Saturday, February 28, 2009

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Brian M. Connelly, 26, of Union Beach, N.J., died Feb. 26 in Adhamiya, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by an explosive device. He was assigned to the 40th Engineer Battalion, Task Force 1-6, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany.

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

Obama Cites Responsibility to 'Get It Right' in Iraq, Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 28, 2009 - President Barack Obama called decisions to send troops to Iraq and Afghanistan "the most important, most sobering" he makes, and said in a Pentagon Channel interview aired today his biggest responsibility to the troops is to ensure he "gets it right." "My main goal is to make sure any time we are deploying our men and women in uniform that the civilian leadership has done everything it needs to do to make the best decision possible," Obama said after yesterday's troop talk at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Obama said he authorized a 17,000-troop increase in Afghanistan because "all of us believe the situation has deteriorated somewhat there."

More troops will help address increasingly brazen attacks by Taliban and other extremists, particularly in the southern regions of Afghanistan. "We want to make sure we have the force necessary to meet that," Obama said.

"I think that because you are going to see that additional engagement, there is a risk of greater additional casualties in the short term, just as there was in Iraq," he conceded. "That is something we will have to monitor very carefully."

But with the troop increases, Obama said there's also a need for a more comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan. "I also think we have got to refine our goals and our strategy more effectively," he said. "I think in Afghanistan, we have seen that strategy drift."

"My most important job as commander in chief is to make sure that if we are sending folks there, we have a well-thought-out strategy, clear goals, and that they are achievable, and that I can marshal and maintain the strongest support possible from folks back home," he said.

Military power alone can't solve Afghanistan's problems, Obama said. "We are not going to win in Afghanistan or get an acceptable outcome in Afghanistan if we are only depending on our military," he said.

Also needed, he said, is an Afghan government that delivers for its people, an economic development strategy that offers farmers an alternative to growing heroin poppies and support from Pakistan to clear out border areas where Taliban and al-Qaida have found safe havens.

"My goal is to have a comprehensive strategy of not just force, but also diplomacy and development that is all working in concert to get the kind of outcome we want," Obama said.

Turning the conversation to Iraq, Obama said the timeline he has set for drawing down troops sends a "very strong, clear signal to the Iraqis" that they need to take on more responsibility for their own security.

Meanwhile, he said, it also underscores "that we mean it when we say that we are not going to be a permanent occupying force in Iraq."

The plan to draw down combat troops by August 2010 provides "a glide path" toward a full withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2011, as established in the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.

The Aug. 31 target date will keep sufficient U.S. troops in Iraq during the Iraqi elections, he said. After that, 35,000 to 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq to provide logistical support, training, force protection and some counterterrorism strike capability.

These numbers will phase down over 18 months to the end of 2011, depending on ground conditions at the time, he said.

"I think it's a responsible plan that meets our objectives, and it is one that was created in close consultation with our military commanders on the ground," he said.

The force reduction in Iraq will free up troops not just for the Afghanistan mission, but also for other strategic requirements elsewhere in the world, Obama said. "It's a big world out there," he said. "And right now we don't have the kind of strategic capability that we should to meet other emergency situations that might arise."

Obama acknowledged the "enormous burden" the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have put on the troops and their families. The drawdown in Iraq, along with plans to increase the Marine Corps and Army force structure, will help increase dwell time at home between deployments and eventually help do away with the unpopular Army "Stop Loss" policy, he said.

The president expressed gratitude to the men and women in uniform who he said protect the freedoms all Americans enjoy.

"I carry them in my mind every single day when I am making decisions," he said. "When I am thinking about troop deployments, when I am thinking about budgets, when I am think what our foreign policy is going to be, uppermost in my mind is understanding that young men and women are willing to offer up their last full measure of devotion to this country.

The least they can expect is that their president is going to get it right and keep them in mind when he is making decisions."

Friday, February 27, 2009

New Roads to Open Up Eastern Afghanistan Province

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 27, 2009 - Few improved roads across the rural and mountainous Paktia province all but stop any real efforts for development here. A 25-mile trip to a northern district from the provincial capital of Gardez City takes nearly two hours, bumping along a narrow road between the speeds of slow and stop.

Many farmers in the northern part of the country export their goods to nearby Pakistan because they can't deliver them to parts east and south. The goods then are imported back into the eastern regions, at an inflated price, via roads that traverse the borders cutting through steep and treacherous mountains passes.

Basic health care, education and commerce are all but out of reach for most within this province.

But over the next few years, hundreds of miles of roads built to connect the commerce and governmental hubs will change that, cutting new paths across the province from north to south, east to west, officials with the Paktia Provincial Reconstruction Team said.

Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent to build roads here over the next few years, Air Force Capt. Shawn Kreuzberger, an engineer with the PRT, said. He works the road projects along with the PRT commander, Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Moy.

The team just awarded an $8 million, 17-mile paved road that is part of what officials call the "spine" road that will eventually cut across the province from east to west. The entire spine road is a partnership between the PRT, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Army Corps of Engineers, each working on a leg of the road that will stretch to the Pakistan border.

Also, a paved road that connects the province from north to south is under construction. When both are finished, the provincial capital of Gardez City will sit at the intersection.

All of the paved roads are aimed at linking major commerce and district government centers between provinces. But gravel roads also are planned that spider out from Gardez City into the 14 districts.

Many of the locals have never seen a road come to their village. Most use dry "wadis," or creek beds, to traverse the rugged landscape. The roads are, PRT leaders said, a dream come true. Many locals are so eager, they are willing to allow the walls of their "qalats," which are mud and straw fortresses, to be torn down to make room for the roads, Kreuzberger said.

Roads will tie agriculture hubs north in the province to commerce hubs in the south.

"They can move their stuff quicker. They can get it to areas that need it," Kreuzberger said. "It just makes everything flow within the province that much easier."

Also opening up the province, a $100 million, 62-mile road is being built from nearby Khowst City to Gardez City, linking the Khowst and Paktia provinces. Work has started at both ends. But before it is finished, it must cut through the treacherous "K-G Pass," a narrow road that winds along the steep mountainside at elevations above 7,000 feet.

Making it more difficult, the road is hotly contested by insurgent fighters who don't want the link between the two provinces.

The road projects serve a dual benefit, Kreuzberger said. They develop the infrastructure, but also put local people to work boosting the local economies and helping with security.

"We're paying them instead of the Taliban paying them," Kreuzberger said.

Many of the larger projects are broken into pieces. This allows for work to start quicker, but also allows the PRT to spread it out among the many contractors vying for the work. In good weather, companies here can pave more than a mile a month.

Speed is of the essence for the road projects. Locals become skeptical if they hear a road is coming, but no work starts. They are not patient with large road projects that can take a couple of years from conception to completion.

"One thing we've found in this culture is there is no tomorrow. They live for today," Kreuzberger said. "And if they don't see something happening, then they don't think it's happening."

This can cause the PRT problems as it works with tribal leaders who do not trust that the project will be started as promised.

Local governance will benefit from the roads as well. Many in the rural provinces have not even seen their elected leaders. Many are cut off during the winter because roads are impassable. The network of roads will allow provincial government more access to district government.

"It just shrinks everything down," Kreuzberger said.

Improved roads also bring a safety benefit. Paved roads make it more difficult to emplace bombs, Kreuzberger said.

Right now, locals who drive the "jingle trucks," -- highly decorated semitrucks full of goods -- risk their lives and loads as they travel the rough highways. They are heavy enough to set off the pressure-plate activated bombs, popular in the region.

"[Improvised explosive devices] don't discriminate," Kreuzberger said.

The road crews and their equipment often are targets of enemy fighters. Building a road takes expensive equipment that is costly to fuel and hard to protect. Many contractors build security into the contracts as they bid on the work.

The insurgency has a vested interest in stopping the development, Kreuzberger said.

"You keep [locals] back in the stone ages and they don't know any better," he said of the insurgent grip on many remote villages. "If you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose."

Hope is Victory in Afghanistan, PRT Commander Says

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 27, 2009 - A trip along a bumpy, dirt road deep into the eastern Paktia province gives way to village after village of mud and straw "qalats," or fortresses, that have served as refuge for generations of extended Afghan families. Roadside vendors along the way offer carts of vegetables and fruits, most imported from nearby Pakistan.

The fields are bare. Families survive the winter living off what they have stored, or, if one is lucky enough to have a job, what they can afford.

There are no schools or hospitals. No electricity or televisions or phones.

Small children run through the snow-covered fields wearing only sandals, some are barefoot, to give a "thumbs up" sign to the coalition force convoy as it passes.

The locals know that with the forces often come food, blankets and coal, along with the promise of security, jobs, development and, eventually, a better way of life.

"They now see the presence of the coalition and the promise of the Afghan government and what it's offering as really a hopeful future that they might be able to bank on," Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Moy, commander of the Paktia Provincial Reconstruction Team, said.

But this is a country that has seen centuries of war and a host of foreign rulers fighting for ownership of the land. It has fallen under nearly every form of government rule, each eventually leaving, or defeated by another. In their wakes each has left behind a poorer people who have survived solely blanketed in the security of strong tribal and family ties.

They are, to say the least, skeptical of any government.

"We don't want to just come into some village, showing up as the coalition and saying 'Hi, we're from the government and we're here to help,'" Moy said. "That doesn't communicate well in any language."

Moy and his team have spent the past few months reaching out to the villages, establishing relationships with those charged with the care of the families. The team works with tribal leadership and religious leaders at all levels to legitimize the Afghan government, pushing the message that its leaders are here to stay.

Using military support, they travel with provincial leaders into the mountains and countryside to meet and talk with locals, building a bridge between the government and its people and planting the seeds of trust.

It is a progressive balance of perception and reality, Moy said. On one hand, the people need to view this new government with hope, embracing and supporting it. On the other hand, the government has to do its part to begin to provide basic services to the people in exchange for their trust.

"Right now the government is reaching out to the people asking for its trust and confidence. In order to do that, it's got to show these folks that there's something to put trust and confidence in," Moy said.

This is a challenge, though, because the government has little money and no tax base. The services it provides comes chiefly at the expense of the NATO and nongovernmental agencies' support. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of development are being spent here. But the agencies work to fold Afghan government officials into their efforts, many times pushing them to the forefront of projects.

It's not so much that the people believe that the Afghan government is funding the projects, but more so that they draw the connection between the support and their government.

"The people have to believe their government is capable of doing these things," Moy said. "At the point when people place their trust and confidence in their government to take care of these areas that are vital to their lives here, that's when the government will have increasing capacity to perform those functions."

Success in this region will come, Moy said, at the point where there is that trust between the people and their leadership. Then the insurgents passing through the villages will not be able to intimidate the tribes. Locals will stop taking their money and start reporting their activities to the security forces.

But that point is still a ways off for this part of Afghanistan, still a hotbed of insurgency in the spring and summer months. For now, the strong steel walls of heavily armored military vehicles still separate coalition forces from the people. They are held at bay by the guns the troops carry. It is an unfortunate necessity, as there are still those among the tribes, and fighters from nearby borders, who want to undermine coalition and Afghan government efforts.

They bomb the roads as they are being built. They attack district government centers put in place to provide locals a way to reach out to the centralized government. And they attack coalition forces as they try to provide security in the remote regions. In most cases, though, it is the Afghans who pay the price for the insurgency.

"It's not us who are in uniform who are [always] getting killed or injured .... It's local Afghans as well. It's government leaders who are purposely targeted for assassination. Even the interpreters that work with us, they are targets as well," Moy said.

In truth, Moy's group will likely not see a safer province during its nine-month tour here. Each PRT builds on the successes of the last. Most of its projects will be finished by the team falling in on their footprint. This will be a long fight, with many stepping-stones in the path, Moy said.

He concedes that much of the progress to be made here is largely out of his team's hands and in those of the Afghan people. They have to accept the new government. They have to reject the insurgency. They have to help secure their tribal regions.

"We're trying to help the next generation of Afghan leaders ... to appreciate the values of freedom, open debate, democracy .... But that'll take a long time," Moy said.

The PRT tries to deploy a mix of projects within the communities. Some are aimed at providing jobs now, while others focus on providing health care and education for generations to come.

Each project builds on the other. Each provides a stronger sense of security. Each promises a better tomorrow for the children standing alongside the dusty road, holding up their thumbs to the troops rolling by.

It is in this sense of hope that coalition forces and the Afghan people will find victory in a land that has long promised little except poverty, fighting and death, Moy said.

"We've won when people have a real sense of confidence about what tomorrow's going to bring," Moy said.

Reporter's Notebook: Eastern Afghanistan Needs Roads, Chiropractors

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 27, 2009 - (American Forces Press Service reporter Fred W. Baker III writes about his experiences in Afghanistan, where he is embeded with a provincial reconstruction team and an infantry unit.) To say that Paktia province needs better roads is a bone-rattling understatement.
I took a ride north of the forward operating base here this week to the district of Sayed Karem with the civil affairs section of the provincial reconstruction team for a meeting with the sub-governor, and to deliver some food, clothes, blankets and other winter supplies to needy families there.

It is about a 25-mile trip, but bumping along the narrow dirt road took nearly two hours. Back at home I commute about 45 miles one way to work, and I gripe when traffic is bad and the drive takes an hour. My 90-mile daily round trip here would take most of the day.

I grew up in rural West Virginia, and have seen my share of bumpy roads. But even those eventually opened to wider, smoother-paved roads. This one never did. We moved steady at speeds somewhere between slow and stop.

In the back of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, I felt like one of those lottery balls that are flung about the air-filled machines. More than once there was daylight between my backside and the seat. Thank goodness for seatbelts and Kevlar helmets.

Along the way, trucks, small cars and motorcycles pulled over for our convoy. I can't imagine the shape of their shocks.

And, surprisingly, the road we were traveling was a good one by area standards. Most of the locals use the dry creek beds, or "wadis," to make their way through the mountain passes. Many of the locals never leave their villages.

As the PRT works to develop the area, it is obvious that the roads they have planned that will eventually spider out into the province are critical to its work of providing the basics such as health care, education and commerce.

Ironically, the road we traveled is part of what is called the "spine" road, a provincial connector route that is slated for improvement and paving. I joked to those traveling with me that I would need my spine adjusted after the trip.

More spine jokes were traded as we bumped up the road.

Maybe in addition to more troops, the United States could send some chiropractors

Regional Courthouse Ready to Serve Justice in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 27, 2009 - Hundreds of people celebrated the dedication yesterday of a new six-court regional justice courthouse here, slated to become the highest court in Iraq's Basra province. "This courthouse will be a monument of justice," Medhatt al-Mahmoud, chairman for the Iraqi Judiciary Commission, said. "Iraqi justice is very strong. It will not allow outside influences to keep it from serving justice."

The regional courthouse is a $10 million, U.S.-funded project, and is scheduled to become operational in about 10 days. It will serve as the highest court in the province, handling civil and criminal cases.

"I think this building is a reflection of the progress that the coalition and the Iraqis have made," Army Capt. Charles Bronowski, Multinational Corps Iraq judge advocate, said. "Rule of law is one of the most important aspects of self-governance."

It took Iraqi contractors about a year to complete the building, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers providing oversight.

In addition to courtrooms, the facility includes investigation rooms, legal offices, a conference room and staff training facilities.

"This is a symbol of the establishment of the rule of law and an increase in the judicial capacity," British Royal Marine Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon, commander of Multinational Division Southeast, said. "This is exactly what is required at this stage on the road from where we've been to where we've got to get to, which is a stable and peaceful Basra."

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

Iraqi, Coalition Forces Develop Job Opportunities for 'Sons of Iraq'

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 27, 2009 - As the Iraqi government and coalition forces finish transferring all "Sons of Iraq" civilian security group volunteers to Iraqi control by April, the focus now is on their transition into jobs and educational programs, officials said. "We're all working together for the same purpose: to bring these young men back to the government, back to their country, and to continue to build a stable and secure Iraq. What you see is a result of this partnership. Things are falling into place," Army Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, deputy commanding general for operations, Multinational Corps Iraq, said.

Since late 2008, responsibility for more than 70,000 Sons of Iraq members across six provinces has transferred from the coalition to the Iraqi government. The transfer of the remaining members in three provinces -- Ninevah, Kirkuk and Salahuddin -- will be completed by April 1, Navy Lt. Cdr. Jeffrey Butcher of Multinational Corps Iraq said.

"At the same time, we are working closely with the government of Iraq to place [Sons of Iraq] members in meaningful jobs in the various ministries and private industry," he said.

The hiring process already has begun in Baghdad, home to more than 47,000 of the Sons of Iraq -- roughly half the national total. There, the Iraqi government has collected assessment forms from the men, describing their education, employment preferences, age and work skills.

"From that data, the government is going to be able to decide where those Sons of Iraq can go," Butcher said. "If they have prior background in the military, then they may be perfect candidates for security jobs -- the Iraqi police, as well as the army, national police, border patrol and diplomatic protection."

"Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has made the employment process a top priority for the national government," he added.

Maliki's Executive Order 118-C mandates that 20 percent of the Sons of Iraq will take jobs in the nation's security forces.
The other 80 percent are expected to enter employment within the government's ministries. Butcher said the ministries eventually will be able to draw their new hires from federal employment centers located throughout the country and operated by the government's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

"We're working by, with and through the government of Iraq to get those employment centers running," Butcher said. "We've equipped them with some of the necessary [information technology] equipment, and we're working with the government to create them as part of the Ministry of Labor's network. The goal is to use the centers to be able to employ and work with the ministries to get the [Sons of Iraq] in there, in accordance with their skills and inclinations."

The Ministry of Education, in particular, has stepped up as a prospective employer for the men. The ministry expects to have about 10,000 positions available in Baghdad, many of them security-related, in the men's local school districts.

For Sons of Iraq interested in entrepreneurship, more diverse opportunities are available. "The main goal is to place them in the ministries, but we are also working within some coalition programs that we have currently to assist the men," Butcher said.

Those programs include Iraqi Business Industrial Zones, which help set up Iraqi small businesses on coalition installations, and the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program overseen by government contractor KBR, which currently employs 60,000 Iraqis.

"One of the goals is to get more Iraqis hired into that program," Butcher said. "KBR is working through us in order to get some Sons of Iraq into these programs."

Coalition and government authorities also are enlisting the aid of "employment assistant managers" -- local, well-connected individuals who work with the sheiks and in the local industries and can help place Sons of Iraq in long-term positions.

Sons of Iraq in rural areas have a variety of options available to help them build an agricultural base if they so choose, Butcher said. These programs include microgrants to start a business and purchase work materials, like tractors and seed. A U.S. Agency for International Development economic growth program called "Tijara" -- Arabic for trade -- offers small-business programs and agricultural training. "If that's a route that the [Sons of Iraq member] wants to go, we can use that as a training solution," Butcher said.

Because many government ministries require employees to hold a primary school certificate, many of the Sons of Iraq may need some type of literacy training or education.

"We've helped establish a lot of vocational technical centers, and we want to work through these centers and a lot of the educational programs they have to get these guys skilled and trained in trades ... like plumbing, masonry, welding, generator repair and heating, ventilation and air conditioning," Butcher said. "If they don't have the necessary skill sets, then that would be the doorway into that type of ministry position."

Literacy education also is a priority, with the Sons of Iraq benefiting from a national literacy training program recently announced by Maliki. Last summer, a pilot program in Kirkuk province's Hawijah district provided 486 Sons of Iraq with the equivalent of a primary school certificate.

"We learned a lot from that program, and we can use it to help set up similar programs here in Baghdad and elsewhere," Butcher said.

Coalition authorities attribute the momentum of these programs to the enthusiasm of the Iraqi government. "They understand the significance of what the [Sons of Iraq] have done for the country, and what they've done to create a peaceful security environment," Butcher said.

"We are very impressed with the Iraqi government's attention to the Sons of Iraq," he continued. "They have the ball and they're running with it."

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- February 27, 2009

Anthrax [sic] investigation still yielding surprising findings
“The deadly bacterial spores mailed to victims in the U.S. anthrax [sic] attacks, scientists say, share a chemical ‘fingerprint’ that is not found in bacteria from the flask linked to Bruce Ivins, the biodefence researcher implicated in the crime. At a biodefence meeting on 24 February in Baltimore, Maryland, Joseph Michael, a materials scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, presented analyses of three letters sent to the New York Post and to the offices of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. Spores from two of those show a distinct chemical signature that includes silicon, oxygen, iron, and tin; the third letter had silicon, oxygen, iron and possibly also tin, says Michael. Bacteria from Ivins' RMR-1029 flask did not contain any of those four elements.” (Physics Today; 26Feb09)

Experimental vaccine protects animals from deadly ebola virus; may prove effective in developing the first human vaccine
“Protection against Ebola, one of the world’s deadliest viruses, can be achieved by a vaccine produced in insect cells, raising prospects for developing an effective vaccine for humans, say scientists at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (SFBR) in San Antonio. […] Ebola viruses are considered a dangerous threat to public health because of their high fatality rate, ability to transmit person-to-person, and low lethal infectious dose. Moreover, their potential to be developed into biological weapons causes grave concern for their use as a bioterrorism agent.” (Science Daily; 27Feb09; Source: Southwest Foundation for Medical

[U.S. Representative Jane] Harman [D-CA] re-introduces bipartisan, bicameral bill to confront bioterrorism threat
“Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Chair of the Homeland Security Intelligence & Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Member of the House Intelligence Committee, today introduced legislation to reauthorize and update the Select Agent Program […] which controls the transfer of biological agents and toxins that could potentially be used for bioterrorism. […] The Harman/Rogers bill reauthorizes and updates the Select Agent Program [SAP], which expired in September 2007. Created in the 1990s, the SAP established a system to regulate possession and transfers of hazardous materials, and – following the anthrax [sic] attacks in 2001 – was expanded to include a wider range of potentially threatening toxins.” (American Chronicle; 26Feb09)

March 5 law journal symposium asks, ‘Are we ready yet? Legal and ethical issues of preparing for and responding to a bioterrorist attack’ [MN]

“Ethical and legal issues in preparing for and responding to bioterrorism are the subject of the next University of St. Thomas Law Journal Symposium from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, March 5 […]. Keynote speakers include: Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy […] [and] Dr. Victoria Sutton, director of the Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy at Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock, Texas. […] The afternoon also will include panelists on a variety of topics related to bioterrorism.” (Bulletin; 26Feb09; Source: University of St. Thomas)

Federal regulations force [CA] microbrewery to get terrorist-proof
“Two SLO [San Luis Obispo, CA] brewers were eager to open their new pub, but first they were told they had to protect the beer from terrorists. As far as they can tell, they may be the only guys in the country who have been forced to fortify their brewing tanks, and no one can give a clear answer why. The TTB [Tobacco, Tax, and Trade Bureau] forced [co-owners John] Moule and [Eric] Beaton to better protect their product. […] A TTB representative told the owners the tanks had to be behind a physical barrier with locking doors. […] Moule said the representative finally told him the wall was needed to prevent someone from poisoning the beer. What’s more, she told him it was a post-Sept. 11 measure that fell under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security. […] Federal agency members, however, could not confirm or deny any requirement for breweries to wall out terrorists. Representatives were confused by the situation and quick to point a finger at other agencies.” (New Times San Luis Obispo; 25Feb09; Colin Rigley)

Advisory [Committee on Immunization Practices] panel backs reduced anthrax [sic] vaccination regimen
“A U.S. panel said yesterday that anthrax vaccinations for military personnel and others should involve five doses injected into a recipient's muscle tissue rather than the customary six doses beneath the skin […]. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also recommended altering the schedule for delivering injections of BioThrax, […]. The second shot would now be delivered four weeks after the original dose, with follow-up injections given six, 12 and 18 months after the first shot. The new procedure would only allow anthrax vaccine recipients to receive injections beneath the skin when an intramuscular shot could cause health complications, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said in a statement.” (Global Security Newswire; 26Feb09)

[Canadian] government moves to restrict access to toxins and pathogens
“The federal government has introduced legislation to limit access to disease-causing pathogens and toxins and to dictate how they should be handled. The aim of the bill, which is heading to a Commons committee, is to prevent terrorists from intentionally unleashing biohazards and to protect Canadians from mistakes by lab workers. Laboratories […] are required to follow bio-safety guidelines before they can import pathogens […]. Those import regulations apply to about 3,500 facilities across Canada. […] Under the new law, no one who is not licensed by the government would be permitted to possess, produce, store, transfer or dispose of a human pathogen or toxin.” (Globe and Mail; 27Feb09; Gloria Galloway)

More than $10 million has been proposed for [Michigan] area
“It [this funding]could be a big economic boost for Mid-Michigan. Several communities in our area are in line to get nearly $11 million from the government. […]This money is not coming from the economic stimulus plan passed recently.[…] Mott Community College and Kettering [county] would split $2 million for defense research. Kettering's portion is for its Chemical Warfare Agent Fate Program, which studies how chemicals behave after they are deployed by a weapon. […] This plan is pending Senate approval.” (ABC News 12; 26Feb09; Matt Franklin)

[Virginia] Tech [University], Luna [Innovations, Inc.] partner on nerve gas antidote
“Virginia Tech and Luna Innovations Inc. are working together on a federally funded project to protect people from the effects of nerve gas through buckyballs. Researchers at Tech and the Roanoke-based technology development company recently received a three-year, $946,432 grant from the National Institutes of Health's CounterACT program to defend against terrorist chemical threats. Roger Van Tassel, the principle investigator for Luna on the project, described buckyballs as ‘carbon cages, just like a soccer ball.’ These nanoparticles scavenge the harmful radical molecules that exist in some pesticides and types of nerve gas, such as VX and sarin gas. […] Van Tassel said that eventually the antidote could be applied by injection to people who have been exposed to nerve gas.” (Roanoake Times; 27Feb09; Greg Esposito)

Mysterious white powder turns out to be baby food [MN]
“On Feb. 25 two Elk River [MN] area residents filed police reports after finding envelopes filled with a mysterious white powder in the mailboxes. […] The resident’s wife had gone out to the mailbox to pick up the newspaper when she found a letter-sized envelope. When she opened the envelope she found white powder along with a typed note that read ‘Enjoy your anthrax.’ […] Police Chief Jeff Beahen said in both incidents the substance turned out to be baby food, however, the FBI is involved in the investigation of who put the substance with the letters in mailboxes.” (Elk River Star News; 26Feb09)

CNS ChemBio-WMD Terrorism News is prepared by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to bring timely and focused information to researchers and policymakers interested in the fields of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons nonproliferation and WMD terrorism.

U.S. Combat Troops to Leave Iraq by August 2010, Obama Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 27, 2009 - U.S. combat troops will redeploy from Iraq by August 2010, leaving about 35,000 to 50,000 American forces there to attend to Iraqi troop and police training, counterterrorism and other duties, President Barack Obama told servicemembers at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., today. "So, let me say this as plainly as I can: by Aug. 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama told servicemembers gathered inside the post's Goettge Memorial Field House.

"As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of the troops and civilians in Iraq," Obama said, noting he'd consult closely with U.S. commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government as the redeployment gets under way.

Next month marks the sixth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, Obama said. The situation in Iraq has improved, he said, thanks in great part to the efforts and sacrifices of U.S. servicemembers. There are about 146,000 U.S. forces currently in Iraq.

However, "we cannot sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military and will cost the American people nearly a trillion dollars," Obama said of the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

"America's men and women in uniform -- so many of you -- have fought block-by-block, province-by-province, year after year, to give the Iraqis this chance to choose a better future.

"Now, we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it," Obama said.

Violence in Iraq "has been reduced substantially" from the horrific sectarian warfare experienced there in 2006 and 2007, Obama said. Also, al-Qaida in Iraq "has been dealt a serious blow" by U.S., coalition and Iraqi security forces, the president said.

However, even considering the reduced violence, Obama acknowledged that "Iraq is not yet secure" and predicted "there will be difficult days ahead."

There is renewed cause for hope in Iraq, Obama said. Yet, that hope, he added, depends upon "an emerging foundation" that supports efforts to transfer full responsibility to Iraqis so that they can superintend their own affairs.

And, the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, Obama said, is the first part of a three-pronged U.S. strategy "to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility."

Obama said employing diplomacy and injecting comprehensive U.S. engagement across the broader Middle East to promote regional peace and prosperity comprise the other legs of the U.S. government's Iraq strategy.

"After we remove our combat brigades," Obama said, "our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its security forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country."

Around 35,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops will stay in Iraq after the combat forces depart, Obama said. These remaining forces, he said, will help train, equip and advise Iraqi security forces, conduct antiterrorism missions, and protect ongoing U.S. civilian and military efforts.

There will be additional redeployments of troops from Iraq, Obama said, noting he intends to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, as part of the U.S.-Iraq status-of-forces agreement.

The decision to redeploy U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 18 months, Obama said, came out of the recently concluded Iraq strategy review conducted by his national security team. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command; and Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, were among senior defense officials who provided input for the Iraq review.

The Iraq strategy "is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant," Obama said. "To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe haven to terrorists."

The United States, Obama continued, will "help Iraq build new ties of trade and commerce with the world" and "will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq that contributes to the peace and security of the [Middle East] region."

The United States and its allies cannot rid Iraq of all the people there who oppose America or sympathize with America's enemies, Obama said. Neither can the United States wait until conditions in Iraq are perfect, he said.

There are people who want the fledgling Iraqi democracy to fail, Obama acknowledged. Such people, he said, belong "to the forces that destroy nations and lead only to despair, and they will test our will in the months and years to come."

The terrorists and criminals that seek to tear Iraq apart "offer not pathway to peace; and they must not stand between the people of Iraq and a future of reconciliation and hope," Obama said.

Obama assured the Iraqi people that the United States "pursues no claim on your territory or your resources." The United States respects Iraq's sovereignty and the sacrifices of its citizens, he said.

"And going forward, we can build a lasting relationship founded upon mutual interests and mutual respect, as Iraq takes its rightful place in the community of nations," Obama said.

Leaders Comfortable With Iraq Drawdown Decision, Gates Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 27, 2009 - Senior defense and military leaders are comfortable with President Barack Obama's decision to redeploy all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August next year, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. It was important for the president to set a timeline, Gates told the Pentagon press corps via telephone from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The president made his decision after in-depth talks with commanders on the ground and in Washington. The timeline takes into consideration Multinational Force Iraq Commander Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno's concern about security during district and sub-district elections scheduled for the summer and another national election at the end of the year.

Odierno wanted to ensure enough U.S. troops remained to help the Iraqis and still allow time to redeploy the combat brigades, Gates said, noting that an earlier drawdown would pose some "significant logistical and security issues."

At the end of August 2010, all U.S. combat forces will be out of Iraq, but this does not mean all forces will leave. Between 35,000 and 50,000 Americans will remain in country to train and mentor the Iraqi forces or track down extremist groups in conjunction with Iraqi forces.

The president will be flexible and reserves the right to make changes, Gates said. "He clearly does not anticipate having to do that," said he added. "He has balanced the risks of staying longer or coming out sooner."

All those involved with the discussion believe U.S. forces will meet the president's timeline, the secretary said.

Under the terms of the U.S.-Iraq status-of-forces agreement, all American forces must be out of the country by the end of 2011. Any U.S. presence in the country after that date would require a new agreement, Gates said.

"My own view is we should be prepared to have some very modest-sized presence for training and helping them with new equipment, and perhaps providing intelligence support and so on, beyond then," he said. "But it's a hypothetical, because no such request has been made and there is no indication there will be."

The August 2010 timetable helps the Iraqis with their planning to take over security responsibilities.

"You saw in the performance of the Iraqi security forces in the provincial elections that they really did a superb job of maintaining security," Gates said.

Obama Praises Troops, Families Who Bear Burden of Sacrifice

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 27, 2009 - As President Barack Obama today set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, he praised the military troops and families who have volunteered to "bear the heaviest burden." Addressing an audience at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., the president praised the work of U.S. servicemembers in Iraq who have contributed to a substantial drop in overall violence, dealt al-Qaida a "serious blow" and bolstered Iraqi security forces.

"You make up a fraction of the American population, but in an age when so many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly, so many of you did the opposite," he said. "You volunteered to bear the heaviest burden."

Nearly six years into Operation Iraqi Freedom, Obama today set the timeline for significantly drawing down U.S. forces in Iraq for the end of August 2010.

"America's men and women in uniform, so many of you, have fought block by block, province by province, year after year to give the Iraqis this chance to choose a better future," he said. "Now we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it."

Obama said the situation in Iraq has improved in large part because of the service and sacrifices made by troops and their families. But he added that the war does not end upon a servicemember's return home.

"It lives on in the memories of your fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who gave their lives. It endures in the wound that is slow to heal, the disability that isn't going away, the dream that wakes you up at night, the stiffening in your spine when a car backfires down the street," he said.

Obama said it's now the responsibility of a grateful nation to carry out its duty to U.S. servicemembers and their families. This obligation underlies Obama's decision to allocate funding in his budget proposal to increase the size of the Army and Marines to lessen the burden on those serving, he said.

In the same vein, he also has requested funding to expand veterans health care, continue building wounded warrior facilities across America and make advances in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

"We also know that service does not end with the person wearing the uniform," said Obama, noting that his wife, Michelle, has learned firsthand about burdens borne by military families. "I want you to know this: Military families are a top priority for Michelle and me, and they will be a top priority for my administration."

While the United States has engaged in debates about the war in Iraq, there should be no disagreement on what the men and women of our military have achieved, the president said.

"We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein's regime and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government and you got the job done," he said. "And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life. That is your achievement. That is the prospect that you have made possible."

Obama added that each member of the armed forces has his or her own story, which is part of the greater history of the United States.

"America is a nation that exists only because free men and women have bled for it, from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Anbar, from the mountains of Korea to the streets of Kandahar," he said. "You teach us that the price of freedom is great. Your sacrifice should challenge all of us, every single American, to ask what we can do to be better citizens."

Obama acknowledged the soldiers, sailors and airmen serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also highlighted Marines from Camp Lejeune deployed with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force in Afghanistan and the 8,000 Marines preparing to join the fight in Afghanistan.

"We have you in our prayers. We pay tribute to your service. We thank you and your families for all that you do for America," he said. "And I want you all to know that there is no greater honor or greater responsibility than serving as your commander in chief."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Digital Images in Law Enforcement

Editor's Note: Much of the technology to be discussed is used by federal, state and local law enforcement in their homeland security and/or counterterrorism missions.

On March 6, 2009, Conversations with Heroes at the Watering Hole will feature a discussion Stan Goldberg on Digital Images in
Law Enforcement.

Program Date: March 13, 2009
Program Time: 2100 hours, Pacific
Topic: Digital Images in
Law Enforcement
Listen Live:

About the Guest
Stan Goldberg practically grew up in a black-and-white. As a young teenager in Brookline, Massachusetts, Stan would ride with the
police and got interested in Law Enforcement. Stan then started to take pictures of accidents and fires and give them to police. Later, as his interest in police work and his talent for photography grew, Stan went to Photography School and into the photographic supply business specializing in Law Enforcement.

While attending professional photo school in Boston in 1963, Stan took his favorite photo of President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy had been in office for just about three years, and the young President had returned to his home state of Massachusetts for a visit.

Stan caught Kennedy buttoning his overcoat as he left the presidential helicopter and strode across the lawn to examine a site for the John F. Kennedy Library that would be built after his term in office ended. It was a cold, rainy day but Kennedy was smiling broadly as he walked towards the waiting crowd. No one would have guessed that in a little more than a month, the President would be dead at the hand of an assassin.

Stan’s interest in photography grew into a career as he worked his way up in the camera business. But he never lost his love for
police work. As the use of digital cameras grew, Stan began equipping police departments with new digital imaging solutions, inventing and fabricating fingerprint adapters now being manufactured by Latentlift.

Today, Stan is one of the leading experts in helping
Law Enforcement agencies work faster, better and more effectively with digital imaging solutions, and he manages the first-ever division of Law Enforcement, medical and audio-visual integration for New England’s largest digital imaging equipment retailer, Hunt’s Photo and Video (online at An associate member of the Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island Chiefs of police, the New England Division of the International Association for Identification (NEDIAI), and the 100 Club in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire, Stan has been instrumental in providing police throughout the Northeast with a wide range of digital imaging products.

About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is
police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life. Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.

About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the
Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years. He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant. He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in Law Enforcement, public policy, Law Enforcement Technology and leadership. Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and police One. He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in Law Enforcement.

Listen, call, join us at the Watering Hole:

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA

Security, Development Intertwine in Afghanistan War

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2009 - In a recent meeting in downtown Gardez City with local government officials, Army Lt. Col. Donald Cullison struck an unintentional pose that symbolizes coalition efforts in eastern Afghanistan. In one hand he held a steaming cup of chai tea, a local gesture of hospitality and friendship. His other hand draped across the M-4 rifle resting in his lap.

What appears a dichotomy is the balance coalition forces must strike as they promise both security and development in a country ravaged by war and racked with poverty -- its people torn between supporting a deeply ingrained insurgency offering survival, or a shaky, upstart government that promises hope for the future.

And somewhere in that balance is where coalition forces hope to find victory on this battlefield that was the birthplace of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

"In this fight, dollars are bullets. Development is just as important as security," Cullison said. "You can't have security without development and you can't have development without security.

"It goes to different degrees. But you can't have them exclusive."

Cullison heads the civil affairs efforts for the Paktia Provincial Reconstruction Team here. He also serves as the executive officer for the 80-person team.

This is a region that has long been controlled by varying local tribes with little interest, or trust, in a regional government. The rugged mountain passes serve as a passageway and staging area for enemy fighters traveling from the Pakistan border into Afghanistan.

A career civil affairs officer with multiple deployments under his belt, Cullison said that his team's job is to separate the people of Afghanistan from the insurgency that works to undermine coalition efforts and the development of a central government.
"It has nothing to do with going out there and being nice and giving people things, or being the Peace Corps of the Army," Cullison said. "Why do we do everything that we do? Because I want the people ... to jump on the side of [the Afghanistan government] and the coalition.

"Our ultimate goal is to separate the populace from the insurgency. The insurgency isn't all the people. There are quite a few out there that just want to go about their lives and live peacefully."

The nine-person civil affairs section serves as the face of the PRT for the provincial government and local people. Cullison's team divides the 14 districts that cover an area about the size of Rhode Island and then reach out to assess the areas and determine what projects will both boost the economy and help legitimize the Afghan government. In some districts, team members work at the provincial level, meeting with officials in government buildings in secure compounds. In other areas, they drink tea in mud huts with local tribal and religious leaders.

The team looks to jumpstart a mix of projects -- some that will quickly infuse much-needed cash or provide basic health care and promote government and coalition operations, and others that will proffer longer-term effects such as schools or roads that will impact generations to come.

Its goal is to build relationships of trust and confidence, both in the efforts of the coalition forces and the local government. Many locals are skeptical, Cullison said, and know that if the government fails, or if coalition forces leave, it is they who will have to deal with the backlash of the insurgents.

"Right now the Afghan people aren't sure. Are we going to stay? Is their government going to work?" Cullison said. "That's why the insurgency is allowed to operate within Afghanistan, because the Afghan people are still not sure which way this government is going to go and which way the coalition forces are going to go."

To combat this, his team plans long-term projects and pushes provincial leadership out into the tribes. Local and provincial officials work together to decide what each village needs. This not only connects the provincial leadership with the locals, but also provides an opportunity for the team to mentor good governance practices, Cullison said.

One of the biggest challenges for the team is working to develop the trust and confidence of residents while dealing with a local government and its security forces that have a history of deep-seeded corruption.

Just in the past few weeks, the provincial director of public works was arrested on charges of contract fraud. The provincial government has no budget to speak of, no tax base to draw from. There has been an attempt to establish some basic public utilities in parts of the province, but service is spotty and it is not clear if public fees make it into government coffers. Officials and security forces are poorly paid, and often resort to bribery or extortion.

When the team delivers humanitarian assistance to a village, its members stay to ensure the blankets, beans, rice and tea are handed out to needy families, for fear the security forces or tribal leaders will take it for themselves to use or sell.

And, the Afghan culture thrives on favoritism. For years, locals have survived by forming allegiances, tribe-to-tribe, family-to-family and man-to-man. As U.S. dollars are pumped into the region in the form of jobs and local contracts, these allegiances can sometimes strangle the teams' efforts at making the Afghan government appear unbiased.

"Corruption is in every element of everything that is done here," Cullison said. "It's the cost of doing business here in Afghanistan."

With hundreds of millions of dollars in development being poured into the province, though, the PRT cannot afford to shy from addressing the corruption. It coaches government officials on setting and adhering to ethical standards. It enforces square deals when dishing out local contracts. And, more importantly, Cullison said, it models those practices in its dealings.

"We don't cut corners. We don't make promises that are going to benefit a [particular] Afghan official. We don't award projects based on a kick-back or somebody benefiting," Cullison said. "We do things because it's the right thing to do.

"I think that they're beginning to see that when everybody trusts that the system is fair and is transparent, that everybody benefits."

In the end, Cullison said, it is the people's trust in a government that they build that will defeat the insurgency here. And it will be years to come.

As more money is pumped into the economy, the people can earn a living wage. As Afghan forces are trained and culled of corruption, tribes can live without fear of enemy fighters making their way through their villages.

And as its government stretches and grows, more schools will be built, more roads will be paved and an infrastructure eventually will be in place that provides access province-wide to commerce, education and health care.

And that, Cullison said, will be the demise of the insurgency.

"You defeat an insurgency by influencing, convincing people that it's more advantageous for them to support their government," Cullison said. "The way the PRT is fighting this war is the way the insurgency is going to be defeated."

U.S. Soldiers Train Iraqis to Enforce Border With Iran

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2009 - When approaching the border with Iran in Iraq's Diyala province, travelers find a distinct lack of fences, signs or any other landmark letting them know that the border is near. Often the only way of knowing the border is near is by noticing one of the 100 or so checkpoints varying in distances along the imaginary line that delineates the border. Each one of these checkpoints is manned by Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement personnel who stand ready to detain anyone trying to cross over from Iran into Iraq illegally.

Working alongside Iraq's border security officials is the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division's Border Transition Team 4312, which assists in keeping the borders safe and secure.

"Our job is to track, confirm or deny illegal border access," Army Master Sgt. Michael Henle, a team sergeant with BTT 4312, said. "We strictly work with the Iraqi [DBE], but we try to integrate the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police into the systems so they can work hand-in-hand, instead of operating unilaterally."

The U.S. government's first efforts in border control date as early as 1904 when border patrolmen were called mounted watchmen. The men who patrolled then prevented illegal crossings, just as patrolmen do now. But the dangers of the job were not the same then as they are today.

"A lot of our missions resemble U.S. border patrol missions," Army Capt. Eric Wagoner of BTT 4312 said. "There's no way to block off a border -- you're more of a deterrent. You can't put the fence up and expect everyone to stop coming across. Our job is to make sure the Iraqi [DBE] has good methods to sustain their deterrence."

Wagoner said they work with the DBE to force the movement of those illegally crossing the border to locations where it is easier to catch them. Part of their objective is to have DBE and BTT members train together, he said.

"We train our Iraqi counterparts," Wagoner said. "Even though they are very good at training themselves on their border tasks, they do not have the resources ... the experience in certain areas. Those are the [areas] we are trying to train them in."

Success of each mission is not just dependent upon the DBE, but also upon the locals living in the area.

"Border villagers are the guys who live right there and see everything," Wagoner said. "When we go talk to the people, we want the Iraqi [DBE] to do it because we want to make sure the local people know that the Iraqi [DBE] is a legitimate force in the area and that they are recognized."

(From a Multinational Division North news release.)

Face of Defense: Soldier Re-enlists to be With Guard Unit in Iraq

By Army Sgt. Catherine Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2009 - Few people could fault Army Spc. Bobby Gladney when he did not immediately re-enlist after seven years of service in the National Guard, which included a deployment here in 2003. Gladney had family back home in Mississippi, including two small children he didn't want to leave again. And he had dreams outside of the military.

But Gladney did re-enlist with the Mississippi National Guard and is back here serving as a construction equipment repairman with the 890th Engineer Battalion's Forward Support Company.

Gladney re-enlisted, he said, because he couldn't bear the idea of his company deploying without him. "I could not bear the thought of my battle buddies answering the call ... and [me] not being there to pitch in and complete the missions assigned to us," he said.

Gladney, of D'Iberville, Miss., said his first deployment to Iraq with the 890th Engineer Battalion in 2003 instilled a sense of pride in him, even though the living environment was rough and he did not know what to expect or even if he would to return to his family.

Upon his return home, Gladney decided he would hang up his uniform -- until he heard that the 890th would deploy again. After taking time to consider what he would be giving up, and with the support of his mother, Cheryl, and fiancée, Ginger Sonier, he decided to re-enlist.

Working in the motor pool as a construction equipment mechanic, Gladney has gained new experience and knowledge learning to repair mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles. The MRAPs are a series of route-clearance vehicles used to clear Baghdad's roads.

"Spc. Bobby Gladney is a colorful soldier and is committed to his duty. He is respectful and his humor helps keep morale up in the motor pool as well in the unit," Army Sgt. Ashley Almont, Gladney's squad leader, said.

The support of Gladney's mother and that of the rest of his family, he said, has made his deployment easier, especially after the recent death of his father.

"I believe her words and pride are what got me through the tough times; even though she was concerned she never showed it in her words," Gladney said.

Of his father's death, he said, "I knew he would've wanted me to continue with my mission, so I stayed to continue on. My family got me through the tough times. Therefore, I'm serving this time for my father and my country."

Although he has faced adversity in the past, Gladney said he eagerly anticipates the future.

"The deployment has been rough on my two children, but their mother explained to them where I am and why I'm over here," he said. "I think having a supportive relationship while being deployed is very important and I'm thankful for my mother and fiancée. I'm looking forward to getting married and catching up with the time I lost with my family and friends."

In his spare time, Gladney is preparing to become a small business owner once he returns home to D'Iberville.

"I enjoy creating drawings and stories for and with my battle buddies," Gladney said. "My dream is to become a cartoon artist and produce short stories and movies. I have purchased several books on owning a small business.

"The training and responsibilities I have received during my Army career have given me the confidence and knowledge that I can accomplish anything that I put my mind to."

(Army Sgt. Catherine Graham serves in the Mississippi National Guard's 890th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade public affairs office.)

Coalition Brings Afghan Corps Up to Standard With Weapons, Training

By Army Pfc. Derek Kuhn
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2009 - Coalition forces are outfitting the Afghan National Army by providing hundreds of weapons and dozens of up-armored Humvees through the NATO Force Modernization Project. The Afghan army's "Thunder Corps" will receive hundreds of weapons including M-16 rifles, M-249 squad automatic weapons, M-203 grenade launchers and M-240B machine guns. They also will receive about 40 up-armored Humvees by the time the fielding is complete.

"The program is intended to help modernize the 203rd Thunder Corps force," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Viggers, coordinator for 203rd Thunder Corps' up-armored Humvees and NATO weapons issue. "We are trying to bring them up to our standard. Then, they'll be better suited to accomplish the mission here."

The AK-47 assault rifle is the firearm issued to most Afghan National Army soldiers, but a few have started fielding the more accurate M-16 rifle.

Coalition forces are assisting Afghan soldiers by training leaders to train others and by helping to develop training regiments.

So far, the transition between weapons has been smooth, Viggers said.

"They are receiving the new equipment quite well," he said. "From most of the soldiers I have talked with, once they get to know the M-16 rifle, they learn to accept it and like its capabilities."

Some already are proficient with the M-16. "We have some really good shooters here," Viggers said.

The Afghan soldiers are learning to drive and maneuver the up-armored Humvees, which are capable of withstanding most explosives.

"They appreciate the added protection the up-armored Humvees bring," Viggers said. "The drivers are picking the training up pretty quickly."

Afghan soldiers are hand-selected for the force modernization program, and they undergo a battery of medical exams, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Denise Grechas, surgeon medical mentor for the 203rd Thunder Corps.

Exams include blood pressure, heartbeat, vision and a visual search for any physical deficiencies, as well as immunizations, all of which take about two days.

Once the medical exams are completed, soldiers begin their training. However, medical care is not forgotten. Health and sanitation are of paramount concern, which is why the 203rd Thunder Corps has produced picture pamphlets on sanitation.

A healthy corps is integral for its effectiveness, Grechas said.

A safe and stable Afghanistan is a goal of the 203rd Thunder Corps and the coalition forces involved in this program, officials said.

"I think it will be rewarding to see them take a step forward as far as the modernization of their military and [to see] the effect it's going to have on the Afghan population if we can help secure the country quicker," Viggers said.

(Army Pfc. Derek Kuhn serves with the 40th Public Affairs Detachment.)

Iraqi, U.S. Forces Detain Suspected Criminals, Find Bomb, Weapons

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2009 - Iraqi security forces and U.S. soldiers detained suspected criminals, averted a bomb attack and seized a mortar cache in Iraq over the past three days, military officials reported. Iraqi security forces, aided by Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers, detained three suspected criminals yesterday and Feb. 24 in southern Baghdad's Rashid district.

In Baghdad's Shurta community yesterday, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers used a Baghdad Operations Center warrant to detain a suspected criminal accused of terrorist activities.

The combined forces moved the suspect to a detention facility for questioning.

Acting on a tip from an Iraqi civilian Feb. 24, Iraqi National Police captured two suspected bomb makers in possession of more than 70 timers, a remote control, 13 batteries, a soldering gun, a silicon glue gun, a videocassette recorder and a laptop computer. U.S. soldiers responded to assist in the investigation.

Iraqi National Police transported the suspects to a nearby headquarters for processing.

In southern Baghdad's Rashid district, Iraqi security forces and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers discovered a mortar cache and defused a bomb Feb. 23.

Acting on a tip from a "Sons of Iraq" civilian security group volunteer, Iraqi National Police and U.S. soldiers seized a cache containing four 81 mm mortar rounds and 15 60 mm mortar rounds in Bayaa neighborhood.

Later that day in the Zubaida area, Sons of Iraq members and U.S. soldiers found a bomb attached to the undercarriage of a local Sons of Iraq leader's vehicle.

A coalition forces explosive ordnance disposal unit responded to the scene to defuse the bomb.

No injuries or damages were reported.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

Afghan, Coalition Forces Disrupt Terrorist Network

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2009 - Afghan and coalition forces killed one militant and detained 10 suspected militants yesterday in Afghanistan's Nangarhar and Khowst provinces. In Nangarhar province's Kot district, Afghan special operations forces, aided by coalition forces, conducted an operation to disrupt foreign fighter facilitation and suicide-bomb networks. The forces were targeting a suspect believed to be directly involved in the Feb. 7 bomb attack that killed the Goshta sub-governor. He also is suspected of planning several attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in the province.

After arriving at the targeted compound, an armed militant maneuvered on the combined forces with hostile intent. The forces responded, killing the militant. Three other suspected militants were detained without incident. During the operation, three women and 17 children were protected.

In Khowst province's Mandozi district, coalition forces and Afghan National Police targeted a Haqqani network operator believed to be linked to hostile actions against coalition forces in Khowst, including bomb strikes and suicide bomber facilitation.

During the operation, the combined forces searched several buildings on multiple compounds. An armed militant engaged the forces and suffered a superficial injury from a gunshot wound. Coalition forces provided medical treatment to the militant. Forces also detained six other militants.
Forces seized a pistol, shotgun and an AK-47 assault rifle in one of the buildings. During the operation, forces protected 19 women and 28 children.

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

Soldier Becomes First Amputee Accepted to Warrant Officer School

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2009 - The U.S. Army Warrant Officer School soon will welcome a new accession of warrant officers this spring, and one will bring with him a new perspective to the Army officer corps. Staff Sgt. Johnathan Holsey became the first amputee accepted by the Warrant Officer School in Fort Rucker, Ala., where he is to report in April. He is currently assigned to Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va.

Along with other wounded warriors, he's scheduled to be a guest on today's "Oprah Winfrey Show."

Holsey was injured Nov. 11, 2004, in Iraq where he was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment. A roadside bomb caused severe damage to his left leg. Two weeks after arriving at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, and one day before Thanksgiving, the doctors told Holsey they needed to remove his leg due to severe infection.

"I remember the day when the doctor came in," he recalled. "I remember the doctor coming in on the 22nd of November and ... he told me that it was best that we amputate, but it was [my] choice."

Holsey said losing his leg was particularly challenging for him and his children. But through faith and family support, he was able to persevere and come through stronger and more focused.

"Family is very important to the recovery process," he added.

Hosey has thought a lot about his recovery and how he can continue to meet the challenges of being an amputee. "I'm blessed in my recovery, and I try to challenge myself to figure it out," he said. "Even though you might have lost your leg it doesn't mean you can't do ... things. You just have to figure out how to balance it or figure out how to do it."

Nearly five months after his injury, Holsey was fitted for his first prosthetic leg. He learned how to manage without a leg by participating in some of the hospital's coordinated activities, such as skiing and fishing.

"You have all these questions ... things you probably never thought of," he said. "Before I became an amputee, I can honestly say I never met one and probably never knew [one]."

Since his injury, Holsey has continued facing challenges head-on, never shying away from them, while seamlessly pursuing his desire to serve his country.

"I have always liked being in front," Holsey said. "I never accepted things as being mediocre."

In March 2006, soon after completing his rehabilitation at Walter Reed, Holsey attended the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course, or BNCOC. His journey to become the first amputee accepted to Warrant Officer School was materializing.

"It was an interesting thing for me, because I was one of the first [human resources] soldiers to go as an amputee," Holsey said. "I felt that even though I wanted to stay -- I wanted to be a soldier regardless -- this is what we do. I wanted to go the next rank and knew this was something I had to do."

Holsey said that BNCOC was interesting for him and the trainers, who initially questioned whether he would complete his annual physical fitness test.

"BNCOC, for me, was pretty interesting," he said. "They were like, 'You are an amputee. How do we give you your PT test?'" Holsey wanted to participate in physical training and sought guidance from his immediate supervisors so he could perform his annual test.

Holsey said he remains on active duty in part because of the people he has met throughout his career. In fact, he said, one soldier he mentored contacted him many years later just to thank him for his leadership.

"He said, 'Thank you for being there throughout all of the things that I put you through' and 'You were still my sergeant, no matter what,'" Holsey said. "I think that was one of the most memorable things that ... made me realize this is why I want to stay around.'"

(This is the sixth installment of the Wounded Warrior Diaries series. Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg is assigned to the Emerging Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

Defense Department to Allow Photographs of Caskets With Family's Permission

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2009 - The Defense Department will allow the news media to photograph the flag-draped caskets of fallen U.S. troops returning home if their families agree, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. The announcement authorizes family members to choose whether to allow media access to the homecomings at Dover Air Force Base, Del., reversing a long-standing policy barring the press.

"I have decided that the decision regarding media coverage of the dignified transfer process at Dover should be made by those most directly affected -- on an individual basis -- by the families of the fallen," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

"We ought not to presume to make that decision in their place," added Gates, who began reviewing the policy at the request of President Barack Obama.

The Defense Department's choice to shift course was informed by sources that include the military services and groups that represent military families, the secretary said.

But the issue created divisions within the department, Gates said, adding that he was rebuffed when he broached the topic last year, before reaching out more broadly during the most recent policy review.

"I had asked about changing the policy in Dover over a year ago and, although when I got the response that I did -- which recommended no change -- I accepted that at the time," he said. "I must say I was never comfortable with it."

The secretary has appointed a group to quickly develop a plan to implement the policy, which reverses the restriction put in place by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Under the blanket restriction, the media has been barred from photographing the flag-draped caskets of about 3,850 U.S. servicemembers killed in action since 2001.

"I have tasked the working group to examine ways in which we might further assist the families of those who have made the supreme sacrifice for our country," Gates said. He added that he expects the group to work under "short deadlines."

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed that military families deserve foremost consideration in dealing with such issues.

"We've seen so many families go through so much, and in that, they have been extraordinarily strong," Mullen told reporters. "And meeting their needs, their requests in the most dignified, respectful, focused way we can was very much a driver for me in supporting this change.

"Because it is family-centric here more than anything else, I'm very, very supportive," he added.

Afghanistan Operations Not Vulnerable to Supply Line Dangers, General Says

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2009 - Despite dangers U.S. convoys face in delivering supplies to coalition forces in Afghanistan by way of Pakistan, military operations there aren't susceptible to those threats, the Defense Department's top uniformed logistician said yesterday. Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, ensured members of the House Armed Services Joint Air and Land Forces and the Air Power and Expeditionary Forces subcommittees that troops get what they need, because his command doesn't rely on one option or system of resupply.

"My job that you've given to us is to make sure we get supplies through regardless of the attacks, because you don't want to make this a vulnerability," McNabb said. "And I, quite frankly, I don't think it is. With the tools you all have given us, we have lots of options to get the equipment [troops] need in."

About 75 percent of the U.S. supplies troops there receive are delivered via ground convoy hundreds of miles from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan and then through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.

From a logistical perspective, Afghanistan isn't the ideal place for conflict because the land-locked country is made up of mostly desert and mountainous terrain. However, convoys use several different "gates" into Afghanistan along the country's eastern border with Pakistan, McNabb said.

"As we look at that theater ... obviously getting into Afghanistan, there's not a whole bunch of ways to come in, but we make sure we have multiple options," he said.

Attacks on ground convoys have decreased since early January when Pakistani forces began targeting insurgent forces along the Khyber Pass, the general said.

McNabb added that mostly non-combat materials, such as food, water, fuel and construction supplies, are delivered by ground, while military weapons and other "sensitive" equipment are flown in by cargo plane. However, McNabb and other defense officials remain vested in searching for alternate options, possibly routes from countries north of Afghanistan, he said.

Rail and road passages to Afghanistan from China, Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan all have been reported as possible facilitators for U.S. and NATO non-combat supply chains.

Transcom and U.S. Central Command are assessing all of the possible ports as well as airfields in the region as well, McNabb said. Airfields in Bagram and Kandahar, Afghanistan, are available to facilitate non-combat supplies, but they've never been needed, because of the stockpiles of supplies forces have, he said.

Transcom regularly surpasses the daily number of containers delivered by convoy that ground commanders have conveyed as adequate, he said.

"Today I use a measure of 78 containers a day to keep us even with what the forces we have there need," the general explained. "But I try to keep the average above 78, which we usually do."

Transcom's most recent seven-day average was 138 containers per day, he continued. Since early January, troops in Afghanistan have received an average of about 90 containers daily. "We've kind of stayed ahead of the flow," McNabb added.

By spring, however, the first wave of an additional 17,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines will be hitting the ground in Afghanistan to build up forces there, including at least 300 Stryker vehicles, among other vehicles and equipment.

The anticipated drawdown of forces in Iraq while increasing America's military's footprint in Afghanistan will be a difficult mission to manage, but Transcom has everything he needs to get the job done, McNabb said.

Hundreds of cargo planes are at Transcom's disposal should they have to rely on that, more expensive, route, he said. Airfields in Bagram and Kandahar also are available for supply loads.

"As we increase the number of troops in Afghanistan there will be a new number of containers and equipment we'll get in," he said. "We will look at every avenue to get in and look at the cheapest and best way, but if the cheapest and best way doesn't work, we'll figure out another way."

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of four soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Feb. 24 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle.

Killed were:

Capt. Brian M. Bunting, 29, of Potomac, Md. He was a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, assigned to the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Syracuse, N.Y.

Sgt. Schuyler B. Patch, 25, of Owasso Okla. He was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Kewanee, Ill.

Sgt. Scott B. Stream, 39, of Mattoon, Ill. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Effingham, Ill.

Sgt. Daniel J. Thompson, 24, of Madison, Wis. He was a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, assigned to the 715th Military Police Company, Melbourne, Fla.

For more information on Bunting, media may contact Mr. Eric Durr of the New York National Guard at (519) 786-4581.

For more information on Patch and Stream, media may contact Maj. Brad Leighton of the Illinois National Guard at (217) 761-3569.

For more information on Thompson, media may contact Lt. Col. Ron Tittle of the Florida National Guard at (904) 823-0166 or (904) 823-0168.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Army Casualty

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

1st Lt. William E. Emmert, 36, of Lincoln, Tenn., died Feb. 24 in Mosul, Iraq, of wounds suffered when he was shot while participating in a local Iraqi Police function.

The incident is under investigation.

He was assigned to the 269th Military Police Company, 117th Military Police Battalion, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

For more information the media may contact Mr. Randy Harris, Tennessee National Guard at (615) 313-0662.

On the Ground: Base Transfer, Tank Course, Security Meetings Mark Progress

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 25, 2009 - U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to work together to lay the groundwork for a more secure and self-sufficient Iraq. In the past week, coalition forces turned a base over to Iraqi control, combined forces received an update on a high-tech training course and several meetings addressed local residents' security concerns.

Coalition forces transferred authority of Forward Operating Base Iskan to Iraq's Ministry of Electricity during a Feb. 22 ceremony.

"This transfer of authority reinforces the Iraqi government's independence and demonstrates the capabilities of the Iraqis," Army Lt. Col. Steven Miska, commander of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, said.

The ceremony also signified the Iraqi government's capability to secure the Musayyib thermal power plant on the base. The plant provides power to the majority of Iraq's Babil province and 25 percent of the electricity to Baghdad, officials said.

The power plant stopped generating electricity in 2003 due to violence. The last attack on the base occurred in late October, when a mortar attack left many Iraqis without electricity.

"The Iraqis have come to a point where they can stabilize security on and around the [forward operating base] without our help," said Army Capt. Bradley Kinser, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment.

East of Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers and coalition forces traveled to Besmaya Range Complex on Feb. 23 for an update on the new M1A1 Abrams tank training program. The visit included a tour of an Abrams tank, a question-and-answer session, and a ride in the M1A1 designed to demonstrate the speed and maneuverability of the weapons platform.

"We currently have 30 Iraqis in the M1A1 train-the-trainer course for the first phase of the process," said Army Brig. Gen. Steve Salazar, commander of the Joint Headquarters Army Advisory Training Team, Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq. "The second phase will involve these new instructors training the new crews. They are committed to providing the best possible training to the Iraqi army before they receive the first new tanks."

Four American tanks are at the complex, with another 18 slated for delivery in the next month, said Mark Bangsboll, project officer and advisor for the Joint Headquarters Army Advisory Training Team.

"The 22 tanks will be used to train 11 Iraqi tank crews in each of 13 future 45-day rotations," he said. "Iraq has purchased 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks, scheduled for delivery in August 2010."

Elsewhere, U.S. forces addressed Iraqis' security concerns during meetings in Baghdad and Diwaniya province.

Tribal leaders from central and southern Iraq attended a security agreement conference coordinated by Multinational Division Center on Feb. 21 in the Baghdad International Airport Hotel.

U.S. and Iraqi leaders spoke to an audience of more than 50 sheiks on the improved Iraqi army and police capabilities and the U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which calls for U.S. forces to recede to a supporting role of Iraqi security efforts.

"We took the opportunity to explain the security agreement to the sheiks, focusing on the parts we thought would be of particular interest to them," Army Lt. Col. Mike Ryan, staff judge advocate, said. "Then, we gave them the chance to ask whatever questions they had."

The conference marked the first time sheiks from throughout southern Iraq have gathered for a meeting like this, Army Maj. Gino P. Quintiliani, Multinational Division Center's key leader engagement officer, said.

"We got the chance to answer some great questions about the security agreement from them," he said. "We have had a very positive reception."

In Diwaniya province, U.S. forces addressed questions from Iraqi media regarding local residents' concerns Feb. 18 on Camp Echo.

Army Col. Butch Kievenaar, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, attributed the "Warhorse" Brigade's success in the province over the past five months to a close relationship with the 8th Iraqi Army Division and Diwaniya Iraqi police.

"All operations we conduct are combined with the [Iraqi security forces]," he said. "They are truly in the lead. We support them."

About $9 million has been earmarked for spending in the province this year. The money, a combination of U.S. and Iraqi funds, will help to improve the province's agriculture, infrastructure, economy, public health, governance and education system.

The contractors used in projects are Iraqi, Kievenaar explained, with the Iraqi government controlling who is selected for each project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides additional oversight to projects.

Michael S. Klecheski, Diwaniya Provincial Reconstruction Team leader, said a city planner will be added to the PRT staff soon to improve the planning process.

"A lot can be done by planning," Klecheski said. "Our impression is that we can do a lot in Diwaniya City -- there is economic growth, the possibility of an efficient transportation system and, maybe in the future, tourism.

"Our ultimate goal is to help Iraq address the concerns of its citizens," he said.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases. Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little of 172nd Infantry Brigade, Army Pfc. Tyler Maulding of Multinational Division Center and Army Spc. Josh LeCappelain of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team contributed to this article.)

Security Forces Provide Safety Net for Reconstruction Mission

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 25, 2009 - Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Camardo is a self-described pain in the backside. An infantry officer with the Illinois Army National Guard, Camardo is in charge of the security force tasked with keeping the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Paktia province safe as it travels around the region meeting with local leaders and helping to rebuild communities.

They are the nice guys, Camardo said. He is not.

"We worry about security and let them worry about winning the hearts and minds," Camardo said of the reconstruction team. "We've got to do our job. We are a pain, but that's what we're here for."

Camardo's rules to the team are fairly simple, though: Keep your protective gear on all the time; don't move until you're cleared; don't meet until it's cleared; and don't talk to anyone who is not cleared.

A full half of the 80-person PRT is made up of security forces. Camardo's unit, Company B, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry out of Elgin, Ill., is part of a much larger deployment of Illinois National Guard troops. More than 2,700 soldiers are deployed to Afghanistan from the 33rd Brigade Combat Team. Eleven platoons from the state provide security for PRTs here.

The nontraditional mission sometimes is a delicate balance for his troops, Camardo said. On one hand, they are supposed to appear as nonthreatening as possible as they move in and out of villages. On the other hand, they need to project a presence that keeps threats against the team at bay. He compared the image they try to project as that of a porcupine: nonthreatening, but not something you want to mess with.
"It's a very fine line we encounter every time we go out, because we're the guys that roll pretty heavy with weapons," he said.

Camardo admits that, despite his best efforts, it is pretty difficult to not appear threatening, or at least intimidating.

If only two reconstruction team leaders need to go to nearby Gardez City for a meeting, as many as 20 security forces accompany them. They roll down the roads in the massive, mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, heavy machine guns poking from the topside turrets. The soldiers are armed to the teeth. Machine guns, shotguns, pistols, knives and several cartridges of ammunition all are part of the uniform.

"Then we open up our vehicles and hand out [humanitarian assistance] and do it with a smile," Camardo said.

The PRT has a mix of military cultures and personalities that can challenge the traditional infantry unit. It is Air Force-led and has a mix of active-duty, reserve and National Guard soldiers, as well as civilians from the departments of State and Agriculture. Civil affairs, engineer and medical teams work to assess the villages and towns within the province's 14 districts to help the local government determine its needs.

Team members carry weapons for personal protection, but the bulk of their work is done over tea, in meetings with local political, tribal and religious leaders.

Before team members leave the protection of the MRAPs, the security forces dismount to sweep the meeting area. They scan rooftops and windows. They check the crowds for anyone acting suspicious. They memorize the roads to know if something is different from one trip to the next.

Security soldiers are in all meetings, and waiting outside the doors, and still others surround the perimeter of the buildings or huts where the meetings are held. They trust no one, take nothing for granted and are suspicious of everything, platoon leaders said.

The team members "are really nice people, but we can't be nice. Our job is by-the-book," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Schultz, the security force platoon sergeant. "Our job is to bring everybody home safe."

This remote part of eastern Afghanistan is a transit and staging area for enemy fighters. Some parts of the province still are very dangerous. Every day the team is outside of the base, its members face the threat of roadside bombs, car bombs, suicide bombs and drive-by shootings.

PRT officials also said that, at some of the "shuras," or meetings, in the rural villages, they know that sometimes they are talking to members of the Taliban and other insurgent groups who also are tribal leaders.

Air Force Capt. Don Moss, Paktia PRT intelligence officer, said threats vary, depending on whether the team is moving in one of the more urban areas, such as the provincial capital of Gardez City, or in the outlying rural districts.

"The problem with an urban environment is you run into multiple threats from every aspect which are hard to identify in such a fluid environment," Moss said. "You have so many vehicles, people, everything going on. In a city, it makes it almost impossible to track everything that's going on."

Few roads also mean limited options for escape routes, Moss said.

In is sometimes easier to spot threats in rural areas, Moss said. But the mountainous terrain is the stomping grounds of the enemy fighters, giving them a home-field advantage. Also, because the security team travels the roads less often, it is harder to spot anything out of the ordinary.

This is especially true in the Zormat district, the most dangerous in the province. Last year, two PRT members died in a roadside bombing there.

"We don't have PRT painted on our convoy. There's nothing identifying us from another convoy," Moss said.

Moss predicts an active spring and summer for the province. Projects in Zormat have been on hold because of the dangers there, but this team plans to re-engage local leaders and to try to launch rebuilding efforts. This is complicated further by the many, varying tribes claiming the area. There is no central tribal leadership for PRT officials to work with, and the area is a main traffic point for insurgents crossing the Pakistan border into Afghanistan.

"As the intel guy, it scares the hell out of me to send massive efforts down to Zormat," Moss said. "At the same time, if you're going to quell an insurgency, you're not going to quell it on the sidelines."

Because of a relatively mild winter, Moss said, he already is seeing reports of bombings within the province and expects them to become a daily event come spring.

Arriving at a location can be chaotic for security forces, and a task to maintain focus and control. Kids rush the convoys looking for handouts of blankets, food and clothes. Even the Afghan forces approach the security forces looking for field rations and other goodies.

The security forces typically work 12- to 14-hour days, six days a week. A four-hour mission in the city can take a day of planning, and longer missions can take several days.

The team has run more than 200 missions outside the wire since deploying here in November, and the tempo is expected to accelerate as the winter weather clears.

The long days and long missions wear on the platoon, its leaders said.

"It's a lot of stress on the young guys. As soon as we roll out of the wire, we've got to worry about someone trying to kill us," Camardo said.

And, while the group had not yet been hit, their leaders say it is inevitable. That is enough to keep the guys on their toes.

"The constant reminder of it keeps them focused," Camardo said.

Despite the risks, most of the soldiers say they understand and appreciate the mission here. And they don't mind the more defensive posture, opposite that of their traditional role of busting down doors and searching for bad guys.

Here, they see the poverty, the lack of schools, medical clinics and other infrastructure, and they appreciate the efforts of the other team members to bring hope to the suffering population.

"I can justify in my head this mission," Camardo said. "It's not infantry stuff, but we are making a difference. And the only way we're going to get out of Afghanistan, in my opinion, is by helping the people help themselves."