.

Soldiers at Fenty are more fortunate; they can actually book appointments.

Just because people aren't being shot at doesn't mean they don't get stressed out, Wiser said. Sixteen-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week schedules are chronic here, he said, and he added that he encourages everyone to relax and take time off if the mission permits. He also said he urges troops to remain engaged in hobbies, work out, and keep in touch with friends and family as much as possible.

"I just think it is important for people to know we are here, and I would encourage them to use the services," Wienclawski said. "There is a stigma related to mental health, and sometimes that keeps people from going to mental health. That is true back in garrison, back in the home state, as well. I just want people to get help early on so it doesn't progress and get worse."

The Combat
Stress Control Detachment handles most cases with full confidentiality. The only times they have an obligation to report anything to the chain of command is if they feel that an individual's life or others' lives are in danger, officials said.
Army 2nd Lt. Monika Comeaux is assigned to 173rd Brigade Support Battalion.)

Afghan-Led Combined Force Arrests Suspected Taliban Leaders

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2007 - A combined Afghan element led by 203rd Commando Kandak conducted a series of raids throughout the Sabari district in Afghanistan's Khowst province, Dec. 27–28. The force consisted of Afghan National
Army, Afghan National Police and Afghan National Border Police. The operation was unprecedented in terms of successfully capturing multiple suspected insurgent commanders without the use of lethal force and the excellent cooperation between the Afghan ministries of Defense and Interior, U.S. officials said.

On the first night, the combined force acted on credible intelligence to search an area of known insurgent activity near Zambar village.

Northern Sabari district has been a main insurgent safe haven in Khowst province for some time, U.S. officials said. Insurgents have used the Zambar village area to provide command and control for insurgent activities and as a staging area for improvised-explosive-device production.

During the operation, the force arrested a suspected major insurgent facilitator primarily associated with the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan
terrorist organization and believed to have ties to the Haqqani network terrorist group, the Taliban and al Qaeda. He is suspected of directing IED attacks, antagonizing feuding tribes in the area, and facilitating other insurgent activities.

"Capturing this
terrorist should significantly improve the security situation in Sabari district," said Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. "His arrest will help stabilize the area by eliminating an antagonist causing tribal conflicts in the region. Additionally, the IED cell under him will no longer have his level of guidance, logistical support or discrete cover to conduct IED attacks."

Afghan National
Police forces assisted by the army's 203rd Commandos also arrested a suspected deputy Taliban commander during the operation. Evidence points to him being involved in several direct attacks in the Sabari district, and he was implicated in destroying the Zambar village school. In addition, according to reports, he was responsible for a number of IED attacks that killed several Afghan National Police officers.

Several other insurgents were captured, including a suspected insurgent responsible for providing financial support to IED cells in the Sabari district. Another suspected insurgent was implicated in stealing from Afghan government employees, transporting weapons, assisting IED-placement facilitators, and delivering terrorizing "night letters" to intimidate local villagers.

Another man detained Dec. 27 was suspected of facilitating an unsuccessful suicide-bomb attack on the governor of Khowst province Aug. 22. He also is suspected of coordinating several insurgent activities and successful attacks against Afghan National
Police units.

The last suspected insurgent detained Dec. 27 is believed to be directly involved in attacks on various schools,
police checkpoints and Afghan officials.

Follow-on operations Dec. 28 included clearing the Makhtab bazaar area in Sabari district, suspected of functioning as a base of operations and center for insurgent activities. The commandos searched the bazaar for weapons caches and suspected insurgent activities, and Afghan National
Police elements detained several individuals suspected of criminal activity.

One detainee captured by the commandos during that mission is suspected of identifying locations for IED emplacement along roadways throughout the province and conducting car-bomb attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

Another person detained is suspected of being a former terrorist commander and financier for insurgent activities throughout the Sabari district. Finally, another suspected insurgent was detained for his alleged involvement in an October attack on the Khulbesat police station, in which one
police officer was killed and four were injured.

"Detaining these individuals will likely cause a significant disruption of insurgent activities in Sabari district," Belcher said.

The combined Afghan force conducted the two-day operation without a shot being fired. The 203rd Commando commander said he was impressed with the skill, professionalism and discipline of his forces throughout all phases of the operation. "I thought their performance was outstanding," he said. "Their movement and flow through the buildings and their
tactical considerations while clearing the compounds were very impressive. I was also impressed with the professional manner in which they handled the detainees."

Several suspected insurgents were detained in the operation, which will have a significant effect in reducing attacks against Afghan forces and civilians.

"The commandos have improved their flexibility in transitioning from an aggressive operation, such as a raid, to taking a civil-actions role of protecting the rights of detainees under the Afghan constitution," Belcher said.

A commando platoon sergeant thought that the combined force performed well during the operation. "I think we did a good job, and the mission was successful," he said. "We were on time; we successfully captured the insurgents; and we had a successful mission. I'm happy about that."

The actions of the commando units involved in the operation impressed all involved.

"Taliban extremists' tactics are to plan and launch attacks from civilian areas then retreat to civilian areas to hide," Belcher said. "Conducting operations such as these in civilian areas requires extensive training and planning. The fact that commando-led forces were able to detain several suspected insurgents hiding in civilian areas without firing a shot shows tremendous development in their ability to conduct complex operations and will go a long way in enhancing security in the Sabari district and throughout Khowst province."

(From a Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release.)

Al Qaeda Actions in Iraq Contradict Claims

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2007 - An audio tape released by Osama bin Laden yesterday purports that al Qaeda does not kill innocent civilians, but the
terrorist network's actions contradict this claim, a coalition spokesman said yesterday. During a news conference in Baghdad yesterday, Navy Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, director of communications for Multinational Corps Iraq, told reporters that al Qaeda car bombings, suicide attacks and torture houses are evidence that the network targets innocent civilians, and belie conflicting messages the group avows.

"Al Qaeda's extreme, Taliban-like ideology and deliberate disregard for human life has led to its rejection by the Iraqi people," Smith said.

In a recorded message titled "The Way to Foil Plots," bin Laden reportedly admonished Sunni Arabs who have undermined al Qaeda by embracing coalition security initiatives, The Guardian reported today. The
terrorist chief allegedly urged al Qaeda operatives to turn against leaders in Anbar and other Iraqi provinces where cooperation with coalition forces is widespread.

In a rejection of extremist ideology, Iraqi tribal
leaders and citizens have spurned al Qaeda and continue to drive terrorist members out of their communities, Smith said.

"The real plot foiled is al Qaeda in Iraq and bin Laden's plot to turn Iraq and the region into a caliphate based on the radical Taliban ideology," he said. "These actions by the tribes and volunteer citizens have become a central concern for al Qaeda, and bin Laden attempts to rationalize these setbacks but ignores the most relevant fact: that the tribes and citizens have rejected (al Qaeda in Iraq's) ideology and hatred."

Meanwhile, coalition and Iraqi security forces will continue to pursue and disrupt al Qaeda and prevent the group from reestablishing safe havens and operating bases in Iraq, Smith said.

Security efforts are being bolstered by an Iraqi court system that tried some 4,000 civil and
criminal cases in 2007 and boasts more than 1,100 judges, prosecutors and examining magistrates in dozens of courts operating across the country.

An Iraqi court on Dec. 27 found Muhammad al Matyuti guilty of participating in bombings that killed some 500 Iraqis from the Yazidi tribe in August. Matyuti confessed to being a member of the Sinjar al Qaeda in Iraq network and an associate of Muhammad al Afri, the Yazidi-attack mastermind who coalition forces killed during a targeted raid in September, Smith said.

Economic stimulation also is aiding coalition forces in countering extremism in Iraq, Smith said. Earlier this month, Multinational Corps Iraq distributed micro-grants to several local Baghdad businessmen. With the loans, a market owner, butcher and street vendor were able to purchase equipment necessary to conduct their respective trades while stimulating local economies.

"Though small in nature, micro-grants such as these are enabling thousands of businessmen and businesswomen to both maintain and expand their entrepreneurial spirit, providing not only a livelihood but essential services in their neighborhoods," Smith said.

Though challenges to security loom in the new year, Smith said, such economic developments are leading to a brighter outlook in Iraq.

"Positive elements such as these are encouraging, as Iraqis continue to dedicate themselves to the building of their country from the bottom up," he said. "2008 will have its own set of upturns and downturns, but we remain positive that the progress will continue as the new year unfolds."

Local Governance Center Opens South of Baghdad

By Sgt. Jason Stadel, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2007 - The Arab Jabour Governance Center officially opened Dec. 27 with a large ceremony on the grounds of the center. More than 250 people were in attendance. The center will function similar to a city hall for Arab Jabour, south of Baghdad. It will be the headquarters for the Arab Jabour Governance Council and "concerned local citizens" groups. Local Iraqis will be able to bring infrastructure and political issues to Arab Jabour
leaders at the center, U.S. officials explained.

Army Lt. Col. Kenneth Adgie, commander of 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, said the governance center is a symbol of progress in security that has been made in Arab Jabour during the past six months.

"This is where people can get problems solved," Adgie said, adding that this also is a step forward in political progress in Arab Jabour.

Six months ago, Arab Jabour had almost no coalition presence, and al Qaeda in Iraq used the heavily Sunni community as a safe haven and imposed a strict Islamic law on residents. With the arrival of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, the fifth and final surge brigade, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, was able to move into the area and push al Qaeda out.

The battalion also started the concerned local citizen movement in Arab Jabour, which has grown to more than 800 local Iraqis from the area. Members of a concerned local citizen group will provide security for the Arab Jabour Governance Center.

Adgie and his battalion began conducting offensive combat operations against al Qaeda in June. Local citizens began guarding the community's infrastructure about four months ago. "This is Iraqis working with Iraqis to improve the basic needs of their people," Adgie said.

Local Iraqis in attendance praised the opening of the center and the overall improved security in Arab Jabour. "Today is a great day for our region and for all of Baghdad," said Majid Hamad Yasien al Jabouri. "This is a great day for all of the Iraqi people."

Majid said he was happy to be part of the celebration at the governance center, but the best part of the day was seeing the people of Arab Jabour being free to live their lives without the over watch of a dictator or al Qaeda. "The real happiness is outside with the farmers working and the children going to school. This didn't happen before," Majid said.

The governance center has been refurbished with new furniture, computers with Internet access, and offices for Arab Jabour and concerned local citizen council member. A meeting room, kitchen, reception room and offices for area officials are also in the center.

Army Sgt. Jason Stadel is assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

American Heroes Press

December 30, 2007 (San Dimas, CA) American Heroes Press was been established to assist law enforcement, fire, emergency service and military personnel in marketing and promoting their work.

In 2006, a website that lists state and local police officers who have authored books was developed. During 2007, a website that lists current, former and retired military personnel who have authored books was developed. In late 2007, a website that lists fire and emergency services personnel who have authored books was launched.

Hi Tech
Criminal Justice, the organization that developed and maintains all three websites announced the formation of American Heroes Press, an umbrella imprint for law enforcement, fire, emergency services and military personnel who have or anticipate publishing books.

American Heroes Press will assist new authors in navigating the world of publishing and assist new authors in marketing and promoting their work. Moreover, through the their information distribution network and “on ground” events, American Heroes Press will assist established authors in marketing and promoting their work.

Currently,, the more established of the three websites lists over 800 state and local law enforcement officials who have published. lists nearly 100 servicemembers and, the newest addition, contains a single listing.

For more information about
American Heroes Press visit the website at or send an email to

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Coalition Troops in Afghanistan Kill Several Militants, Detain 9

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2007 - Coalition forces killed several enemy fighters and detained nine others in an operation to disrupt Taliban
leadership and weapons-facilitation networks yesterday in Afghanistan's Zabul province. Coalition forces searched several compounds in the province's Qalat district, targeting a Taliban militant associated with several attacks on coalition troops. Intelligence sources also indicate the militant was involved in helping Taliban forces get ammunition and supplies, officials said.

During the search, coalition forces were required to escalate force when militants demonstrated hostile intent, killing several militants, officials said.

An Afghan woman bystander suffered a minor injury. A medical specialist treated her injury, and the woman returned to her family.

Coalition forces detained nine individuals suspected of having links to Taliban networks. They'll be questioned regarding their involvement in Taliban operations as well as other extremist activities, officials said.

"Taliban extremist networks lose ground with every operation we conduct," said
Army Maj. Chris Belcher, Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. "We'll continue to apply pressure to eliminate their indiscriminate attacks on the Afghan people and government."

(From a Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release.)

Detainee Transfer Announced

The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of ten detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Saudi Arabia. These detainees were determined to be eligible for transfer following a comprehensive series of review processes.

The transfer is a demonstration of the United States' desire not to hold detainees any longer than necessary. It also underscores the processes put in place to assess each individual and make a determination about their detention while hostilities are ongoing – an unprecedented step in the history of warfare.

The Department of Defense has determined – through its comprehensive review processes - that more than 60 detainees at Guantanamo are eligible for transfer or release. Departure of these detainees is subject to ongoing discussions between the United States and other nations.

Since 2002, approximately 500 detainees have departed Guantanamo for other countries including Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom and Yemen.

There are approximately 275 detainees currently at Guantanamo.

Scrap-Metal Salvage Puts Iraqis to Work

By Maj. Charles Rote, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2007 - Fourteen Iraqis reported for work in the Defense Reutilization Material Office yard last week to begin reducing damaged and unusable vehicles into scrap metal that will be sold to an outside business and eventually find its way into an Iraqi foundry. Since arriving in Iraq, the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment's Regimental Support Squadron "Muleskinners" has worked with the Iraqi Business and Industrial Zone and the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service to bring about the employment opportunity.

A signing ceremony at the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office on Oct. 31 marked the start of a Multinational Force Iraq initiative to provide jobs for area citizens. The DRMO received tools, hired employees and established facilities in preparation for the Dec. 21 opening.

On the first day of operations, recently trained Iraqis met with personnel from the Regimental Support Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. The
military unit will provide the Iraqi workers with technical oversight, escort and transportation support.

"This is getting the Iraqis one step closer to standing on their own," said
Army Spc. Robert Edsel from Snellville, Ga., the inspector of the demilitarized vehicles and the escort for the Iraqis. As part of the growing effort to encourage partnership with the Iraqi people in rebuilding their country, the troopers will work as facilitators with the work force.

The soldiers attended a week of training taught by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service representatives. Team members have also undergone security and escort training. They've also received cultural awareness training and learned about their Iraqi counterparts in weekly group meetings.

"The Iraqi people want to succeed, and they are looking to us for help", said Capt. Derek Hoffman, from Yelm, Wash., the Regimental Support Squadron's maintenance troop commander. "By understanding this and their needs, we can provide the most effective assistance".

The goal is to build solid and stable Iraqi businesses capable of working with the U.S. and Iraqi armies to provide logistics support. "Jobs contribute to building a dynamic citizen, which ultimately helps society become more productive,"
Army Lt. Col. Danny Tilzey, Regimental Support Squadron commander, said at the contract signing.

After their initial reception, orientation, safety courses, and demonstrations, the Iraqi team managed to demilitarize 16 Humvee turrets in just hours. When they reach full capacity, they should be able to process several quarter-ton trucks or equivalent vehicles daily, officials said.

Army Maj. Charles Rote serves with Regimental Support Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Public Affairs.)

Coalition Forces in Iraq Kill 5 Terrorists, Detain 14

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2007 - Coalition forces killed five terrorists and detained 14 suspects today during anti-al Qaeda operations in central and northern Iraq, military officials reported. Four
terrorists were killed north of Muqdadiyah, where coalition forces targeted an al Qaeda network operating in the northeast region of the Diyala River Valley. Six suspected terrorists were detained.

Near Salman Pak, coalition forces killed a suspected
terrorist and detained another person while targeting an alleged al Qaeda leader involved in gun-running and attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces in the Arab Jabour region.

Near Samarra and Baghdad, coalition forces detained seven more suspected
terrorists as part of the continuing campaign to disrupt al Qaeda in Iraq operations.

"These operations are examples of our continued success against al Qaeda," said
Army Maj. Winfield Danielson, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "Iraqi and coalition forces are disrupting their operations and diminishing their pool of manpower, but they still pose a threat to innocent Iraqis."

In other news, Iraqi commandos and U.S. advisors detained a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq leader and three additional suspects during two separate raids Dec. 26. In Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S. troops detained the
leader of an al Qaeda terrorist cell. Reports indicated the cell is responsible for several bombings and sniper attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces, as well as kidnapping and torturing innocent Iraqis. In Balad, Iraqi and U.S. Special Forces detained three suspects during a raid targeting al Qaeda in Iraq leadership.

In Dec. 25 Iraq operations:

-- Iraqi national
police and U.S. soldiers discovered an improvised explosive device in eastern Baghdad. Responding to a report of the possible bomb, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers found and disposed of the bomb.

-- U.S. soldiers discovered a weapons cache in the Rusafa sector of eastern Baghdad. An infantry patrol found the cache, which included nine 60 mm mortars, 30 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition, four grenade canisters and a rocket-propelled grenade.

-- Acting on a tip, Iraqi national
police seized a large munitions cache near Tameem. The cache contained 20 projectile fuses, 10 60 mm mortars, eight 122 mm artillery shells, eight 82 mm mortars and other unidentifiable explosives. The police turned over the cache to members of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Regiment's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

(From Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

Soldiers, Afghans Celebrate School Opening

By Pfc. Daniel M. Rangel, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2007 - U.S. soldiers helped local Afghans celebrate the opening of the Aftabachi Girls' School in the Aftabachi Village here during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 26. In attendance were Kapisa Gov. Koeja Ablebacker and
Army Capt. Jordan J. Berry, Kapisa province civil affairs team leader for the Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team, who helped coordinate the $120,000 project with Mr. Miraga, an Afghan contractor who also was in attendance.

"We started six months ago," Miraga said. "The brick work was the hardest, and the concrete was hard work as well."

Local children had been looking forward to the opening of the school since the project's inception.

"They don't have enough schools around here, so this one's a big one for them. They come up to us, and they can't wait to get started," said
Army Sgt. 1st Class Henry L. Rodriguez, 351st Civil Affairs, working with the Bagram PRT.

The new school will serve 620 students and employ 15 teachers who will teach a wide variety of subjects including mathematics, science, English and Arabic, Mr. Turyaly, one of the school's teachers, said.

Before the school opened, teachers conducted their classes outside with only the trees as protection from the elements.

"We are very happy right now that we have a building for the school," Turyaly said.

Berry emphasized it was the willingness of the people of Kapisa to work with coalition forces to bring about construction of the new school.

Security has allowed soldiers to do a lot of projects in the area, Berry said. "There are still people in Afghanistan who don't want to give us security, and they don't want development in their areas. So while they still want to fight, the children of Kapisa will be going to school. Ten years from now, those people who still want to fight will be working for those children. The children of Kapisa will be the future doctors, lawyers, teachers and politicians who run this country."

But it was not only the people's willingness that made construction of the school possible, Berry noted. Their contributions made the project possible as well.

"This land was donated from private individuals," Berry said. "That goes to show the emphasis the people in this area put on education. They give valuable farmland in a beautiful area."

The school will not be the last project. Berry noted plans are in the works for more projects in the spring.

"We look forward to doing more projects," Berry said. "We have a lot more projects for this area, and more development for the springtime, when it starts to get warmer. We look forward to working more with the people of Kapisa in the future."

Army Pfc. Daniel M. Rangel serves with the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Marine Bridges Gap Between Arabic, American Cultures

By Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2007 - They have their differences. In fact, they often don't even speak the same language. But U.S. servicemembers and the Iraqi people here have the same goal: security and stability for Iraq's Anbar province.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert Sanders, operations chief for Battery K, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, helps to bridge the cultural gap.

Sanders developed an understanding of Arab culture during his upbringing in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He was born at Fort Benning, Ga., but his father's discharge from the
Army after the Vietnam War led to a job as an oil field worker, which kept the family on the move.

Now Sanders' own travels have taken him back to a familiar culture, but with his new extended family -- his fellow Marines.

"Staff Sergeant Sanders is our bid for success in the villages," said
Marine Corps 1st Lt. Matthew Thompson, executive officer for the battery. "He has found his niche in working with the Iraqis. He can communicate with the Iraqis without an interpreter, and they can communicate with him."

Thompson, a Presho, S.D., native, credits Sanders with helping to gain rapport between Marines and the people in the nearby village of Kabani. In addition to the battery's plans to build a new water treatment plant, a rebuilt school now stands as a testament to the coordination between the Marines and the villagers.

Sanders has put his cultural and linguistic skills to use for the
military before. He lived among the Iraqi people for seven months at the East Fallujah Iraqi Compound during his 2004 deployment.

He supervised civilian contractors there and grew comfortable with the Iraqi people and their lifestyle, even getting used to the food and water to the point where returning to his old eating habits upset his stomach when he returned to the United States, he said.

Things were different then, the staff sergeant said. This was before thousands in Anbar province turned against the insurgency to cooperate with coalition forces in what came to be known as the "Anbar Awakening."

"I remember sitting at Fallujah, and you could sit up on a Hesco barrier and you could watch car bombs exploding in the distance," said Sanders. "Every night, we'd sit out there on the Hescos and smoke cigars, and you could watch tracers shoot across the sky. You don't hear that anymore."

Bonding with the people, he said, was a major part of the solution. Sanders has held classes to further his Marines' understanding of the Arabic language and culture.

"It definitely makes our job a lot easier," said Lance Cpl. Hunter Leger, a fire team leader with the battery. "We've been able to handle things without having to call someone up."

Leger, a Lake Charles, La., native, said he and his colleagues are knowledgeable enough to work the entry control points without the help of an interpreter. As one of Sanders' Marines at their home station of
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., he said he's developed a respect for the staff sergeant's professionalism. It seems many of the local Iraqis have done the same.

When the battery sends Marines to Kabani to coordinate with the muqtar, or mayor, he first asks them 'Where is Abu Iskander?' in reference to Sanders, the father of Alexander.

As Sanders has with many of the village's people, he has developed a friendship with the muqtar, who jokes that the
Marine could win over enough popularity in the town to beat him out for his position in the next election.

"The people like him too much," Muqtar Ismail Mohmood Hamad said. "They come in from time to time to see what's going on, and he always likes to help the people."

Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz serves with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group.)

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. Bryan J. Tutten, 33, of St. Augustine, Fla., died Dec. 25 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

For more information media may contact the 82nd Airborne Division public affairs office at (910) 432-0661.

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Dec. 26 in Mosul, Iraq, of wounds suffered from small arms fire during dismounted combat operations.They were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas.

Killed were:

Capt. Rowdy J. Inman, 38, of Panorama Village, Texas.

Sgt. Benjamin B. Portell, 27, of Bakersfield, Calif.

For more information media may contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at (254) 287-9993; after hours (254) 291-2591.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Troops Detain 2 Extremists Tied to Soldiers' Abduction

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 27, 2007 - Iraqi
police and U.S. special operations forces seized two suspected extremists believed to be complicit in the kidnapping of three U.S. soldiers in early May, U.S. military officials said today. The suspects were detained during Dec. 24-25 operations in Ramadi, officials said. The raids were prompted by intelligence reports linking the two individuals to the May 12 abduction of three U.S. 10th Mountain Division soldiers after an insurgent ambush near Mahmudiyah in which four U.S. soldiers were killed.

Reports indicate the two detainees are linked to al Qaeda in Iraq. One of the suspected
terrorists is believed to have facilitated the kidnapping and is reported to have used his home to aid in the hiding and transporting of the captured soldiers.

The Ramadi raids were part of a series of operations conducted to detain individuals believed complicit in the abduction of the soldiers, officials said.

Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, a native of Torrance, Calif., Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich., were reported missing after the May 12 ambush. Iraqi
police found Anzack's body in the Euphrates River south of Baghdad on May 23. Jimenez and Fouty are still missing.

During a previous operation, a weapon belonging to one of the missing U.S. soldiers was recovered at a residence of one of the suspects, officials said.

Both suspects allegedly are involved in
terrorist cells responsible for several roadside-bomb and mortar attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces, as well as the kidnapping and murder of Iraqi citizens and members of the Iraqi security forces.

Four other individuals seized during the operations are being detained for questioning.

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

Troops Kill 11 Insurgents, Detain 19 in Iraq Operations

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 27, 2007 - Coalition troops killed 11 insurgents and captured 19 others during separate operations in Iraq today,
military officials reported. In Mosul, coalition troops captured a wanted individual believed to be responsible for a group of terrorists who conduct assassinations in the city, including attacks against Iraqi security forces. Intelligence indicates the wanted individual is responsible for reporting on the locations of coalition and Iraqi forces for use in planning attacks. He also allegedly is involved in extortion, execution and counterintelligence operations. Six other suspected terrorists also were detained.

Northeast of Samarra, coalition forces targeted an associate of an al Qaeda in Iraq leader involved in terrorist media and propaganda operations. The targeted individual also is believed to be tied to foreign
terrorist and weapons facilitation networks operating in and outside of Iraq. Seven suspected terrorists were detained and a vehicle that was being used for terrorist activity was destroyed.

During other operations in Samarra and Baghdad, coalition forces detained five suspected terrorists while targeting associates involved in the facilitation of weapons, finances and foreign terrorists.

"We remain steadfast in our effort to dismantle al Qaeda's terrorist networks," said
Navy Capt. Vic Beck, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman. "We will continue to hunt down al Qaeda. They will find no safe haven in Iraq."

Meanwhile, coalition forces in Iraq today killed an estimated 11
terrorists during operations targeting "special groups" criminal networks in Kut. Coalition troops were targeting a special groups member reportedly responsible for attacks against coalition forces and supporters of coalition forces. The individual reportedly also was an associate of criminal element leaders involved in attacks on coalition forces.

When coalition forces approached the target area, they were engaged by terrorists with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Coalition forces returned fire and called for air support. The ground force assessed that about 11
terrorists were killed during the engagement.

Iraqi commandos, advised by U.S. Special Forces, detained a suspected terrorist weapons dealer during a Dec. 25 raid in Baghdad. The suspect is believed to deal in a variety of weapons systems, including mortars, rockets and medium and small arms. He also is thought to be a possible improvised explosive device cell leader. During the raid, the assault force recovered several weapons, including two assault rifles, four grenades, three combat knives, 11 AK-47 magazines, an RPG launcher sight and an IED initiation system.

Also on Dec. 25, U.S. soldiers in Baqouba shot and killed a person who later was identified as a concerned local citizen who wasn't wearing the appropriate identifying clothing at the time.

The U.S. troops spotted a suspicious-looking individual wearing civilian clothes and carrying an AK-47. The individual was not wearing a reflective belt or reflective vest, which would have identified him as a concerned local citizen. The U.S. soldiers yelled at the individual to drop his weapon, but the individual responded by firing several shots at the soldiers, who then returned fire.

Immediately thereafter, a second individual arrived and attempted to pick up the fallen person's weapon. In response to the perceived hostile act, the soldiers fired on him, as well. Both men died from gunshot wounds.

An immediate investigation conducted by Iraqi
police and coalition forces found that one of the deceased was identified as a CLC member and was carrying a reflective vest and reflective belt in a small pouch. Neither individual was wearing a reflective device when coalition forces fired upon them.

"It has been made very clear to all of our CLCs that they must wear their reflective items at all times," said
Army Maj. Mike Garcia, a U.S. military spokesman. "Additionally, CLCs, by definition, are a stationary, defensive force. When they are encountered moving offensively without the proper reflective equipment on, that makes them a hostile threat to coalition and Iraqi security forces."

Coalition forces immediately contacted Iraqi
police and brought them to the scene. "I have had four suicide attacks in my (area of operations) in the last few weeks," said U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Ricardo Love. "One of my squad leaders made a decision based on the credible threat that one of these guys could be wearing a suicide device, and I support that."

Later that day, the funeral procession for the two deceased individuals was attacked by a suicide-vest bomber. The attack killed four Iraqis and wounded 20 other people.

In other recent Iraq operations:

-- Coalition forces killed 12
terrorists, detained 37 suspects and freed one hostage during Dec. 22-25 anti-al Qaeda operations conducted near Muqdadiyah. Coalition forces also discovered several sites where terrorists allegedly conducted attacks. One of the sites was assessed to be a firing point for improvised explosive device attacks. At that location, the ground force discovered a structure with various wires leading from a vantage point to a nearby road intersection. Coalition forces also located and destroyed eight weapons caches, which included machines guns, a sniper rifle, pistols, RPG rounds and propellant, ammunition, grenades, detonation cord and several bags of homemade explosives.

-- Iraqi national
police found two weapons caches Dec. 24, after receiving a tip on terrorist activity near the Al-Kartheemain Mosque in Baghdad's east Rashid section. When the police and U.S. soldiers arrived, the suspected terrorists had fled into the mosque. The police searched the mosque and found two caches. The first cache included 107 mm rockets. The second cache consisted of mortar rounds, plastic explosives, TNT, grenades and other components needed to make IEDs.

-- U.S. soldiers arrested two men and Iraqi police and security volunteers found an IED in a home during operations in Baghdad's Rashid district Dec. 23. "Black Lions" of Company D, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, while on a joint patrol with 2nd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, found a weapons cache inside a medical administration office in Bayaa. Two men in the building were arrested for being upon the cache of 57 AK-47 assault rifles, three machine guns and an RPG. The suspects were handed over to Iraqi security forces for further questioning. Earlier that day in Baghdad's Doura neighborhood, a group of Iraqi security volunteers were moving a family into a home, when they found two mortar rounds taped together and wired for detonation. The volunteers turned over the bomb and an anti-tank weapon to U.S. soldiers for disposal.

(From Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

'Ironhorse' Brigade Officer Reflects on Progress in Iraq

By Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 27, 2007 - When the senior
leadership and soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team arrived in Iraq nearly 15 months ago, the security situation here was quite different from the one they now experience as they patrol the streets throughout their area of operations. According to Maj. Patrick Michaelis, the Ironhorse brigade's operations officer, the brigade has seen a "phenomenal change" from having 150 enemy attacks per week for the first seven to 10 weeks in theater to having only about 10 significant events per week, now mostly involving the finding of weapons caches and improvised explosive devices, with only isolated incidents of coordinated enemy attacks.

"The shift in atmosphere of our operational environment has moved away from individual security and safety to normalcy, which has manifested itself in a concern for governance," Michaelis said. "Spectacular attacks are now the exception and not the rule.
"If you had asked last year if we were fighting a
counterinsurgency, it would have been hard to say yes; rather, we were in the center of a low-level ethnocentric civil war," he added.

Michaelis credits much of the brigade's success as a combined result of the troop surge, which began in early 2007, reconciliation efforts, and other underlying factors.

Early on in the deployment, the brigade began establishing joint security stations and coalition outposts in the neighborhoods in which it patrols.

"One of the
tactics we implemented as a manifestation of the surge was putting ourselves dead center in contentious areas, going where the extremists' sanctuaries were, along with targeting al Qaeda financial assets," Michaelis said. "These efforts forced a change in the differences between this year and last year."

"Al Qaeda's
tactics of extorting the locals, which led to the 'Awakening' in (Anbar province) gave rise to the opportunity of formerly irreconcilable forces aligning with the government and coalition to work toward the definable future that we're in now."

Sunnis and Shiias first began coming together in late January and early February in the brigade's operating environment of the 2nd "Lancer" Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, in Abu Ghraib. Tribal sheiks joined local
leaders, with more concrete results of reconciliation efforts manifesting themselves in April and May, Michaelis explained. Eventually, similar things began happening in areas patrolled by the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment; the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, which was attached to the Ironhorse Brigade out of Fort Lewis, Wash.; and the 2nd "Stallion" Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment also began to see changes, as former al Qaeda in Iraq members began breaking away from the extremist organizations and aligning themselves with the government.

"There was a definite polarization between Sunni and Shiia tribes, and now they are finding themselves recognizing their differences, yet working toward a common goal."

Despite a significant drop in enemy activity over the past six months, the brigade, which operates in Taji and Abu Ghraib and a small part of Anbar province, still remains vigilant in its efforts to maintain security gains while working with its joint partners, Michaelis said.

"Although the tension in the air is gone and a there's a feeling of opportunity and optimism, there's no doubt that the bad guys are still out there," the operations officer said. "We're prepared to respond to them with lethal force if necessary."

During its rotation, the brigade -- working alongside its Iraqi counterparts in the Iraqi
police, Iraqi security volunteers and soldiers serving in the 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, and the 2nd and 3rd Brigades of the 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized) -- has detained 86 high-ranking senior leaders in various extremist organizations, including al Qaeda.

The brigade found and disposed of 724 improvised explosive devices, many of which 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion troops found while clearing routes. The brigade also uncovered 180 weapons caches. All of this was done while teaming in joint operations that not only involved partnering with Iraqi
military, police and volunteer forces but also included the participation of Estonian and Macedonian troops, also based on Camp Taji and embedded with 1st BCT soldiers.

Over the course of the deployment, the brigade's 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, fired more than 6,400 rounds from its M109A6 Paladin howitzers in support of counterfire missions to suppressive fire missions as well as hitting planned targets. The soldiers also cleared routes for combat missions along with providing security for the base camp here.

Nearly 12,000 combined Critical Infrastructure Security volunteers and Iraqi security volunteers have partnered with Iraqi security forces and the BCT. They man the 190 checkpoints throughout the Ironhorse area of operations.

The brigade assisted
military transition teams based on Camp Taji by partnering with various Iraqi army units to train them. In one such partnership, the brigade's Charlie Medical Company, 115th Brigade Support Battalion, trained more than 400 Iraqi soldiers through its combat lifesaver course.

Thousands of recruits in the villages of Abu Ghraib and Taji were vetted by the Iraqi government and local
police departments to become potential police officers through recruiting drives. Soldiers in the brigade's 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment; and the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, all aided in these efforts.

To date, the combined efforts to build
police forces in villages in the Ironhorse area of operations have resulted in more than 1,500 Iraqi police graduating from the Iraqi Police Academy in Baghdad and at the police training facility on Forward Operating Base India. The brigade's soldiers also assisted police and government leaders with the standing up of police stations such as the one in Agar Quf, which opened this month.

"As security continues to improve and displaced Iraqi citizens return to their hometowns, there is a need to develop a more sophisticated approach to
law enforcement, because criminal elements may also be returning into the area," Michaelis said. "There has to be an investment in the Iraqi police beyond what is currently required and allocated against the police force."

Within towns such as Sab Al Bor, which had a population of 2,600 upon the brigade's arrival in theater, displaced persons are returning to their homes at a rate of 25 to 30 families per day, and the population has increased over the past four months to nearly 25,000 people.

In the villages, the brigade also has seen the economy improving in the form of many newly opened businesses. In Taji Market prior to the brigade's arrival in the area, there were 125 shops, but now has the village has 340. Abu Ghraib's 370 shops have increased to 900, while the city of Fira Shia, which had no shops, now has 20. Most of the other villages in Ironhorse areas have seen similar progress.

New economic opportunities are being seen in the Ironhorse operating environment in the forms of employment. Concerned local citizens, who are being paid for providing security under a temporary coalition program, eventually will be employed by the Iraqi government. In another employment initiative, the brigade has worked to assist the Iraqi government in creating programs very similar to Job Corps, established in the 1930s in the United States, to provide temporary employment for Iraqi citizens through various civil improvement projects such as trash collection, road work and construction projects.

"When the people have hope in the form of jobs to feed their families and education for their children, this goes much farther toward solidifying security gains than a gun on every street," Michaelis said. "The people are now worried about electricity and water (along with other essential services), which are all things we as Americans feel is an obligation by government to provide.

"These are things the Iraqi government is working slowly towards," Michaelis added. "The final step towards building a safe, stable and secure environment is a government that takes care of its people."

To assist local governments, the brigade's embedded provincial reconstruction team, known as EPRT Baghdad 5, has been providing local governance mentorship courses to give the local government officials a better understanding of local government concepts. Along with these efforts, the EPRT has provided advice as local governments began establishing executive and technical branches of government and committees to allow them to become self-sustaining.

"The EPRT has become critical to sustaining reconciliation gains," Michaelis said. "Their assistance has been vital in helping the local governments with learning how to provide essential services for their citizens."

In all, the Ironhorse Brigade, using assets in the EPRT and Company A, 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion, has assisted the Iraqi people in completing 179 reconstruction projects in the two neighborhoods in which it operates. These efforts have led to the refurbishment of 11 schools, seven roads being repaved, eight clinics reopening, 31 electricity projects and 23 education projects, among many other efforts.

When the brigade first arrived, local citizens were receiving about four hours of power per day. Now residents in the area of operations have an average of 12 to 18 hours of electricity per day. Other improvements led to the repair of the Taji pump station, which was inoperable for more than four years, and repairs to canals that are providing farmers with irrigation water for the first time in four years.

As the brigade's soldiers prepare themselves for their departure in early 2008, much of their focus will be on getting their replacements in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, up to speed on the operating environment and lessons the Ironhorse troopers have learned over their time in Iraq.

"During our relief in place with the next unit, we must emphasize the interconnected nature of the environment," Michaelis stressed. "As far as security, presence is important; however, just as important is a clear understanding of how government works from tribes to businesses and the knowledge that there are still remaining cases of sectarianism interests.

"We must pass this knowledge onto them so that they are successful and so they have an understanding of the different layers of social networks which affect aspects of government, business, religion and tribal relationships here," he added. "We believe the relief-in-place (transition) is important for us to carry our momentum forward."

The main goal for the brigade throughout its deployment involved working together, professionally with the Iraqi people with the goal of building a safe, stable and secure environment for all Iraqis, Michaelis said.

Although there is still much work to be done to fully transition the sovereignty of Iraq to the Iraqi people, the Ironhorse troops feel they have made a difference and remain hopeful for the future of Iraq, he added.

"We're all cautious in our optimism and we see the fruits of our burden every day in Iraq," Michaelis said. "We've sacrificed greatly to achieve a level of normalcy and stability to allow Iraqis to step forward. It can be measured in the lives of 53 soldiers, the countless numbers of injured, and it can be measured in the sacrifices of the other 4,000 Ironhorse troops who currently serve in the brigade."

Army Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp serves with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Public Affairs.)

U.S., Afghan Forces Seize 2 Terrorists, Find Weapons Cache

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 27, 2007 - Afghan and U.S. security forces detained two suspected
terrorist bombers and seized a weapons cache during separate operations in Afghanistan Dec. 24. Afghan security troops, advised by coalition forces, disrupted major terrorist networks by arresting two key facilitators responsible for improvised-explosive-device attacks against civilian and military targets.

The combined operations, led by Afghan national
police and border police units, were conducted in Kandahar and Paktya provinces.

The first operation involved tracking and arresting an insurgent in the Chamkani district of Paktya province. The insurgent was suspected to be involved in a number of attacks against Afghan National
Police and coalition forces operating in the area.

"One individual is a suspected insurgent facilitator, believed to be responsible for coordinating IED attacks and insurgent activity directed against (Afghan security) personnel over the past year," said
Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. "The successful ANP operation should go a long way in disrupting insurgents' operations in the immediate Chamkani area."

The arrest also will "dramatically increase force protection in the area," especially for
police and border police cars, which have been the primary target of insurgent IED attacks, Belcher added.

The district subgovernor was impressed with the operation and praised the Afghan forces' efforts to enhance security.

Afghan and coalition security forces also teamed up to remove another dangerous
criminal from the streets in Kandahar province during a second operation the same day. The second detained individual is believed to be responsible for IED attacks in Tsagay and Khakrez in November.

The second detainee is also suspected of being a leader of a cell responsible for placing IEDs in five other villages in the region.

"Taliban extremists are deliberately forcing civilians into situations where they are either killed by the insurgents or are at risk of being placed in harm's way during ... security patrols," Belcher said. "This shows that insurgents don't have any respect for the villagers in this area."

Also on Dec. 24, Afghan and coalition security forces discovered a weapons cache atop a ridge line in the Shahidi Hasas District of Oruzgan province.

The combined force was conducting a security sweep of the area after coming under enemy fire the day before. After the insurgents fled the area, Afghan and coalition forces thoroughly searched the enemy's former defensive position, discovering several weapons, including an IED.

"Our team discovered an IED placed on the only vehicle route across the ridge," said a coalition forces commander. "We dismantled the IED and brought all of the components back for analysis. We also discovered a Chinese-made anti-personnel mine on the ridge that was emplaced in the sand along the ridgeline."

The team also found several 82 mm high-explosive mortar rounds hidden in a previously manned enemy fighting position. The weapons were placed in an area where villagers travel and represented a clear danger to residents. Local villagers had left Pasaw and Dosang in November when insurgents moved into the area, but they are starting to return home.

"The Taliban are a destructive force that targets innocent Afghan civilians," Belcher said. "Displacing villagers and placing IEDs and anti-personnel mines along roadways and trails in these areas shows the Taliban's complete disregard for the safety of the Afghan people."

(Compiled from Combined Joint Task Force 82 news releases.)

Face of Defense: Soldier Makes Positive Impact in Iraqi Community

By Staff Sgt. Christopher Frost, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 27, 2007 - Making a visible, positive impact during a tour in Iraq is something to which every deployed servicemember aspires. For an
Army staff sergeant deployed to Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, the quest to make his impact took him to Iraqi neighborhoods and schools. Staff Sgt. Carlos Escuza, who is part of the command's convoy security team known as the Rough Riders, has been providing supplies, gifts and goodwill to Iraqis since his arrival in May.

"Every little bit helps in changing attitudes, you know," he said. "It's about attitudes -- what they think of us before they know us, and what they think of us after they get to know us."

His latest trip was Dec. 26 to the Central Baghdad Educational Center, just inside the International Zone. During this trip, the sergeant and others from the command delivered school supplies, stuffed animals and candy to the school.

After noticing the soldiers arriving at the school to deliver the needed notebooks, pens and other supplies, the school's children began gathering around and waiting for their share of what the troops brought.

Before long, more than 50 Iraqi children had swarmed the troops. Despite being overwhelmed by the number of children, Escuza and
Army 1st Sgt. Garry Dietzman continued handing out gifts and candy to the excited children.

"Every time we come back, I love each and every one of those kids," Dietzman, the Rough Riders first sergeant, said. "I have a blast with them."

Since May, Escuza and Dietzman have spread gifts and goodwill throughout the Baghdad area. The two soldiers began by adopting 14 local families. They began to recruit more help from servicemembers working within the command for their twice-monthly visits.

After his early efforts for those adopted families, Escuza visited the Baghdad educational center with a
Navy chief warrant officer, who showed him how he could help Baghdad schools. Escuza and Dietzman followed up with another visit to the school, asking the staff what supplies they needed most.

Escuza and Dietzman are planning more trips to the school to deliver supplies and see what else is needed. They rely mostly on supplies sent from the United States, they said.

Supplies that the school needs the most are art equipment and musical instruments, school staff members told the soldiers. With Iraq's school systems starting fresh, art and music programs are still in the early stages.

For the two soldiers, their efforts are all about the kids and the relationships they form with them, Dietzman said.

"I feel a sense of accomplishment, like I'm doing something to help somebody else, and it's giving me a much better perspective of what we're doing here," he said.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Frost serves with Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Iraqi Army, U.S. Troops Deliver Backpacks to School Children

By Sgt. James P. Hunter, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 26, 2007 - The troops who provide a security situation that allows Iraqi children to attend school are helping those same children here get the most of that experience. "I have always been a believer that when you are in school the only thing you should worry about is learning, and all teachers should be worried about is teaching," said
Army 1st Lt. Reimund G. Manneck Jr., fire support officer with Company A, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment.

"I think especially in a safe place like Adil, where kids and teachers can go to school on their own without any fear, they should be at least afforded a good building and plenty of supplies so they can focus on learning and not worry that they will run out of notebooks and pencils and that their building is falling apart," Manneck added.

army soldiers and Company A troops, attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), delivered backpacks to school children at the Kawaryzmi Primary School in Adil earlier this month.

The headmasters at the school were complaining they didn't receive enough school supplies for their students for the entirety of the school year, said Hartsdale, N.Y., native Manneck. This was the second school they delivered supplies to, with the first being Al Khullud Secondary School for Girls.

So working with the Iraqi
army, the U.S. soldiers gathered the supplies and delivered them to very enthusiastic, but well-mannered students.

In charge of delivering these supplies were the soldiers of 3rd Company of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division.

Their company commander, Capt. Hyder, according to Manneck, "is very willing to help the people."

"Of all Iraqi
army officers we have met, he is the best in helping the community," and is very understanding of the needs of the Iraqi people, he said.

"He understands that in order to pull the population away from the insurgents you need to work with and help people," continued Manneck. "He is always planning humanitarian assistance and medical-type drops."

Sometimes pulling these supplies in can be difficult for the Iraqi army, Manneck said. So, this is where the U.S. troops step in to help by providing the supplies. But it is still the Iraqi army up front, providing for their people.

"We learn about the schools who need supplies through the Iraqi
army," said 1st Lt. Robert Behrman, with Company B, 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment. "If it weren't for the Iraqi army, school supply missions wouldn't happen. These are things that are motivated, initiated and driven by the Iraqi army."

With the Iraqi
army out interacting with the people, finding out their needs can only mean immediate change, said Behrman. With the Iraqi army enjoying the trust of local citizens, the soldiers can continue to reach out and conduct their security mission.

"It builds people's confidence and trust in them, something that used to lack here in Adil but has been getting better since we have been doing these joint operations," Manneck said.

Army Sgt. James P. Hunter serves with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Public Affairs.)

Afghan, U.S. Troops Deliver Aid to Villagers

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 26, 2007 - Afghan national security forces, assisted by coalition forces, delivered tons of humanitarian assistance to hundreds of villagers in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. The Afghan forces, including members of the Afghan National
Police, delivered more than two tons of blankets, toys, soccer balls, flour, rice, prayer rugs, storage bags and other items Dec. 16 and 17 to more than 350 adults and 650 children who showed up to receive the goods.

The children, some covered with colorful scarves, smiled and thanked the
police, who provided toys, stuffed animals, crayons and coloring books.

The provincial subgovernor responsible for the districts asked for help after hearing from area chiefs and village elders. The humanitarian aid also served as a way to reward villagers who have ensured the relative safety of the districts by making the area inhospitable to insurgents.

"The villagers were very happy to receive the much-needed items. The goods will help villagers endure the onset of freezing winter temperatures. The people of Sra Kala and Shbal recognize that the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan truly cares for the general welfare of the population," a coalition forces soldier said.

(From a Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release.)

Troops in Afghanistan Detain Suspected Militants

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 26, 2007 - Afghan and coalition forces conducted an operation yesterday to detain Taliban extremists in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. The combined Afghan and coalition force searched compounds in the Chaparhar district targeting Taliban facilitators believed to be operating in the area. The force detained three individuals suspected of having links to Taliban networks during the course of operations.

"Taliban extremist networks face mounting pressure due to the successful operations conducted by Afghan and coalition forces," said
Army Maj. Chris Belcher, Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. "That pressure will only intensify as Afghan and coalition forces continue to carry out their mission to make Afghanistan a safe, secure and stable environment for the Afghan people."

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, insurgents attacked on the holy Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha, wounding four Afghan National
Army soldiers in Shah Wali Kot, Kandahar province, Dec. 21.

Afghan national security forces, assisted by coalition forces, were conducting a security patrol in the area when insurgents engaged with small-arms, machine-gun and indirect fire. The combined force positively identified enemy mortar positions and rushed to engage with small-arms and machine-gun fire.

Insurgents set up fighting positions in two nearby structures to confront the advancing troops. The insurgents fired mortars, wounding four Afghan soldiers. Afghan and coalition forces quickly secured the area while providing first aid to the injured soldiers. The Afghan forces medically evacuated the injured soldiers to a nearby medical treatment facility.

The Afghan-led force called in two air strikes using precision-guided munitions to eliminate the enemy fighting positions. The combined force continued to clear the rest of the wadi.

"It is sad that insurgents attacked on the holy Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha," Belcher said. "The insurgents proved once again that they have no respect for Muslims or the religious holidays by attacking today."

In other news, coalition forces gave an 11-day-old boy a blood transfusion at a
military treatment facility in Tarin Kowt district, Oruzgan province, Dec. 22, saving his life.

Family members initially brought the newborn, suffering from severe blood loss, to an Afghan national security forces and coalition forces outpost in Shahidi Hasas district. Coalition medical personnel say the baby's umbilical cord was cut too short following his birth.

"The baby was bleeding from the belly button. By the time he came to our clinic, the bleeding had stopped, but he had a low body temperature of only 94 degrees," a coalition forces soldier explained. "We provided a transfusion, and now the child is doing very well." The baby and his father are expected to return home in the next day or two, officials said.

This is the second time in less than a month that coalition medical personnel have saved the life of an Afghan child in Oruzgan.

On Nov. 30, an unresponsive 18-month-old child was brought to a combat outpost near Cahar Cineh by an Afghan doctor and family members. According to the child's father, the baby would not sleep, so its mother gave the child a hashish pill to help it sleep, an accepted custom in Afghanistan.

Coalition medics worked throughout the night with the Afghan doctor to treat the child. The family was able to take the child home two days later.

(From Combined Joint Task Force 82 news releases.)

Iraqis Increasingly Side With Coalition, Colonel Says

By Kristen Noel
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 26, 2007 - The Iraqi people increasingly are siding with the coalition against extremists in their country, a unit commander there said.
Army Col. Daniel Ball, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade, is on his third rotation to Iraq and said he is seeing increased trust among the Iraqis.

"They're starting to realize that we're here to make their life better, and because of that they're starting to take our side," he said in a teleconference with online journalists and "bloggers" Dec. 20.

Ball believes the shift is due, at least in part, to the recent U.S. troop surge. The surge forces provide the capability "to not only defeat the enemy, but (also) then to stay in the neighborhoods and help," he said.

The lines of operation for coalition forces remaining in neighborhoods are focused on creating a more secure environment for the local population, he said. He cited examples including helping them establish governance, starting their economy, building and cleaning, restoring their irrigation system and opening their shops.

"They're starting to know us. They're starting to be comfortable with us," Ball said.

As a result, he said, the Iraqi people are coming forward to the coalition forces more with information about the enemy. And it starts a mutually beneficial cycle, he added, because the information helps the coalition target and eliminate the enemy, which makes it safer for the people.

"You have a phenomenon over here right now called 'concerned local citizens' where these guys – almost like our neighborhood watches back home in the United States – they are manning checkpoints, if you will, at the crossroads in their cities, making sure their streets are safe at night and during the day," Ball said. "So, they've really taken our side against al Qaeda over here. And I think it's something we can be proud of as an
Army, and we can be proud of as a nation."

In terms of combat, in which Ball's aviation brigade is most heavily involved, the threat has not changed much since his last tour, he said. The threat comes from both Sunni and Shiia religious extremists and a large number of
criminal elements, he explained.

The enemy's unpredictable nature has forced the combat aviation brigade to adjust – though not drastically, the colonel said – their operations since arriving in Iraq for this tour in May. "It's a thinking enemy, and they adapt quite well to what we're doing on a daily basis," he said.

Ball said the brigade has been fully combat operational throughout its southern Baghdad territory since June 13. "We have killed over 265 of the enemy, which equates to about 70 percent of the enemy killed in action for the 3rd Infantry Division since we've been here," he said.

In addition to launching assaults on the enemy, the aviation brigade provides transportation and logistics services to U.S. forces. "We've moved almost 80,000 personnel across the battlefield with our Chinook and UH-60 helicopters and moved over 12 million pounds of cargo," Ball said.

Moving troops and cargo by air helps to minimize the threat posed by improvised explosive devices, Ball said.

"What's significant about those numbers is, as you well know, one of the major threats in theater is the IED threat. And if I can move 77,000 soldiers and almost 12 million pounds of cargo, I'm keeping vehicles and soldiers off the road, which is inherently making it more safe for our soldiers," he explained.

(Kristen Noel works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)