Wednesday, December 31, 2008

School Brings New Beginnings to Iraqi Students

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Christina Bhatti
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2008 - Iraqi officials and U.S. soldiers celebrated the completion of renovations on a primary school with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 29 in Mushada, northwest of Baghdad. About $90,000 from the Iraqi Commander's Emergency Response Program funded improvements to the existing structure of the Al Gil Al Jadeed Primary School, said
Army 1st Lt. Jesse Ozbat, fire support officer assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's Company C, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Normally, about 600 students attend the school, but that amount has doubled recently. Students are crammed into classrooms, and overwhelmed teachers are doing their best to handle the increased student load, officials said.

Two other schools once were open in the area, but terrorists destroyed both schools years ago. The Al Gil Al Jadeed Primary School was spared from the brunt of the violence and needed only minor repairs compared to the other structures.

"Until the other two schools in the area are rebuilt and fixed, children will have to go to this one school," Ozbat, a Prince George, Va., native said.

Though repairs are under way on the other schools, Ali Janabi, Mushada City Council member, said he has bigger plans for the future of the Al Gil Al Jadeed Primary School.

"I would like to see this school grow," he said. "One day, I would like to see this place large enough to be considered a secondary school."

Janabi said he and the other city council members take pride in this school because "reading and writing are the foundations of a strong future."

"This school is the beginnings of strong foundations for many students," he said.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Christina Bhatti serves with 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.)

Iraqi Civilians Lead Coalition to Dismantle Bombs, Seize Weapons

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2008 - The "Sons of Iraq" civilian security group led coalition troops to their biggest operations in recent days – disarming a bomb at a security checkpoint and finding one of their largest weapons caches to date, military officials reported. Coalition forces responded to a Sons of Iraq checkpoint to disarm a roadside bomb Dec. 29 in Baghdad's Rashid district. An explosive ordnance disposal unit disarmed the bomb.

Tips from Sons of Iraq members in the Tikrit area led soldiers to several large weapons caches Dec. 29, one of which is the largest discovered since 25th Infantry Division units began arriving in Salahuddin province in November, officials said

In a cache southwest of Samarra, troops found 153 artillery rounds, 130 mortar rounds, 81 rocket rounds, 21 rocket mortars and 36 empty rounds of various munitions that could be used to make homemade bombs.

In another large weapons cache southwest of Samarra, troops found more than 250 munitions, including mortar rounds, high-explosive rounds and propellant charges.

All of the weapons were safely destroyed by explosive ordnance disposal personnel.

Also on Dec. 29, coalition and Iraqi soldiers confiscated weapons in the Saydiyah and Jihad communities that included six AK-47 assault rifles, three 60 mm mortar rounds and a rocket.

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

Air Force Sends Surgeons to Train in Iraq

By Sue Campbell
Special to American Forces Press Service

Texas, Dec. 31, 2008 - Optimally managing the unique head and neck injury patterns seen in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to a successful initiative at Wilford Hall Medical Center here. Hospital officials have developed a program – the first for a
military medical facility -- to send surgical fellows to a war zone for a surgical rotation.

In the past, medical and surgical residents and fellows were not deployed to combat zones for hands-on training. Concerns over issues such as preparedness for an intense experience, safety, supervision and work-hour restrictions made this type of experience difficult to plan.

"The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and individual residency review committees have very strict rules regarding a surgical resident and fellow's work hours, time away from work, supervision and fatigue management", said
Air Force Col. (Dr.) David Holck, director of the Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship and chairman of the ophthalmology department at Wilford Hall.

"Yet, we realized that some of the best experience a
military surgeon can receive is in a combat zone," Holck continued. "They can gain concentrated exposure to head and neck trauma and optimize their skills in the management of unique war-related injury patterns that are not routinely seen in civilian trauma centers. These include blast injuries from improvised explosive devices, burns, multisystem trauma and combinations of these injuries."

Holck initiated this project by taking his fellow,
Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Lisa Mihora, to the Air Force theater hospital at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, for a surgical rotation this summer.

Mihora, a board-certified ophthalmologist, is in her second year of a two-year fellowship at Wilford Hall as an oculofacial plastics and reconstructive fellow. This specialized division of ophthalmology involves management of deformities and abnormalities of the eyelids, tear system, orbit -- the bony cavity surrounding the eye -- and surrounding face and neck. Facial trauma management is an important component of this fellowship.

Air Force residents and fellows perform rotations at civilian hospitals to obtain the training they need," Holck said. "We have routinely sent our residents to South America for military-unique training and international ophthalmology. As long as appropriate supervision is available with adherence to work-hour restrictions, there really is no limit to where the training can be conducted."

Mihora spent six weeks at Joint Base Balad, performing more than 130 procedures under the direct supervision of Holck and another oculofacial plastic surgeon,
Air Force Col. (Dr.) Randal Beatty.

In Iraq, Mihora said, she participated in more head and neck trauma surgeries than in her entire career. This included craniotomies, facial fractures, complex soft tissue facial injuries and enucleations, or eye removals. She also was a critical member of the head and neck team, operating routinely with neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons. These surgeons treated injured U.S. and allied troops, Iraqi civilians and insurgents, anyone who came through the doors.

"Deploying to Iraq gave me unique exposure to oculoplastics patients," Mihora said. "The extent of the injuries and surgeries that I cared for were unique to a war zone. Most injuries were from explosive devices, so I am now more comfortable treating these injuries on soldiers when they return stateside."

The accreditation council evaluates training programs, residents and staff using core competencies. One of these is systems-based practice, which involves understanding and successfully working in the unique medical system that they will be practicing after graduation.

"If we are going to fully train a
military surgeon in systems-based practice, a conflict zone is where they will practice their trade," Holck said. "Taking Doctor Mihora to Balad not only allowed her to gain firsthand experience, but will help her train other surgeons who may have to deploy in the future."

Mihora said one of the most important parts of the experience was the chance to work with other head and neck surgeons in a team effort to help injured troops.

"This was a unique opportunity, only available in a
military fellowship program, which has enhanced my comfort and skill level in caring for these trauma patients," she said.

"With the support of the 59th Medical Wing commander, the graduate medical education department and all our staff, this inaugural rotation was a resounding success," Holck said. "This is another example of the
military, and specifically Wilford Hall Medical Center, leading the way in surgical management of trauma patients."

(Sue Campbell works in the 59th Medical Wing public affairs office.)

Team Combats Waterborne Illness in Afghan Province

By Army 1st Lt. Amber Balken
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2008 - Doctors and medics with the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Zabul province are teaching medical providers to purify water and reduce waterborne illnesses. PRT members taught five medical providers in Shajoy district how to operate, clean and sustain a new water purification machine provided by the PRT. The team's goal is to provide the doctors with the means to enable Zabul residents to purify their own water, officials said.

The purification machine, a sodium hypochlorite generator, transforms salt and water into a solution that purifies nonpotable water. The machine generates the solution in about eight hours from 10 pounds of salt and 40 gallons of water, taken from a well or river, officials said. One tablespoon of solution purifies four gallons of water.

Providers at the Shajoy hospital plan to use the machine to make the solution and distribute it to local families to purify their drinking water.

The solution kills 99.9 percent of the bacteria that cause diarrhea and death, officials said.

More than half of all illnesses in the province are diarrhea-related, officials said. The purified water is projected to reduce the diarrhea rate in the province to 25 percent.

"This is a very sustainable machine,"
Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Bill Errico, with the PRT, said. "This process is easy, relatively inexpensive and something that each Afghan household can do to keep their family healthy."

Along with Shajoy, the PRT also plans to provide three more machines to other locations in Zabul province.

Army 1st Lt. Amber Balken works in the Zabul province's provincial reconstruction team public affairs office.)

Coalition Kills 11 in Shootout With Terrorists

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2008 - Coalition forces killed 11 terrorists after coming under fire yesterday during an operation in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, military officials reported. The operation in Sorubi district, northeast of the city of Kabul, targeted a man wanted for trafficking weapons and fighters into and throughout the Uzbin and Tagab valleys in Kabol and Kapisa provinces.

The suspect is believed to be a commander in Hizb-iIslami Gulbuddin organization, or HIG, which is known to coordinate and direct terrorist attacks in the region. According to the U.S. Institute of Peace, HIG was one of the major guerilla groups operating in the war against the Soviets in the 1970s and 1980s and has long-standing ties with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

As coalition forces approached yesterday, multiple armed militants came out of the building and rushed to the nearby mountainside in an apparent attempt to evade the force and to occupy the higher terrain. Believing the targeted HIG commander was with the group, coalition forces pursued the militants and were engaged with small-arms fire. The forces returned fire and killed two of the militants. Still receiving fire, the troops engaged the militants with close-air precision munitions and killed the remaining nine.

After the operation, an allegation of civilian casualties was brought to the attention of coalition forces. An initial review of the operational reports indicate only enemy forces were engaged during the operation, officials said.

U.S. Seeks More Supply Routes for Afghanistan

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 31, 2008 - As Pakistani troops apply renewed pressure on militants who have threatened a major supply line,
military transportation officials are seeking alternate routes for supplying U.S. and NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan. Pakistani forces yesterday renewed offensive operations targeting militants who, in recent weeks, have attacked some supply convoys that transit the Khyber Pass.

That supply route runs hundreds of miles from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan and then through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. The Khyber Pass route provides about 75 percent of the U.S. supplies to troops in Afghanistan.

The Pakistanis' action, which caused a temporary closure of the Khyber Pass supply route, was hailed in a joint statement issued by NATO's International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

"We are pleased with the operation to clear out the insurgents in the areas adjacent to the pass, so that our supplies can get through unhindered," the statement said. "This temporary delay will result in long-term gains for all that use that passage route.

"There is no immediate impact on our ability to provide supplies to the troops," the statement concluded.

military officials have been looking for other options. U.S. Transportation Command's top officer, Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, traveled to several Central Asian countries in November to explore options for establishing added supply routes for Afghanistan operations, Transcom spokeswoman Cynthia Bauer said today during a telephone interview with American Forces Press Service. Transcom is based at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

Bauer declined to mention specific countries, but Central Asian nations north of Afghanistan include Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan allows U.S.
military cargo flights to use its airfields.

"We've been looking at alternate distribution routes for a while," "[It's] just good business practice and U.S. Transcom's responsibility," Bauer said, especially given the unpredictability of war.

"This is a comprehensive enterprise to bring supplies to the troops in Afghanistan, accomplished through teamwork with commercial partners and working relationships with other governments," Bauer said.

Transcom would use private contractors for supply distribution, Bauer said, noting this process would provide potential economic benefits for Central Asian countries and Eurasia's Caucasus region. Local purchase of supplies needed in Afghanistan is another possibility, she added.

Contractors crossing the Khyber Pass from Pakistan are trucking mostly nonmilitary items such as food and other basic needs to troops in Afghanistan, Bauer said.

"You're not seeing MRAPs" going through the Khyber Pass, she said, referring to the acronym for the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles used in
military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan also have stockpiled supplies, Bauer pointed out, noting there's no danger they'll run out.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Face of Defense: Army Interpreter Links Cultures With Language

By Army Staff Sgt. Jessika Malott
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 30, 2008 - A deployed soldier is helping to bridge the gap between two cultures by serving as an interpreter in Iraq.
Army Spc. Mohamed Dawoud, interpreter/translator with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Military Police Brigade, said he was led into his career path by his love for country and by a television show.

"I was watching television, and this lady was crying because she lost her son," the New Jersey native said. "Her son died because he did not understand the cultures and customs here. I want to inform everyone about what they can and cannot do here to keep themselves safe."

Each morning, Dawoud searches the Internet and watches Arabic TV news outlets to stay informed about what is going on within his area of operations. He uses the information to brief his team about current events and to provide situational awareness.

"When we go on mission, I am prepared, so in the event we need to stop, I can get out of the vehicle and talk to people to find out what the situation may be," he said. "I carry a loudspeaker so that if I need to talk to a large group of people I can do that."

Dawoud also translates for squad members as they move to various destinations. If he notices new signs or graffiti, he translates them so his team members are aware of possible danger ahead. After arrival, Dawoud either assists his squad members with their objectives or translates for brigade
leadership during meetings.

"I have to walk a fine line and pay attention to not only the words spoken, but also to the body language and gestures that are made," he said. "If I don't, I am not doing a good job, and the true meaning of what is being said will be lost."

Dawoud also conducts cultural briefings. "Everyone needs to know everything about the Iraqi people and how the Iraqi government works," he said. "For example, when you see a female, what and how are you going to say an Arabic word that will respectfully assure them, to not offend them?"

Dawoud also is available to translate documents for other sections of the brigade.

"In my opinion, I believe that we could not do our mission without interpreters like Dawoud,"
Army Master Sgt. Mike "Top" Barnes, police transition team noncommissioned officer in charge and a native of Elmira, N.Y., said. "With our mission, we rely heavily on [interpreters] for translation of documents as well as for our conversations with the Iraqi police officials. Their expertise allows us to carry out our brigade commander's intent and vision without losing anything in translation."

Dawoud has extended his tour with the brigade to provide continuity between both of the command teams.

"I'm proud of what I do," he said. "It doesn't matter when I go home, because my family and friends are proud of me. I feel like I'm accomplished, and I am very happy in my job."

Army Staff Sgt. Jessika Malott serves in the 8th Military Police Brigade public affairs office.)

Iraqis Find Homemade Bomb, Enemy Munitions

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 30, 2008 - Iraqi forces found and neutralized a homemade bomb yesterday and uncovered an enemy munitions stockpile Dec. 28, military officials reported. Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad's Mansour district found a bomb rigged from a gallon of homemade explosives, ball bearings and a cell phone initiator.

They notified U.S. soldiers, who responded to search for secondary devices. An Iraqi army explosives ordnance disposal team removed the bomb.

In the Jurf area Dec. 28, an Iraqi patrol reported to coalition forces the location of a cache consisting of 657 37 mm anti-armor munitions with cartridge cases. A U.S. explosive ordnance disposal team responded, cleared the area and disposed of the munitions in a controlled detonation.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

Coalition Targets Haqqani Network in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 30, 2008 - Coalition forces detained eight suspected militants yesterday, including two members of the Haqqani terrorist group who were the operation's targets, in the Shamul district of Afghanistan's Paktiya province, military officials reported. The two wanted Haqqani militants are believed to be responsible for helping foreign fighters travel into Paktiya to conduct terrorist activities, officials said. They also are suspected of providing financial and logistical support to the Haqqani organization and facilitating attacks against innocent civilians, such as a Dec. 27 attack in Khowst that killed 14 Afghan children as they were leaving school.

Coalition forces found spools of wire, blasting caps and other bomb-making materials in the targeted building.

(From a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)

Team Works to Improve Irrigation in Afghanistan

By Army Sgt. Charles Brice
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 30, 2008 - The provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Konar province is working to restore an irrigation system in the province's Manawara district that has become a casualty of decades of war. The ancient Karez system, comprising 12 wells and numerous aqueducts, uses river water and underground spring water to irrigate crops in the area. During the Soviet-Afghan war that began in 1978 and ended in 1989, the Soviets bombed the system to prevent Afghan fighters from transporting weapons and ammunition through its tunnels.

"The age, bombardment by the Soviets and its depth below the surface make it difficult to survey and repair the wells in Manawara district," Navy Lt. j.g. James Dietle, an Omaha, Neb., native with the Konar PRT, said. "The team believes there is a blockage in the tunnel preventing the water from getting to the crops. We are trying to help find and fix the kink."

Local residents have been assisting with inspections and construction, Dietle said. The project will have a direct benefit for residents, he noted, since a system rejuvenation will lead to an increase in crop yields.

Although thje community normally conducts system maintenance, the PRT is providing a kick-start to get the Karez system functioning again.

"This project has quickly become one of our favorites; it's a relatively low-cost project with a measureable impact of improving irrigation to the community," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Robert Ross, Konar PRT commander and Bonney Lake, Wash., native. "This project is a high priority for the local government and the PRT. They will see the immediate benefit of their efforts in time for the spring planting season."

Army Sgt. Charles Brice serves in the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

Diyala 'Sons of Iraq' Transition to Iraqi Government Control

By Adam Weinstein
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 30, 2008 - Along with a new year, Iraq is ringing in an important step toward national reconciliation Jan. 1 when the nation's government takes over control of the "Sons of Iraq" citizen security groups from coalition forces in four key provinces across the country, including Diyala. In all, 76 percent of the nation's Sons of Iraq members will be under Iraqi government responsibility by New Year's Day.

"We are beyond the tipping point with the Sons of Iraq,"
Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, chief of reconciliation and engagement for Multinational Corps Iraq, said. "They have invested in the future of Iraq, and the Iraqi government is offering them hope in the future. They're going to be part of that."

The transfer marks a dramatic turnaround in Diyala province in particular, officials said.

"Diyala is a small Iraq," retired Iraqi
Army Maj. Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, vice chairman of the Iraqi Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation, said. Home to Kurds as well as Sunni and Shiia Iraqis, the region is more varied than Baghdad, where Sons of Iraq members already have been transferred to Iraqi control.

In 2007, the mostly Sunni area northeast of Baghdad had been considered one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq, and it lacked the infrastructure to support many basic services for its residents. As al-Qaida in Iraq targeted innocent men, women and children in areas such as Diyala, concerned local citizens joined a movement called the "Awakening" and organized neighborhood watches to roll back terrorist gains in their communities.

The following year, the movement's members, who came to be known as the "Sons of Iraq," joined forces with the coalition to fight al-Qaida in Iraq. The addition of more than 100,000 Sons of Iraq members helped to thicken the security forces and enabled the improved security environment experienced today, officials said.

"They have been critical to finding caches, bringing down [improvised explosive devices], keeping al-Qaida out of the towns, because they know everybody," Kulmayer said. "They know who's who in their towns and villages."

Now, after helping to bring greater stability to the region, 20,000 Sons of Iraq members in Diyala, Babil, Wasit and Qadisiyah provinces will have opportunities to serve their country in new roles. In early December, they began to register with the Iraqi government to receive regular paychecks.

As responsibility for the Sons of Iraq transfers to the government Jan. 1, the group's members will transition into a variety of meaningful jobs intended to secure the nation's future. Twenty percent are slated to join the Iraqi
Army or police, and the rest will enter public or private employment in a variety of roles, from civil engineering to electrical maintenance to working in the government's multiple ministries, officials said.

"The goal of this program is to eventually hire these people into meaningful jobs,"
Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said. "While many of them are working in security positions right now, ultimately they'll transition and go into other meaningful jobs, and that's the goal."

So far, the Sons of Iraq and the government have interacted well, confirming that this is "the leading edge of reconciliation,"
Army Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, deputy commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said.

"The Sons of Iraq feel as if they're being taken care of," Austin said. "They're apprehensive, but that's to be expected. This is new, and building trust takes time."

In the past three months, more than half of the country's Sons of Iraq already have been transferred smoothly to Iraqi control, including all the group's members in Baghdad. Registration in Anbar province is nearly complete, in preparation for a Feb. 1 transfer to Iraqi control. Ninevah, Kirkuk and Salahuddin provinces are scheduled to transfer in early spring. Authorities said a rehearsal of the Diyala transfer Dec. 23 went off without a hitch.

"Diyala is considered to be a very complex province, but in fact, the registration of the [Sons of Iraq] has gone very well," said Kulmayer, adding that nearly 9,000 Sons of Iraq members in the province will register with the government. "We have a very large turnout there. It's exceeding the expectation of how many would come in and register."

Civil Service Corps projects continue to be the main focus of nonsecurity job efforts, with more than 4,100 Sons of Iraq currently enrolled in various apprentice programs. Iraqi-led jobs programs for the Sons of Iraq, such as corps and public works projects, remain in development. The Iraqi government also is looking at opening a number of job-training centers around the country to address the needs of unskilled members.

"Those results have come about because of determined
leadership," Austin said.

At the end of the day, Ferriter said, all parties are on the same page.

"We have a common goal: We don't want the Sons of Iraq to turn to al-Qaida," he said. "The coalition forces don't want that; the Iraqi prime minister doesn't want that. Together, we'll make this work."

(Adam Weinstein works in the Multinational Corps Iraq public affairs office.)

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Robert L. Johnson, 21, of Central Point, Ore., died Dec. 20 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 5th Combat Logistics Battalion, 1st Combat Logistics Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The incident is under investigation.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the I Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office at (760) 763-4675.

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Tony J. Gonzales, 20, of Newman, Calif., died Dec. 28 in Sadr City, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany.

For more information media may contact the U.S. Army, Europe, public affairs office at 011-49-6221-57-5816 or 8694, or e-mail:

'Sons of Iraq' Transition to New Role, Purpose in Anbar

By Adam Weinstein
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 30, 2008 - The once-restless and violent western Iraqi province of Anbar produced a grassroots security movement in June 2007 that came to be known as the "Awakening." The movement grew rapidly throughout the country with coalition help, speeding the nation's return to peace and stability. Today, the original Awakening movement members in Anbar -- now commonly known as the "Sons of Iraq" -- are preparing for another first: They are transferring from coalition to Iraqi control and preparing for new jobs in the service of their country.

"They have invested in the future of Iraq, and the government of Iraq is offering them hope and an opportunity to play yet another important role in the future of this country,"
Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, chief of reconciliation and engagement for Multinational Corps Iraq, said. "They're going to be part of that."

The transfer process -- dubbed "the leading edge of reconciliation" by the corps' deputy commanding general,
Army Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter -- begins Feb. 1. On that date, Anbar's Sons of Iraq will join thousands of other members across the country, transferring from the coalition forces to the responsibility of the Iraqi government, which has promised them long-term employment in the army, police, civil service and other job fields.

The groundwork for the transfer was set in late December in a series of meetings between Sons of Iraq leaders and Iraqi government representatives.

"The government invited the [Sons of Iraq] leaders to stand up and ask questions," Kulmayer said. "And some of them ask pretty tough questions."

In Anbar, the Sons of Iraq leaders' concerns revolved around how their men would be paid and employed after coalition forces handed the reins over to the Iraqis. The registration process has been challenging, but all parties agree that the Sons of Iraq should be taken care of, given their sacrifices and contributions to normalcy and peace in western Iraq, officials said.

"In 2008, approximately 500 Sons of Iraq have been killed in the line of duty, and more than 750 wounded," Kulmayer said. "That's men out there risking their lives to secure and protect Iraqi citizens and their neighborhoods. It's a substantial sacrifice."

Judging from previous transfers, the sacrifices of Anbar's Sons of Iraq will not go unrewarded. In Baghdad -- home to more than half the nation's Sons of Iraq -- members already have received their second monthly paychecks from the Iraqi government. Many now are in training to be
police officers or workers for a variety of civic projects and other meaningful jobs.

"We've learned a lot of lessons from Baghdad," retired Iraqi
Army Maj. Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, representative of Iraq's Implementation and Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation, said.

The transfer has special significance in Anbar province, where the original Awakening movement was born, officials said. In late 2006, Anbar was among the most violent areas of Iraq, with elements of al-Qaida in Iraq operating freely in populated areas.

Al-Qaida had launched a deadly campaign of intimidation and violence against Anbar's citizens, which included the indiscriminate killings of dozens of innocent Iraq men, women and children, as well as coalition and Iraqi security forces. It was here that dissatisfied Sunni tribal leaders first found common ground with the coalition against al-Qaida and started neighborhood watches to push the terrorist group out of their communities.

"We helped organize them and eventually began to fund them to provide critical infrastructure and security throughout Anbar," Ferriter said, "And it quickly spread to many of the other provinces."

Some of the Sons of Iraq previously had fought against the coalition. But Ferriter points out that "reconciliation is something you do with your adversaries, not your friends." And, as he told a group of Sons of Iraq leaders Dec. 20 in Anbar, "There is a common agreement: We don't want these men to turn to al-Qaida."

The Sons of Iraq volunteers' success in Anbar helped turn the tide of war in dramatic fashion. Today, Anbar averages less than one attack per day, and the province was returned to Iraqi control in September, officials said.

"The blows we have struck against al-Qaida in Anbar have implications far beyond Anbar's borders," White House officials said in a news release.

Kulmayer said he is confident that the Sons of Iraq transfer will be no less historic. "It's so important to look at this as a reconciliation issue," he noted. "If you go back to the beginning, you had insurgents who reconciled with the coalition. And now we're following that up with a reconciliation between the Sons of Iraq and their own government.

"That," he said, "is the way to put Iraq back together."

(Adam Weinstein works in the Multinational Corps Iraq public affairs office.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Basics of Afghan Law and Criminal Justice

Basics of Afghan Law and Criminal Justice
The rule of law is one of the essential conditions of a country's development and its struggle against poverty. It comprises the fundamental prerequisite for an individual's freedom and his/her development in society, necessary for the realisation of democracy and social peace. Secondly, the rule of law provides a framework within which economic development and social welfare can flourish. It is on this basis that the German government has initiated a variety of projects in this regard over the past years. It is very gratifying that as a part of international efforts to help rebuilding Afghan institutions, the German Government and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have jointly embarked on the project “Promotion of the Rule of Law in Afghanistan.” On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the project has been implemented since 2003 by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH (German Technical Cooperation). One of the major objectives of this project is to provide assistance to the judiciary and the executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The functional scope and programmatic delivery of this project have been immense. With one noteworthy example being the legal education of police personnel. It is as part of these efforts that this book can be seen as another important step towards bringing the rule of law to Afghanistan.


U.S. Team Helps to Boost Bee Business in Afghanistan

By Navy Lt. j.g. James Dietle
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 29, 2008 - Many Afghans are subsistence farmers who teeter on the edge of malnutrition or starvation every year. In Afghanistan's Konar province, one of the most violent provinces in the country, an American provincial reconstruction team is working with the Afghan government on a unique solution to help feed its people: bees.

Experts from the Konar Department of Agriculture maintain a number of small beehives throughout Konar Valley and are working to expand the reach of the pollinators. They hope not only to breed more bees, but also to build more beehives to be distributed among more farmers, officials said. With the help of the Konar PRT and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Afghan government has been distributing sugar to existing beehives to increase their population.

The Afghan government has provided more than 300 pounds of sugar to local beekeepers and farmers, officials said. Government officials expressed the hope that with pollination help from the bees in the spring, crop yields in the immediate area might go up by at least 10 percent.

The idea is not as far-fetched as it may sound. Beekeeping is a $9 billion industry in the United States, according to the University of
Georgia's Web site. Bee hives are bought, sold and rented out across the country.

In Canada, if a blueberry farmer hopes to increase profit, he reportedly can get a return of $41 per every dollar spent on renting bees for pollination, and an apple farmer can get upwards of $192 per dollar. The Konar government hopes to get a similar return for its investment.

Through pollination, bees have been known to increase crop yields by as much as 25 percent. Other plants, such as almond trees, must have a pollinator to even produce.

Bees also produce raw materials for the Afghan people to trade and barter. Honey is an obvious product of successful hives, and is especially valuable in Afghanistan because it is one of the few agricultural products that does not have to be stored in cold temperatures. Honey can be easily consumed, sold or exported to nearby provinces.

Beeswax -- a primary component in candles, cosmetics, polishes and pharmaceuticals -- also is a valuable commodity, officials noted.

Navy Lt. j.g. James Dietle serves with the Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team.)

CARL Book Beacon: Department of Defense training for operations with interagency, multinational, and coalition partners

CARL Book Beacon: Department of Defense training for operations with interagency, multinational, and coalition partners

Training Opens Doors for Former 'Sons of Iraq'

By Army Sgt. David Hodge
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 29, 2008 - Instructors from the Jihad
Civil Services Department are teaching job skills to former "Sons of Iraq" citizen security group members in southern Baghdad's Rashid district. About 400 students attend the six-month vocational school, said Wissam al-Kinani, CSD principal, adding that about 100 of the students are former Sons of Iraq members.

"If this project didn't exist, the students would have a
choice -- to be
criminal or constructive citizens," Kinani said. "We give them the opportunity to become constructive citizens, to learn something, a profession, so they can go out in the Jihad community and be somebody."

With an improved economy in the northwest Rashid area -- due to an increase in open shops and home construction -- the job outlook is "looking good for the CSD graduates," said
Army 1st Lt. Matthew Wilden of the 4th Infantry Division's Company C, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.

"I can't speak for all of Baghdad, but this area has
improved a lot since we got here," Wilden said. "They will at least come out with some good skills and be able to find a job."

The goal, Wilden said, is eventually to place all Sons of Iraq members into a
Civil services department or in the Iraqi security forces.

The Iraqi security forces and CSD have opened their doors to most of Rashid's 7,500 Sons of Iraq members as they transition under the care of the Iraqi government, officials said.

As the former security personnel get other jobs, the Sons of Iraq program should fade away, Wilden said. As the security situation continues improving, the citizen security groups will not really be needed, he explained, so job training will allow former Sons of Iraq to remain productive members of society.

The Jihad CSD offers 11 training areas, including commercial driving, electrical engineering and basic medicine.

Saad Shekher Mishjen, a former Sons of Iraq member who attends the commercial driving course at the CSD, said he never imagined the studies would be so in-depth.

"When I came here, the project and the classes went beyond
my expectations. I never imagined it would be like this," said Mishjen, who said he hopes to find work with the Iraqi government after his training.

Oday Hashim Wahib, a medical student at the CSD, is a former Sons of Iraq member with a degree in biology from Baghdad University. Wahib said he considered pursuing a career in the Iraqi security forces, but believes he made the right choice by attending the CSD.

"At the school, we are studying," he said. "We get useful information."

Kinani said he hopes the students use the education to improve their outlook on life.

"I am a business owner," he said. "I could generate more money doing my business, but because I believe in this project, because I believe in my people, I want them to change their lives. That is why I and the teachers are here. We believe these people will be good members of society."

Army Sgt. David Hodge serves in the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

Army Casualty

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

Cpl. Charles P. Gaffney Jr., 42, of Phoenix, Ariz., died Dec. 24 in Paktika, Afghanistan, when his combat outpost received enemy rocket fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

For more information media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at (270) 798-9966, or go .

Task Force Gold Exemplifies 'Engineer Fight' in Baghdad, General Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 29, 2008 - The general who leads what he calls "an engineer fight" in Baghdad credits attention to sanitation and reconstruction of essential services with creating a dramatic turnaround that's having a ripple effect throughout Iraq. "It doesn't matter if you are in direct support of lethal operations or on the nonlethal side, it is almost always an engineer leading on both sides of the house right now,"
Army Brig Gen. Jeffrey Talley, engineer for Multinational Division Baghdad, told American Forces Press Service by phone from his headquarters.

A reservist who in civilian life is an engineering professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, Talley said he's seen firsthand the big changes his engineers have helped bring about in providing force protection for warfighters and quality-of-life improvements for Iraqis.

"It's hard not to win-win in engineering," he said. "When I come into a battle space, the [Iraqi] government and the people know that my reason for being there is to find [improvised explosive devices] and neutralize them before they kill or hurt people, or to rebuild roads, schools, clinics, to improve water, wastewater or sewage."

Even people skeptical of coalition forces or the Iraqi government begin to come around when they see the changes. "It's pretty hard, if you do enough of these kinds of things for them, for them not to eventually acknowledge that this is a good thing for their community," Talley said.

Nowhere is that progress more evident than in Sadr City, which Talley calls one of the 926th Engineer Brigade's biggest success stories since its arrival in Iraq last spring.

"Sadr City for the last 30 years was considered the most desperate and dangerous part of Iraq. [Former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein wouldn't even send his own forces into Sadr City," he said. As a result, the city "became a haven for bad guys," including militias and terrorist organizations that operated unfettered.

Task Force Gold, a unit stood up in May under Talley's command, set out to reverse three decades of neglect and lawlessness. "The thought was, if we can win Sadr City, we will win Baghdad, and we will win Iraq," Talley said.

Focused on that goal, Talley's soldiers rolled up their sleeves to clear the streets of debris, rubble and raw sewage. They worked with Iraqi contractors to rebuild schools and medical clinics, generate electricity and restore public areas.

"What you are doing is showing residents of Sadr City what life looks like," Talley said. "You are showing them there is another option besides the militia. They can choose to start a business, improve their community, support the government of Iraq ... and pick a different way of living ... that is better for them and your family."

Sadr City's residents took notice. With newfound pride in their community, an improved economy and reduced violence, they started reporting the whereabouts of militia members and their weapons caches.

"People who historically were neutral or anti-coalition forces started to see that maybe this way ahead is a positive one," Talley said. "They started saying 'no' to the militia and 'yes' to progress and to peace."

The efforts, he said, transformed a "very vicious, dangerous combat zone" to a thriving city with bustling markets and children playing in the parks.

"It is just phenomenal, and whether you are an American, a Westerner or an Iraqi, most people can't believe it," he said. "They just shake their heads in disbelief at the positive changes that have occurred. ... And those changes have happened because of Task Force Gold."

Talley has strict criteria for what projects U.S. taxpayer dollars will fund. Projects must link directly to security improvements, repair damage coalition forces caused during combat or represent a partnership with the Iraqi government.

"We don't just spend money to rebuild infrastructure because it is falling apart or because Saddam Hussein ignored it," Talley said. "We want to make sure ... we are using the money as a weapon system, in a way that supports the lethal fight of the brigade combat team.

"The whole purpose is to establish sustainable security and increase self-reliance of the people and government of Iraq," he said.

Coalition Forces Kill Taliban Fighters in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

ec. 29, 2008 - Coalition forces killed two armed Taliban militants while targeting the network's kidnapping and roadside-bombing operations in Afghanistan's Ghazni province yesterday, military officials reported. In the province's Gailan district, coalition forces targeted a Taliban militant known to coordinate and carry out the kidnappings of Afghan officials and westerners to finance their
criminal activities. The targeted Taliban militant also is believed to facilitate and direct roadside bombings along Highway One in Ghazni and Zabul provinces, deliberately killing and injuring innocent civilians and coalition forces, officials said.

After coalition forces called for everyone inside to leave the targeted building peacefully, the two militants engaged the force with small-arms fire. The coalition forces killed them using hand grenades.

A search following the operation revealed multiple AK-47 assault rifles.

(From a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

For Reservists, Deployments Mean Sacrifice, but Also Opportunity

By Army Sgt. David Turner
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2008 - Soldiers serving in the
Army Reserve long had the stigma of being second-class soldiers. "Be all you can be ... one weekend a month," was a taunt used by drill sergeants for reservist recruits. A transformation in the role of the Reserve and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make frequent deployments a reality for these "weekend warriors," and many reservists are looking at their part-time service more as a second career.

"It's good to have the Reserve as a cushion, a back-up in case somethinggoes wrong. I don't have a 40-hour a week job to go back to," said Sgt.John Coogen of the 445th
Civil Affairs Battalion, currently stationed here.

After completing an 8-year stint in the
Marine Corps, Coogen enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2006. In his civilian career, he is a self-employed audio-visual technician back home in Palm Springs, Calif., mostly installing home theaters.

"If I would have had that going strong, I wouldn't have signed up for the Army Reserve. The military's always a good thing to go into, Reserve, active (duty), it doesn't matter. The economy is really bad back home now. My buddies back at home, doing the same thing I do, they're not making it," he said.

Though Coogen plans to resume his business when he redeploys in early 2009, he is also hedging his bets. After seeing the kinds of income his civilian counterparts are making in Iraq, he's applying for a job as a contractor, perhaps to return here.

Like many of the soldiers in his unit, Coogen has civilian job skills that make him an asset to the

"A Reserve battalion has more skill-sets than an active (duty) battalion. We've got cops, firefighters, veterinarians," said Coogen. Those valuable skills also make soldiers in
civil affairs, like in some other Reserve units, more likely to be deployed.

"It's made a tremendous difference, I think, in the lives of reservists as a whole, especially in the civil affairs and (psychological operations) areas," said Maj. David Cothran, operations mobilization officer for Multi-National Corps - Iraq's Army Reserve Affairs office.

"Those guys are deploying, some of them almost every year. Some of them are in the deployment cycle every two or three years, even though the (regeneration cycle) is once every five years for an
Army reservist. Those guys are not fitting that cycle. They have to constantly be utilized."

Despite the increasing likelihood and pace of deployments, Cothran said the worsening economy back home is an incentive for many soldiers to stay in the Reserve. Many see the potential for retirement benefits, as well as new GI Bill.

Cothran, a full-time Reserve Soldier, plans to stay in the service and has already signed up to extend his current deployment by another year.

"I think people are taking a hard look at that. I got laid off in '03, and I've been doing active duty as a reservist since then. It's been working out fine, so I've decided to stay with it as long as I can," he said. "I think people are going to continue to look at it and see how hard it's going to be on the Family overall but still stay with it because they've invested so many years."

The role played by Reservists changed greatly in recent years, from a force of mostly prior-service Soldiers who rarely deploy to a highly-trained, agile force who now deploy alongside their active duty counterparts. When the Reserve celebrated its hundredth birthday in April, more than 182,000 Reservists had been called to active duty since 9-11, with more than 41,000 mobilized more than once.

Now mostly focused on combat support, many Reserve units have capabilities either exclusive to or primarily in the Reserve. As a result, more than 1,400 reservists were stopped-lossed at the end of Sept. 2008, a reduction from recent years.

Cothran said the strain of increased deployments has led to problems in retaining junior officers, who still must find time to maintain their training between deployments. For enlisted reservists, however, retention numbers are up, partly due to large bonuses offered for re-enlistment. The numbers are so good that bonuses will be scaled back in the coming year.

One reservist who opted for a large bonus to stay in the Reserve is Staff Sgt. Nick Minecci, a historian with the 317th Military History Detachment. Minecci came back to serve after 12 years of active duty, having already deployed several times.

Minecci is now serving his third deployment as a reservist; upon completing his most recent tour, he extended for another full year. Fortunately, he said, he has the support
of his wife and his family

"She said, 'I knew when I married you, this is what you do. Even though you're a reservist, I know you're going to be deploying,'" Minecci said.

Building financial security is an incentive, but before he decided to re-enlist and extend his tour, Minecci said he had doubts about remaining in the service.

"I think it's harder on them than it is for me in a lot of ways," he said. "It's been terrible. I didn't marry her to be gone, but these couple of years now of serious hardship and pain sets us up for success a decade from now," he said.

Minecci said his decision to stay in was based more on his sense of duty than financial incentive, though. He makes close to the same money deployed as in his civilian job in the U.S. Dept. of State. Like many older reservists, he sees deployment more as an opportunity to serve than a sacrifice. Some deployed reservists don't mind even taking a pay cut to serve their country for a year.

That was the case for Staff Sgt. Ralph Cleveland, who also serves with the 445th CA Bn. Back home in Sacramento, Calif., he owns an information security consulting business. He served four years of active duty in the 80's and Cleveland re-enlisted last year after taking his daughter to talk to a recruiter. He's now finishing his first tour of duty since joining 23 years ago.

"I knew (the deployment) would come up. I was in about 10 months when I got the call," he said. "It's a hardship for everyone who comes over here, but I've got a good family. I've got two young kids, and that's the hardest thing, for me and for them."

For Cleveland, having his family's support is important. He took a significant pay cut to deploy, going from six figures to an E-6 salary. Still, he said, he hasn't regretted his decision.

"It's something I've believed in since I was a kid," said Cleveland of his decision to re-enlist. "I felt like I left something behind. I wanted to finish what I started."

( Army Sgt. David Turner is assigned to Multi-National Division - Center)

2,000 Iraqis Return to Eastern Baghdad, Reclaim Homes

Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2008 - Iraqi officials recently reported that more than 2,000 Iraqi families have returned to their homes in eastern Baghdad this year. The 2,084 returning families left their homes in the districts of Rusafa, Karadah and 9 Nissan due to security concerns. Categorized as Internally Displaced Persons, they have returned to a more secure and safe environment.

The number of returnees in the area is a sign of vastly improved security conditions, said
Army Lt. Col. Eric Holliday, deputy team leader of Baghdad-2 embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team.

"The more returnees we get back into the neighborhoods from where they were originally displaced tells us these people feel safe enough to return to those areas and they don't think there is going to be further violence," expressed Holliday. "When we have them return and we don't have any incidents of further violence ... then it has been fairly successful in our area. That is a measure of effectiveness telling us we are doing our job right."

Iraq's Ministry of Migrations and Displaced Persons is responsible for tracking IDPs and IDP returnees. They report the number of Iraqi citizens who register with IDP centers weekly. Holliday said there is an IDP center in Rusafa that issues reports about homeowners returning to eastern Baghdad.

"Their job is to register all IDPs that have displaced into our area and also to register all returnees - those are IDPs that were displaced to other areas that are returning to their homes," explained Holliday of the 308th Civil Affairs Brigade.

"They (returnees) receive a stipend from the government,'" he said. "It's been running somewhere around one million to three million dinars, which equates to about $1,000 to $3,000 per returnee."

To receive stipends and reclaim their homes, IDP returnees must register with the ministry and provide proof of ownership. Other forms of government support also are available to these citizens.

Returning residents are eligible to seek employment through the Government of Iraq's civil service district, even though the governmentI did not specifically create the program to assist displaced persons. In addition, the MOMDP coordinates for ISF to assist homeowners in evicting squatters if they are living in the returnees' homes.

Holliday said the e-PRT and Patriot Brigade Soldiers mostly monitor the IDP situation and track the government of Iraq numbers of IDP returneesin their area . Iraqi officials do a good job of helping IDPs and addressing their concerns, he commented.

"In our area, we have had no incidents of any violence against returnees that I am aware of," he said. "When you move around eastern Baghdad these days, you can see that things are better; there is better security," said Holliday. "People are out shopping; people are out in the parks, and people are moving on with their lives - and they have a better outlook on life."

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, welcome the citizens back to the area as they reclaim their homes, said Maj. Joey Sullinger, a 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division spokesperson.

The Patriot Brigade is reaching the end of its 14-month deployment.

"We are happy to have assisted Iraqi Security Forces while we were here," Sullinger said. We hope these returning residents fully embrace the Iraqi forces truly responsible for providing the safety and security, allowing them to come home to their neighborhoods."

(Multi-National Corps Iraq Press Release)

Afghan, Allied Forces Destroy Weapons Cache; Taliban Lose 11 Members

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 28, 2008 - Afghan commandos and coalition forces teamed up to seize enemy weapons and supplies, while the Taliban lost 11 members during separate operations conducted in Afghanistan yesterday,
military officials said. An Afghan-coalition air-assault team searched a village in Kandahar province's Ghorak district and found a weapons cache containing an anti-personnel mine, anti-tank mines and a bowl of explosive. All materials were destroyed on site.

"Finding and destroying this weapons cache is another step towards safeguarding Afghanistan's future," said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, chief spokesperson for the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense. "We are actively reducing the insurgency's ability to harm innocent Afghans along the roads of Kandahar."

Also yesterday, coalition forces killed five militants and detained six suspects during operations targeting Taliban activities in Kabul and Paktika provinces. Multiple AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and other military equipment were seized during the operations.

In other news, coalition forces detained five suspected Taliban militants during a Dec. 26 operation conducted to dismantle a roadside-bomb network in Zabul province.

And, on Dec. 25, Afghan and coalition forces killed six militants during a firefight in Helmand province's Nahr Surkh district. An enemy weapons cache was destroyed during the operation.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

Navy Casualty

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

Master-at-Arms Seaman Apprentice Joshua D. Seitz, 19, of Pensacola, Fla., died Dec. 25 in Manama, Bahrain. He was assigned to Naval Security Force, Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

The cause of death is under investigation.

For further information related to this release, contact Naval Support Activity Bahrain Public Affairs Office at 011-973-1785-4520 or 011-973-3914-6793.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Iraqi Forces Discover Priceless Smuggled Treasure

Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 25, 2008 - Iraqi Security Forces recently uncovered hundreds of historical artifacts during two raids in northern Basra. The 228 ancient artifacts included Sumerian and Babylonian sculpture, gold jewelry and other items from ancient Mesopotamia.

"This is my favorite item," said Iraqi Col. Ali Sabah, commander of the Basra Emergency Battalion that led the operation, holding a piece of gold jewelry. "It's gold from the Babylon ages and about 6,000 years old. It doesn't have a price."

"I'm very happy because this is my civilization's heritage," he said.

The Basra Emergency Battalion led raid operated from tips that smugglers intended to remove the treasure from the country.

"We got information that there were important Iraqi monuments that were going to be smuggled outside of Iraq," Sabah said.

After verifying a tip, the operation kicked off with a house raid that recovered 160 pieces of Iraqi monuments that were found in the yard. "We arrested five of the guys and they admitted to the crime," he said.

These arrests led to a second raid on in al-Ayaqub in northern Basra.

The monuments were found in a box in a corner of the yard covered with blocks. "We knew what we were looking for because we had pictures," Sabah said

"We will send it back to Baghdad via the Ministry of Defense to action moving it to the Iraqi Museum," he said.

Sabah said he hopes Iraqi authorities will get more information of this kind. "The soldiers are very, very proud to conduct this operation," he said. "I can't describe how happy we were when the soldiers found it.

"Each of the soldiers will be very proud when they visit the museum with their families and their wives and they can say 'I brought it back'."

(Multi-National Division South East PAO)

Troops Spend Christmas Eve Donating Supplies to Afghan Village School

By Air Force Capt. Dustin Hart
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 26, 2008 - While people around the world made their final Christmas preparations, members of the Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team, and Chaparhar
Police Mentor Team, visited a school in the Terelay Village, of the Chaparhar district, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, Dec. 24, 2008, to distribute clothes and school supplies. The teams first met with several elders from the village allowing the elders to discuss the current conditions in Terelay, the surrounding villages and the district.

"One of the PRT's goals is to bolster education and healthcare within the Nangarhar province," said
Army Maj. Gary Knoer, Nangarhar PRT, Civil Affairs team leader. "Our visit today helped us assess the village, school and the needs of the students. By building a school facility that can accommodate the students indoors instead of their current outdoor classrooms, children will be able to attend regardless of weather."

Knoer said improving the conditions in which Afghan children receive a quality education is vital to the long-term stability of the area.

"The education of this generation is very important for the future of the country," he said. "The elders in every village I have visited have expressed this need."

If the project is approved for funding, the PRT hopes to build more classroom facilities and a security wall for the existing school.

Following the meeting, the teams donated several boxes of school supplies, clothes and radios to the elders and school's administrators. The troops also visited a few of the outdoor classes in session to personally hand out some of the supplies.

"These missions have a profound impact on the overall operation here," Knoer said. "The people here are like parents anywhere in the world; they have one priority and that is the needs of their children. When we show them that we care for their children, the same as we would our own, it means more to them than any other thing we could give them."

Knoer said that conducting this mission during the holiday season made it that much more special for the teams.

"There is an extra special feeling doing things this time of year, because it's the time of year we are supposed to be giving," said Knoer, who spent last Christmas serving in Iraq. "I am sure that all of us here would rather be home with our families on Christmas. However, when we look back at our lives in 20-30 years, this will probably be the Christmas that will come to mind before all others."

The Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team is responsible for assisting the provincial, district and local governments in Nangarhar Province with their governance, security and reconstruction efforts. The team is currently working on approximately 60 projects worth more than $75.3 million in the province.

(Air Force Capt. Dustin Hart serves with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division PAO, Nangarhar PRT)

Army Chief of Staff Assesses Iraq Situation, Notes Future Goals

Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 25, 2008 - As part of a week-long tour to visit soldiers around the world in Korea, Japan, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq,
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey made a stop here to assess the current situation in country and speak with troops. "I really just wanted to look as many of our men and women in the eye as I can and thank them for what they're doing and for the sacrifices that they and their families are making here around the holidays," Casey said.

In an interview with American Forces Network during his visit to Victory Base Complex, Iraq, Dec. 22, Casey, who previously served as the commanding general of Multi-National Force – Iraq, spoke of the immense progress he's witnessed in Iraq in comparison to previous visits to the country.

"I've seen huge progress here in Iraq since July of 2004," Casey said. "What I saw in Basrah and on the streets of al Amarah was a real vitality among the Iraqis. When I looked at the security forces, I saw confidence and a commitment that I didn't necessarily see when I was here before." Casey addressed the goal of balancing the force in coming years to accommodate proper recuperation and preparedness of Soldiers and their families between deployments.

"While this is the most resilient, professionally seasoned combat force that I've been associated with in the 38 years of my own service, we're stretched, and we're deploying at a rate we can't continue and still sustain the all-volunteer force, and we don't have enough time at home to prepare for other things," Casey said.

Casey explained a plan developed last year and expected to be implemented by the end of the fiscal year will include sustaining soldiers and their families, continuing to sustain soldiers for success in the current conflict, resetting them and their equipment when returning from deployments, and continuing to transform for an uncertain future.

In order to accommodate such a plan, the
Army must continue to grow.

"Probably the most significant progress has been in our [the
Army's] growth," Casey said. "In 2007, the president directed we grow the Army by about 74,000, and originally, plans were to complete that growth by 2012."

Casey said the increase in the force could happen much sooner than initially anticipated. He pointed out that the uptick in troop strength would make deployments much easier on soldiers.

"With (Defense) Secretary (Robert M.) Gates' help, we accelerated the growth to 2010 and I've been told recently by our personnel folks that we except to bring in the people we were looking for by the end of 2009, so that's three years faster than we thought," Casey said.

"If we hold the demand for our forces relatively steady – about where we are now – and we grow, what that means to our soldiers is they'll spend more time at home between missions because we have more units to go," Casey said. "So, we expect in 2009 to get almost an average of 18 months home between deployments, in 2010 to get into 18 months and in 2011 to get almost 24 months between deployments."

According to Casey, the
Army that can be expected in future years is the force America needs with the conditions soldiers want.

"The Army we're trying to build by the end of 2011 is an expeditionary Army that deploys on a rotational cycle," Casey said. "We believe that's the
Army the country needs for 21st century challenges. And when we get there, we want to be able to deploy that Army without a stop loss."

The probability of stop losses in the
Army should significantly wane within the next one to two years and soon be nonexistent.

"I directed my personnel folks to begin weaning ourselves off of stop loss as soon as we can, but no later than the first of January 2010," Casey said. "I want to be able to start deploying units without stop loss."

Casey did note, however, that the transition would likely take about two years to come full circle.

(Article by Multinational Force-Iraq Public Affairs Office)

Army Casualty

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

Maj. John P. Pryor, 42, of Moorestown, N.J. died Dec. 25 in Mosul of wounds suffered when a mortar round impacted near his living quarters. He was assigned to the 1st Medical Detachment, Forward Surgical Team, Fort Totten, N.Y.

The incident is under investigation.

For further information on this soldier, contact the 77th Regional Readiness Command public affairs office at (718) 352-5072.

Coalition Forces Kill 11 Taliban During Firefight

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 26, 2008 - Coalition forces in Afghanistan killed 11 Taliban militants and detained two suspects during a firefight with members of a major roadside-bomb emplacing network in Kandahar province yesterday. In Maiwand district, west of the city of Kandahar, coalition forces targeted a Taliban network responsible for local roadside bomb attacks, including recent assaults that killed several International Security Assistance Force soldiers. Militants barricaded inside the compounds refused to surrender and opened fire on the coalition forces with machine guns and AK-47 rifles.

Coalition forces first held their fire to allow women and children to exit the compounds, after which they were moved to a safer location. Coalition forces then engaged the militants with small-arms fire and hand grenades.

Eleven militants were killed during the firefight. Coalition medical personnel tended to a wounded female bystander and evacuated her to a hospital for further care.

Coalition forces found dozens of land mines, at least 15 rocket-propelled grenades, several machine guns and AK-47 rifles, as well as bomb-making materials hidden in the compounds. Coalition forces destroyed the weaponry.

"No martyrs here, just militants who put down roadside bombs that kill innocent Afghans and then hide among civilians putting them at even greater risk," said
Army Col Jerry O'Hara, a U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesperson. "Coalition forces take on extraordinary steps, even giving up the element of surprise to ensure only militants were engaged."

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Dec. 24 in Baghdad, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over. The soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Christopher G. Smith, 28, of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Spc. Stephen M. Okray, 21, of St. Clair Shores, Mich.

Spc. Stephen G. Zapasnik, 19, of Broken Arrow, Okla.

The incident is under investigation.

For more information media may contact the Fort Carson public affairs office at (719) 526-4143; after hours (719) 526-5500.

U.S., Iraqi Forces Seize Rocket-Delivery System in Baghdad Raid

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 26, 2008 - American and Iraqi security forces found and seized a rocket-rail system during a combined operation conducted in Baghdad's Rashid district Dec. 25. U.S. 4th Infantry Division soldiers and Iraqi
police discovered the rocket-delivery system while performing a security sweep in the district's Abu T'shir community, a U.S. military official said.

"Combined operations account for many significant finds in the Rashid district," said
Army Maj. Dave Olson, a spokesman for the division's 1st Brigade Combat Team. "The 1st 'Raider' Brigade continues to teach, coach and mentor the ISF as they provide a safe and secure environment for the people."

In Dec. 22 operations:

· Iraqi soldiers arrested two suspected terrorists in Baghdad. One of the detainees is a former major general who'd served in Saddam Hussein's regime. He is linked to the financing of several terrorist and
criminal groups.

· An Iraqi
Special Weapons and Tactics team arrested three alleged terrorists during an operation in Hit.

In other news, an Iraqi
Special Weapons and Tactics team from Mosul arrested a suspected terrorist during an operation conducted in Hay Hathel Village Dec. 21. The detainee is accused of making improvised explosive devices and facilitating their placement in and around Mosul.

Iraqi Special Operations soldiers captured two men in Salman Pak Dec. 20. These men allegedly facilitated the movement of weapons into Abu Ghraib and were involved in house bombings in the area. During another operation conducted in Hashimiya that day, an Iraqi
Special Weapons and Tactics team from Hillah arrested three suspected criminals.

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

Thursday, December 25, 2008

System Connects Afghanistan With Neighboring Countries

By Army Sgt. Charles Brice
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 24, 2008 - Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team are working with Afghan citizens to install an international ring of communication that someday will span Afghanistan and connect to its neighboring countries. "With our satellites stretched to their limits by fighting on two war fronts, the fiber ring will completely overhaul the current communication system by allowing the new system to flow very fast and efficiently,"
Army Maj. Patrick Dillinger, a Woodbridge, Va., native and communication officer, said.

This new system will bring a more efficient way of communicating to coalition forces, and build a foundation for the people by giving them a quicker means to communicate with the world, he explained.

"The fiber ring extends outward from Bagram Airfield, coming across all the major areas of operations, and it also will end back at [Bagram]," he said. "Then the fiber ring will extend its arms outward to its neighboring countries to expand the reach of communication."

With the fiber ring set in place, coalition forces will be able to keep in touch with everyone within their area of operations without a line of sight.

"Fiber-optics communication is one of the most reliable networks to depend on while fighting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan," Dillinger said. "My job is to keep the command group of Task Force Duke connected to [headquarters] and to have a system that will carry the next generation through future battles."

Fiber-optic communication works by sending information from one place to another through pulses of light from an optical fiber.

"There are a lot of key players that came together on this project to make it happen; it's not just U.S. forces that's backing this project," Dillinger said. Afghans are taking an interest in the national fiber ring, he noted, because they see its potential for communication.

Army 1st Sgt. Howard Charles, senior communication noncommissioned officer and a native of Alexandria, Va., said he threw himself head-first into the management of construction because of the importance of the project.

"The fiber ring will allow us to reach out to networks that are beyond our capability," he said. "I think it will bring in the tool to help [the Afghan people] see what is out there. This system is the first of its kind in Afghanistan. This will make leaps and bounds for [NATO's International Security Assistance Force] and the government of Afghanistan."

Dillinger agreed that installing this system will improve communication with the outside world and give U.S. forces the edge in communicating with one another.

"This is ground-breaking work for a historical change in this country," he said.

Army Sgt. Charles Brice serves in the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

Afghan Commandos, Coalition Nab Insurgent Commander

American Forces Press Service

Dec. 24, 2008 - Afghan
army commandos and coalition forces yesterday captured a suspected insurgent commander believed to be responsible for a deadly bombing in Afghanistan's Baghlan province, military officials reported today. The combined forces nabbed Mullah Dahoud during an early morning raid on a compound in Pol-e-Kohmri, outside of Kabul, reported to be Dahoud's home and a transit point for insurgent fighters.

Dahoud and his insurgent fighters are believed to be responsible for an attack on the Baghlan district headquarters in October that killed Afghan officials and civilians, and for the Fobrica sugar factory bombing in 2007 that killed more than 50 civilians.

"The Afghan commandos captured this murderer," Afghan Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, chief spokesman for the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense, said. "The innocent people affected by this
criminal net can now have justice."

Elsewhere, coalition forces killed four armed militants while targeting a suspected Taliban subcommander in the Shinkai district in southern Zabul province, northeast of Kandahar, officials said.

While attempting to capture the subcommander, militants from inside the building fired on coalition forces. Forces responded with hand grenades, killing the militants.

A search yielded a machine gun, multiple assault rifles, blasting caps and wires used to make roadside bombs, and bandoliers full of ammunition. Forces later destroyed the items.

The subcommander is believed to be in contact with several local senior Taliban commanders, and in control of more than 30 fighters in the region. The militants reportedly coordinated roadside bombings and other attacks against civilians, government officials and coalition forces.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

General Notes Progress With Iraqi Security Forces, Interior Ministry

By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 24, 2008 - The military command charged with training Iraq's security forces and the Iraqi Interior Ministry continue to make progress in the development of the Iraqi security forces and the ministry, a senior military official said.
Army Maj. Gen. James M. Milano, deputy director of interior affairs for Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, told bloggers and online journalists during a Dec. 18 teleconference that Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani wants a corruption-free ministry.

"One of Minister Bulani's strategic priorities, both this year and for 2009, is increasing professionalism [and] ethics-based behavior, eradicating corruption from the ministry," Milano said.

Because the ministry has grown at such a rapid pace in the past five years, it has been challenging to make sure everyone is trained properly and professionally, the general added.

The interior affairs directorate oversees the coalition
police advisory training team and the Ministry of Interior transition team.

"My mission is to assist the Ministry of the Interior to complete the generation of professional, credible
police forces while at the same time developing institutional capacity to acquire, train, develop, manage, sustain and resource those forces, leading to self-reliance and maintenance to the rule of law," he said.

The ministry now is focused on the transition to "
police primacy," making the police responsible for maintaining internal security in Iraq while the military focuses on external threats, Milano said.

"This transition to
police primacy and emphasis on the rule of law and the corresponding transition from a confessions-based system to an evidentiary-based criminal justice system ... has yet to be fully developed," he said. "It is making progress now."

Before 2003, the
police were one of several security agencies in Iraq whose sole purpose was to keep Saddam Hussein in power and protect his regime, the general explained. "Today, we're trying to flip that around and elevate the police to a position of primacy here in the country, to where the populace has confidence in them [and] they trust them," he added. Milano said trends are positive in terms of the public's perception of the Iraqi police.

The Interior Ministry also is in the process of training and transitioning the "Sons of Iraq" citizen security groups to the Iraqi
Army and police force.

"The government of Iraq is fully committed to the Sons of Iraq program, as is the coalition," he said. Roughly 10,500 Sons of Iraq have transitioned to the Iraqi
police force, which is in the process of hiring another 12,500, Milano said.

While progress continues in most areas, the general said, logistics has been and continues to be a challenge.

"We're having logistics issues across the board, in terms of fuel distribution, ammo distribution and maintenance," he acknowledged, attributing the difficulty to the size of the ministry.

"Logistically, they have some work to do," he said. "But by and large, I'm seeing improvement."

Navy Seaman William Selby serves in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

Afghans to Debut Community Policing Program, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 24, 2008 - Afghanistan's government is preparing a pilot program in
community policing that's expected to debut in the near future, a senior Defense Department official said here today. Afghan authorities are starting to take a look at a community engagement type of program on a small scale, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

The program is designed to facilitate information sharing and build trust between Afghan citizens and their local, provincial and central governments, Whitman said.

"This is an Afghan initiative that is supported by the military forces that are there [and] by the U.S. government," Whitman said.

The pilot program is to be tested in Wardak province, Whitman said. That province, located near the Afghan capital city of Kabul, has experienced increased Taliban activity in recent months.

The pilot is envisioned to be of modest scale, involving just "dozens" of Afghan citizens, Whitman said. Afghan authorities, he said, still are working out details.

The Afghan initiative also could be described as a "community-type policing program," Whitman said.

Successful application of the initiative offers "prospects that could lead to improved Afghanistan security," Whitman said.

Whitman also addressed a reporter's question about the tone of some recent media reports that the reporter said seem to imply that the Pentagon is telling incoming officials of President-elect Barack Obama's administration that the campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan is not going well.

"That's not the case at all," Whitman emphasized. "And, that's unfortunate. I think that any number of our commanders have said we're not going to fail, and we're not failing in Afghanistan."

Senior U.S. officials have identified the need to send more troops to Afghanistan, said Whitman, who also pointed to the ongoing U.S.-governmentwide review of the strategy employed in Afghanistan.

"One of the primary recipients and benefactors of doing this [Afghanistan] strategy review will be the new team that is coming in," Whitman said.

Meanwhile, anyone who'd describe the situation in Afghanistan as being "in some kind of dire straits," Whitman said, would be engaged in "a mischaracterization."