Saturday, October 31, 2009

Army Casualty

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

Pfc. Brian R. Bates, Jr., 20, of Gretna, La., died Oct. 27 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

For more information media may contact the Fort Lewis public affairs office at (253) 967-0152, (253) 967-0147 or after hours at (253) 967-0015 (ask for the Public Affairs Officer on call).

Air Force Casualty

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

Frank R. Walker, 66, of Oklahoma City, Okla., died of non-combat related medical causes Oct 28 at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 72nd Civil Engineering Directorate, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

For further information related to this release, contact Tinker Air Force Base Public Affairs, (405) 739-2030.

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, October 30, 2009

Lawmakers delay vote on biosecurity bill, wait for administration input
"A key U.S. Senate committee yesterday delayed the vote on legislation aimed at strengthening security at the country's biological research facilities. The Homeland Security and Government Affairs put off for at least a week the mark-up of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009 to allow the Obama administration additional time to comment on the bill, said panel Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-CT.). The legislation […] would require the Homeland Security Department to issue security regulations for laboratories. It would divide the government's list of select agents and toxins into three tiers, compelling facilities that handle the eight to 10 most harmful pathogens to institute the highest security. The measure also calls for a national strategy for dispensing medical countermeasures to the public before and after a biological attack. […] The bill would affect some 400 U.S. research facilities and the nearly 15,000 individuals authorized to handle deadly pathogens." (Global Security Newswire; 29Oct09; Martin Matishak)

DHS [Department of Homeland Security] proposes guidance for anthrax [sic] responders
"In conjunction with an interagency task force, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced new proposed guidance for protecting the health of emergency responders during an anthrax attack [sic] on a major U.S. city. 'Protecting our first responders during terrorist attacks is critical to our nation's security,' said Secretary Napolitano. […] 'It is essential that all responders have the appropriate protections available to them to be able to operate while minimizing exposure to these lethal threats,' said Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alexander Garza. 'This proposed guidance will help keep responders healthy and safe while remaining consistent with operational realities.' The proposed guidance recommends protective measures such as personal protective equipment and decontamination and hygiene procedures for first responders, public health and medical professionals, skilled support personnel, essential workers in critical infrastructure sectors, certain federal and private sector employees, and volunteers." (U.S. Department of Homeland Security; 27Oct09)

Kent State named biosafety training school [OH]
"Kent State University has been named the nation's second designated training facility for biosafety and biocontainment professionals. The university's designation was conferred by the National Institutes of Health's National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program, making Kent the second facility in the country to receive that designation. As such, the university's Biosafety Training Lab becomes a continuing education training site to prepare biosafety and biocontainment professionals to meet the needs of the biomedical, emerging disease and civilian biodefense research communities." (United Press International; 26Oct09)

AgCenter [agriculture chemistry] lab joins group testing food [LA]
"A state agricultural chemistry lab has become part of a network of food-testing labs, created for quick response to contaminated food emergencies. The laboratory, a joint endeavor between the state agriculture department and the LSU AgCenter, is the third in Louisiana to join the Food Emergency Response Network, or FERN, a news release stated. FERN is a network of federal, state and local food-testing labs that will allow officials faster results on potential biological, chemical or radiological food contamination. The agricultural chemistry lab on LSU's campus, already had the capability to analyze food for bacterial and chemical contamination, but new equipment purchased through an emergency preparedness grant will allow the lab to analyze a larger number of samples more rapidly during food safety emergencies." (Advocate Capitol News Bureau; 30Oct09 )

Other nations fear Hendra virus, conference told
"Overseas researchers were investing in Hendra virus research, despite it occurring only in Australia, because of fears it may be used in biological warfare. […] Dr [Peter] Reid, who was the veterinarian involved in the first known Hendra outbreak that claimed the life of horse trainer Vic Rail in 1994, said the virus and its relative, the Nipah virus, were so lethal that the US considered it a homeland security threat. 'Americans see it as a potential bioterrorism weapon that's why (the department of) Homeland Security are funding research into viruses in bats,' Dr Reid said. 'There is no effective treatment or vaccine for Hendra or Nipah and the mortality rate is high.' […] Hendra, so far, is only known to be transmitted from bats to horses and from horses to humans. There have been no bat-to-human or human-to-human transmissions. […] Dr Reid warned against complacency […and] said it was his gut feeling that the virus was becoming more contagious, with more outbreaks in the past four years. […] QHC [Quality Health Care] president Debbie Dekker said simple biosecurity measures such as wearing safety glasses, gloves, rubber boots and a mask would prevent infection." (News Australia; 29Oct09; Source: Australian Associated Press),27574,26276700-29277,00.html

Harvard researchers drank coffee tainted with sodium azide [MA]
"According to the Boston Herald, researchers at the Harvard University pathology department drank coffee tainted with sodium azide. […] The toxin was identified weeks after the incident, in which a combination of six doctors and students all came down with the same symptoms immediately after drinking coffee made from the tainted coffee pot. […] The researchers went to the hospital for treatment, and were later released; one stayed overnight. Harvard University did not officially release the news about the tainted coffee to the public, but an internal school memo was but out on Friday, confirming that the coffee machine did have sodium azide, a chemical preservative commonly used in lab settings. The question now is, where the lab workers poisoned, or was this a case of mistaken tainted coffee? […] Although the Harvard University lab workers have all recovered, the potential long-term effects of sodium azide include damage to the heart and brain." (San Francisco Examiner; 25Oct09; Brenna Coleman)

Iraqi Supreme Court: 460 foreign companies sold chemical weapons to [former Iraqi president] Saddam [Hussein]
"Four-hundred and sixty foreign companies sold chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein's ousted Iraqi regime, yet the current Iraqi government-despite vowing to pursue those companies has filed no lawsuits in court against them, says Goran Adham, chief prosecutor in Iraq's Supreme Criminal Court. The companies are American, Russian, German, Dutch, Japanese, Indian, Greek, and other nationalities, stated Adham. […] 'The Iraqi government is delinquent in questioning those companies that sold chemical weapons to the Baath Regime,' says Mohammad Ahmed, head of the Martyrs, Victims and Political Prisoners Committee in Iraqi Parliament." (Kurdish Globe; 25Oct09)

Destruction plant [used for chemical agents stored at the Blue Grass Army depot] taking shape [Richmond, KY]
"The complex that will destroy the 523 tons of chemical agents stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot began taking shape in mid-September as workers began erecting the steel framework for two of its 11 buildings. Soon after the Defense Department's explosives safety board approved design of the plant's blast containment building earlier in the summer, contractor Bechtel Parsons Bluegrass began putting structural steel in place for it, as well as the controls and support building, according to Jeff Brubaker, site manager for the Army's Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternative (ACWA) program. The containment building must be blast proof, because that is where explosives and propellants will be separated from the chemical warheads. Work also is under way on the tanks that will store water for the complex's firefighting service, he said. […] Now that construction has begun to accelerate, the site manager said the media and local officials will be given monthly briefings in addition to the quarterly updates given to the Chemical Destruction Chemical Advisory Board." (Richmond Register; 26Oct09; Bill Robinson)

Reuse plan proposed for Ind[iana] chemical depot
"A plan that proposes to open up much of the Army's Newport Chemical Depot in western Indiana to business development could soon be sent to military officials. The depot that for decades produced and stored a deadly nerve agent is scheduled to close in the next couple years and is winding down operations after VX stockpile destruction was completed in 2008. The depot reuse board made up of 5 Vermillion County residents is recommending that nearly 3,500 acres be set aside for potential development, along with 2,400 acres for natural areas and parkland and 1,200 acres for agriculture. The board expects to vote on the plan Nov. 19." (WSJV Fox 28; 29Oct09; Source: AP)

[Nord Stream natural gas] pipeline renews debate on sea-dumped chemical weapons
"Concern over sea-dumped chemical weapons such as the mustards that washed up in Wales is growing, particularly in the Baltic Sea - the site of the dumping of 40,000 tonnes of surplus and seized chemical weapons in the years following World War II and the proposed site of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany. […] Vaidotas Verba, Lithuania's ambassador to the Netherlands and to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, hopes to spread awareness of this sea-borne hazard and build momentum for a draft resolution to be presented at the U.N. General Assembly next fall. 'The full extent of chemical weapons dumping will never be known due to inadequate or destroyed records,' Verba told a room of officials and experts at the Washington offices of the environmental non-profit Global Green USA Monday. In addition to the Baltic, abandoned chemical weapons have been dumped in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the North and Mediterranean seas, as well as off the coast of Australia and the Hawaiian island of Oahu, he said. The Nord Stream project has refocused attention on this issue. The Helsinki Commission […] determined that the best way to deal with these materials on the sea floor is to identify where they are and leave them alone. But laying the two parallel 122-cm Nord Stream pipelines would run a strong risk of disrupting at least a few dumpsites, despite the construction company's continuing efforts to lay a route that avoids known sites and its disposal, currently underway, of unexploded ordnances in the pipeline's path." (Inner Press Service; 20Oct09; Matthew Berger)

Paint [coating for military vehicles] to thwart chemical [weapons] attack
"Scientists are planning to develop a paint coating for military vehicles which would soak up a chemical warfare agent and then decontaminate itself. The technology could protect those operating in or around a vehicle after a chemical attack. It would be adapted from strippable coatings currently used to provide temporary camouflage for vehicles. The development work is being carried out by the UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL). Dr Steven Mitchell, from DSTL's headquarters at Porton Down in Wiltshire, said the next generation of coatings could be engineered to absorb chemical warfare agents. […] 'Ultimately, what we'd like to create is a coating that changes colour to indicate it's been contaminated, decontaminates itself, then returns to the original colour when it's clean,' said Dr Mitchell, acting team leader for hazard management and decontamination at DSTL. […] Strippable - or peelable - coatings are used when a new camouflage is required, changing a vehicle's colour from green to, for example, 'light stone' in order to blend with desert terrain. But even if something is not visible from far away, it may reveal itself by reflecting sunlight; the paint can also alter the vehicle's glint signature helping conceal it from hostile troops." (British Broadcasting Corporation; 26Oct09; Paul Rincon)

Boston Dynamics introduces bipedal robot PETMAN [used to test chemical protection clothing by the U.S Army]
"Engineering and robotics design company Boston Dynamics has produced a new anthropomorphic human robot. The new bipedal robot will be used to test chemical protection clothing used by the U.S. Army. According to a Boston Dynamics release, the robot will have the shape and size of a standard human, making it the first anthropomorphic robot that moves dynamically like a real person. […] PETMAN will balance itself and move freely. It will be able to walk, crawl and do a variety of suit-stressing activities during exposure to chemical warfare agents." (My Fox Boston; 27Oct09)

Israel's first secure ER [emergency room] protects patients from chemical warfare
"The Rambam Hospital in Haifa dedicated this week a new $14 million emergency facility that provides protection from missiles and chemical weapons that Israel believes may be in Hizbullah's possession. […] The new emergency room is the first stage of a plan that includes the establishment of a secure underground hospital for 1,730 patients, a children's hospital and facilities for cancer care and for cardiac treatment, and a tower for clinical research. Government sources provided one quarter of the construction costs, and private donors and organizations provided the remainder. The new emergency room complex, when completed, will be more than three times larger than the previous facility, covering three-quarters of an acre with the ability to treat 60 patients simultaneously, according to Rambam Health Care Campus director Prof. Rafi Beyar." (Arutz Sheva; 27Oct09; Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu)

[Bradford] University highlights spray fears [West Yorkshire, England]
"Research by Bradford University has highlighted the dangers of incapacitating chemical weapons and the widespread misuse of riot control agents. A report by the Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project (BNLWRP), based at the university, has highlighted the inability of the international control regime, established under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to regulate incapacitants effectively. The report, Dangerous Ambiguities, warns of the devastating consequences for human rights, peace and security if it is not addressed. It identifies an incident seven years ago today when Russian security forces employed a secret incapacitating chemical weapon in their attempt to free 800 hostages in a Moscow theatre taken by armed Chechen fighters. More than 120 hostages were killed by the incapacitant. […] The university has said despite reports of further Russian research and use of incapacitants, the international community has refused to address the dangers of the development and proliferation of such weapons. The BNLWRP report identifies incapacitant research of concern in China, the Czech Republic and the United States, as well as interest shown in such agents by France, the UK, NATO and the European Defence Agency." (Telegraph and Argus; 29Oct09; James Rush)

Arcadia hospital takes a practice run at disaster [CA]
"Dozens of nurses, hospital administrators, volunteers and decontamination specialists gathered at Methodist Hospital on Thursday morning to practice their responses to a dirty bomb detonation. The drill imagined a scenario in which terrorists explode a bomb with radioactive material at the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, exposing hundreds of victims to radiation. 'We want to be prepared, because if there's a terrorist attack or a disaster, the hospital is a first responder,' said George Diaz, the hospital's safety officer. […] Workers practiced attending to 200 victims in a cordoned-off area outside. The victims were played by a group of about 50 high school students from nearby Rio Hondo Preparatory School. Each student was dropped off in front of a decontamination trailer where they were doused in a cold shower by workers in decontamination suits. Afterward, a specialist checked each victim's radiation level with a Geiger counter. Then the victims were greeted, registered, and sorted to color-coded mats that told workers the severity of each person's medical condition." (Pasadena Star News; 22Oct09; Alfred Lee)

Warwick accident tests disaster response [NY]
"On Oct. 10, there […] was a mock exercise and a community disaster drill, designed to test the ability of St. Anthony Community Hospital and other first responders to deal with […radiological] emergencies. […] 'This was a two-phase drill' […] said Joie Ogrodnick, R.N., emergency room nurse manager and emergency preparedness coordinator for St. Anthony Community Hospital. 'There was water decontamination at the site and another for a victim that arrived at the hospital.' […] During Phase 2, the mock explosion at Sanfordville School, all victims were brought to the front of the hospital. They were then triaged on arrival and set to appropriate treatment areas based on their triage tag and secondary assessment. Ogrodnick said a coordinated response is critical when an emergency has the potential to affect the entire region. She added that it is important to provide mutual aid and to test skills, plans and communication systems to see what works and to fix what doesn't. […] St. Anthony Community Hospital had previously offered radiological training to participating agencies in January." (Times Herald Record; 26Oct09)

Counter terrorism simulation conducted downtown [Indianapolis, IN]
"55 IU [Indiana University] Law School students joined Emergency Management staff Friday in a large scale counter-terrorism simulation in Indianapolis. The simulation was a dirty bomb explosion at Lucas Oil Stadium along with an attack on Washington, D.C. and in the Middle East. IU Law School Associate Professor Shawn Boyne says the students have studied national security and can read all the books they want, but they need the simulation to experience what happens when different agencies try to work together. The simulation was also shown live online for the public to see how emergency management agencies respond to terrorist attacks." (WIBC Indiana News; 23Oct09; Reed Parker)

U.S., Kazakhstan, Norway complete major joint border security and nonproliferation effort
"The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Administration of the Customs Control Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan (KCCC) and the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan today to recognize the successful installation of radiation detection equipment at four border crossings and one international airport in Kazakhstan. Today's ceremony also recognized the effective cooperation between the U.S., Kazakhstan and Norway in preventing illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive material across Kazakhstan's borders. […] NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Kenneth Baker [said] 'The commissioning of the radiation detection systems at Kazakhstan's borders represents an important step forward in increasing transcontinental security. We will continue to strengthen our cooperation as we work together to complete installation of the radiation detection systems at other sites in Kazakhstan.'" (NNSA; 29Oct09)

NNSA provides training to medical responders in Kuwait
"The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), in cooperation Kuwait's Ministry of Health's (MOH) Medical Emergency Department, this week held a three-day workshop on radiological contamination and accident casualties aimed at further developing Kuwait's strategic crisis response plan. 'As part of NNSA's comprehensive approach to nuclear and radiological incident response, emergency radiation medical training leverages decades of unique experience through our Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site,' said NNSA Associate Administrator for Emergency Operations Joseph Krol. 'We are pleased to be working with the Kuwait's Ministry of Health to strengthen cooperation on nuclear and radiological incident response.' […] The workshop in Kuwait will train over 50 MOH and Ministry of Defense physicians to respond and treat radiological casualties. […] The training also prepares the medical response community to effectively respond to radiological terrorism." (NNSA; 27Oct09)

Ukraine refuses to hold CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] anti-terrorist drills on its territory
"Ukraine has refused permission for the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center to hold anti-terrorist exercises on its territory, CIS Anti-Terrorist Center head Colonel-General Andrei Novikov said. 'Unfortunately, Ukraine has refused to hold such exercises on its territory and instead we are holding an international conference on the prevention of nuclear terrorism in Moscow," he told reporters on Wednesday. When asked why Ukraine had declined to hold large-scale military exercises on nuclear terrorism prevention, Novikov said: 'The refusal to hold the exercises in Ukraine was given with reference to the country's constitution, which bans foreign military units from operating on its territory,' he said." (Kyiv Post; 29Oct09; Source: Interfax)

N[orth] Korean bank labeled WMD proliferator
"A North Korean bank and its president were designated as proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. Treasury Department said Friday. Amroggang Development Bank was designated as a WMD proliferator because it is controlled by North Korea's Tanchon Commercial Bank, already sanctioned by the United States and the United Nations for its involvement in Pyongyang's nuclear activities, the Treasury Department said in a news release. Tanchon's president, Kim Tong Myong, was included in the designation, the department said. Myong held various positions with Tanchon since at least 2002, and helped manage Amroggang's affairs. 'As long as North Korea continues to try to evade sanctions and obscure its illicit proliferation transactions, we will take steps to combat that activity and protect the integrity of the international financial system,' Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey said. Executive Order 13382 freezes the assets of designated proliferators of WMDs and their supporters, and bars U.S. residents from engaging in any transactions with them." (United Press International; 23Oct09)

Fort Wayne [IN] fire fighter, union leader Ridley appointed an IAFF [International Association of Fire Fighters] director
"International Association of Fire Fighters [IAFF] General President Harold Schaitberger has appointed James 'Jim' Ridley director of the IAFF Hazardous Materials and Weapons of Mass Destruction Training Department. Ridley, a career fire fighter for 29 years, was president of IAFF Local 124 in Fort Wayne for 11 years. 'I'm honored to be asked to take over a program that's so important to the health and safety of first responders,' Ridley said. The IAFF operates the largest HazMat/WMD training program in North America. […] More than 4,000 training programs have been delivered to 91,315 emergency responders. The IAFF also has trained approximately 2,362 instructors who have gone on to provide training to an estimated 59,000 additional emergency responders. […] 'Jim's experience makes him a perfect fit for this important job at the IAFF,' Schaitberger said." (Frost Illustrated; 28Oct09)

Recent Battelle contracts top $70M
"Columbus research and development giant Battelle has won several multimillion-dollar federal contracts that tap into the firm's work on responding to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear events. The seven contracts Battelle disclosed total about $74 million and range in value from a $4.5 million deal for design of robotic systems to a two-year, $15 million U.S. Air Force contract for medical support in the event of contamination from a weapon of mass destruction. Other deals Battelle announced this week [include] a $9.2 million contract to run studies and analysis for the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine to protect personnel against chemical, biological and other hazards [and] a $9.6 million contract with the Army for defense research aimed at looking at potential gaps in training and organization tied to chemical and biological events." (Columbus Business First; 16Oct09)

Pike EMS [Emergency Management Services] adds HAZMAT response vehicle [Pikeville, WV]
"The Pike County Office of Emergency Management was recently awarded permanent use of a Weapons of Mass Destruction/Hazardous Materials Response Unit. The truck and trailer - valued at $250,000 - has been in Johnson County for a few years and was given to Pike County after Pike County Emergency Management Director Doug Tackett requested its use during the most recent meeting of the Area 9 WMD/Hazardous Materials Response Team Board of Directors meeting. 'This trailer just adds to Pike County's arsenal of things we can do to help the people of this county in the event of a disaster,' Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford said. […] Tackett said, 'If there were to be white powder threat or a problem with radiation, we can handle it now. This truck and trailer just gives us more ammunition for when and if we need it.'" (Williamson Daily News; 27Oct09)

Missouri National Guard trains with Oklahoma City bombing responders [Fort Leonard Wood, MO]
"Teamed with several military organizations, the 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team from Fort Leonard Wood participated in confined space training on Oct. 20 and 21 as part of Operation Joint Eagle in Camp Gruber, Okla. […] The exercise was conducted by Response International Group, an organization composed of several of the firefighters who responded to the Oklahoma City bombing. The unit worked with the Illinois National Guard's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package [CERFP]. […] CERFP teams respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high yield explosive incident or other catastrophic events and assist local, state and federal agencies in conducting consequence management. […] They consist of both Army and Air National Guard assets working together in support of civilian emergency personnel for a strong, unified response team. […] The 63rd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, of Oklahoma, and an active-duty Marine Chemical and Biological Incident Response Force also took part in the exercise. […] For this exercise, the unit's mission was to gather intelligence about the site of the catastrophe, monitor the air quality at the site, determine the source of any type of found contamination and search for and assist injured survivors." (Pulaski County Daily; 27Oct09; Matthew J. Wilson)

Elaborate emergency drill held in Bristol [VA]
"The nine-man [Bristol, Virginia] SWAT team, along with nearly a dozen area rescue agencies, swarmed Rhode Island Avenue for a mock disaster exercise [Thursday morning], and participants called it the most elaborate emergency drill the city's ever seen. […] The two-day drill is co-hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to test the city's emergency preparedness. Thursday's fake crisis was a doozy: Armed anarchists were, among other things, cooking meth, assembling radioactive weaponry and holding victims of a Wednesday night carjacking hostage. Six SWAT members went inside the warehouse, but only five came out standing. The sixth got hung up on a pretend nerve gas booby trap, and his team had to rush him outside to safety. The remainder of the team battled terrorists armed with airsoft pistols, then hopped trip wires and secured a dirty bomb lab. […] All of the departments will get an evaluation from the EPA, noting any weaknesses. But, the police department is confident they did a pretty good job." (Tri-Cities News Source; 30Oct09)

European Commission finalizing plan to bolster WMD defenses
"An action plan that seeks to strengthen European Union defenses against the threat of a WMD attack is being considered for enactment by the close of 2009, Europolitics Environment reported. Sponsored by the European Commission […] the plan is composed of 113 measures that fall under three themes: stopping terrorist organizations from acquiring WMD materials, strengthening WMD detection efforts, and making sure that the European Union is able to respond quickly and effectively to any chemical, biological or nuclear attack. It is expected to require $148 million to carry out the plan over a four-year period beginning in 2010. […] While EU states would retain the majority of responsibility in defending themselves individually against unconventional weapons, the commission has said its members should pursue greater collaboration and better information flow." (Global Security Newswire; 30Oct09)

U.S. led initiative to avert WMD transfer holds drill in Singapore
"A large-scale maritime drill under a U.S.-led initiative to prevent the transfer of weapons of mass destruction at sea began Tuesday in Singapore. More than 2,000 security personnel from 19 countries, including the United States and Japan, are taking part in the four-day exercise, code-named Exercise Deep Sabre 2. The U.S. led Proliferation Security Initiative, launched in 2003, is intended to prevent WMD materials from falling into the hands of terrorist groups and so-called rogue nations. Some 18 vessels and eight aircraft are involved in the exercise at Changi Naval Base on the eastern coast of Singapore and the South China Sea. The number of participating countries has increased to 19 from 13 in the last time the annual exercise was held in Singapore. Japan has sent about 240 personnel, a destroyer and two naval planes for search operations. […] Among the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN], only Singapore, the Philippines, Cambodia and Brunei have agreed to back the PSI [Proliferation Security Initiative]. […] Speaking at the opening ceremony of the PSI exercise Tuesday, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also defense minister, called for more countries to join the PSI. Three non-PSI members - Malaysia, India and Pakistan - are also taking part in the exercise." (Breibart; 27Oct09)

Armies drilling nonconventional attacks
"Some 2,000 American and Israeli military personnel, together with missile batteries and radar, are moving into positions around the country, as the first phase of the Juniper Cobra missile defense exercise unfolds. Israeli soldiers from the Home Front Command and American soldiers from the Ohio National Guard's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force (CERF) have already begun drilling a scenario in which missiles with nonconventional warheads are fired at Israeli cities. US Army spokesman Maj. Daniel J. Meyers stressed that the exercises were routine, and one of many simulations being held by the armed forces of both. 'Israelis and US soldiers need to train to prepare for the defense of their countries, whether that training involves firing a weapon or preparing for any scenario,' Meyers told The Jerusalem Post. […] During the Home Front Command-Ohio National Guard CERF exercise, chemical protection suits were donned by participants, and soldiers in protective suits were hosed down with water to practice avoiding overheating. This year's Juniper Cobra (they take place every two years) lasts until November 5." (Jerusalem Post; 25Oct09; Yaakov Lappin)

International Forces Train Afghans in Critical Care

By Army Capt. James Bressendorff
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 30, 2009 - U.S. and other international troops in Afghanistan recently provided training in critical patient care and blood processing to Afghan doctors that they hope will spread throughout the country. Afghan and coalition mentors from the National Military Hospital in Kabul provided the first-of-its-kind training here Oct. 19-22. The two courses were designed to fill shortfalls in health care provider training, as well as strengthen the Afghans' ability to provide quality care within the critical moments after an incident occurs.

"It's very important to have this kind of training because of the sustainment aspect," said U.S. Air Force Col. Lorn Heyne, chief of the medical embedded training team at Kandahar Regional Military Hospital. "As these young providers grow in their ability to provide care to the wounded soldiers here, they will eventually move on. They will have the opportunity to train other providers and they will go on and they will treat civilians. Having this basic critical care knowledge is invaluable to the sustainment of the medical care system in all of Afghanistan."

The importance of the training also was underscored by the Kandahar hospital's commander.

"This training is very important for us," said Col. Abdul Baseer. "About two years ago when we started our hospital here, our doctors were not as strong in their practice as they could have been. Since then, mentors and doctors came from the capital, from other provinces, to help train our hospital staff, and the staff's [capability] kept growing better ... it's very good."

In addition to the critical combat care, hospital staff were trained on blood component processes, as well.

"Basically, what we did was work on some blood component production, which is essentially the collection of whole blood, the centrifugation and splitting of the plasma and red cell portions into separate components," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Leslie Riggs, medical embedded team mentor for the National Military Hospital. "Essentially what that does is it allows for better transfusion therapy for the patient."

Another benefit of the training was to implement an Afghanistan-wide standardization of how to treat and store blood and associated components.

"We want to organize all regional hospital blood banks to work the same way," said Dr. Mohammad Sakhi, blood bank supervisor and quality control manager for the National Medical Hospital.

Although the success of most training is not measurable until a crisis occurs, the training did have some tangible results.

"I think, so far, the training is a success. The proof of that is in the refrigerator and in the freezer right now," Riggs said. "The blood units and the plasma are ready when needed. We don't like to have to use those products, but they're there if needed."

Riggs also commented on one aspect of the training he finds most important.

"The important thing I think that we've seen from this visit is Afghans teaching Afghans, which has been one of the most important things," Riggs said. "I've come down to help arrange the visit, provided some background knowledge, but my mentee was able to sit this morning and teach one-on-one with his Afghan counterparts here in Kandahar how to do the job ... essentially they did it themselves."

(Army Capt. James Bressendorff serves with the 205th Corps public affairs mentor team.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Forces Arrest Terrorism Suspects in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 30, 2009 - Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. forces advisors, detained several terrorism suspects in Iraq in recent days, including one believed responsible for the Oct. 11 bombing in Ramadi, military officials reported. Special weapons and tactics personnel and U.S. forces advisors, under the direction of the Iraqi military and the Anbar Operations Center, detained a suspect Oct. 25 in Hit, northwest of Ramadi. The man is suspected in the planning and coordination of the Oct. 11 attacks on the Ramadi provincial government center and hospital.

The suspect is believed to be coordinate vehicle-borne explosives for an al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist cell and is believed to have coordinated the movement of materials and personnel used in the attacks.

Meanwhile, the Ramadi counter-terrorism unit, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq operative Oct. 26 near Ramadi.

The man is charged in a warrant with being involved in insurgent activity. The Iraqi unit arrested two other suspects for questioning due to their links to the suspect.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Joseph L. Gallegos, 39, of Questa, N.M., died Oct. 28 in Tallil, Iraq, in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 720th Transportation Company, New Mexico Army National Guard, in Las Vegas, N.M.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

For more information media may contact the New Mexico Army National Guard public affairs office at 505-417-1751.

Combined Force Detains Suspected Militants

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 30, 2009 - Afghan and international security forces detained several suspected militants in Afghanistan's Paktia and Helmland provinces today and yesterday, military officials reported. A combined force detained a group of suspected militants in Paktia province today after searching buildings known to be used by a Haqqani network leader responsible for the financing and supply of terrorist camps in the Khowst-Gardez Pass area.

The security force targeted the buildings near Kandaw Kalay village after intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force detained the suspects after searching the compound without incident. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

The Haqqani terrorist network has developed an extensive system of supply routes in eastern Afghanistan used to arm, man and equip its militant elements and training camps within the country, officials said. Afghan and international security forces are partnering to block the routes and ensure the safety and well-being of the Afghan people.

Elsewhere, a combined force detained suspected militants yesterday in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province during a search of a compound known to be used by a senior Taliban commander with numerous connections to other Taliban commanders and Taliban shadow government leaders in the region.

The security force searched the compound near Barang village after intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force searched the compound without incident and detained the suspected militants. No shots were fired, and no one was injured.

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.)

Advanced Radar Improves Iraqi Air Surveillance

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 30, 2009 - The Iraqi air force significantly enhanced its air defense capabilities recently with the arrival of a digital air surveillance radar system. The DASR system, which includes the radar and the radar control facility, allows Iraqi air traffic controllers to monitor aircraft up to 120 nautical miles away, permitting them to detect aircraft along their borders with Syria, Turkey and Iran.

Brig. Gen. Ahmed Ghani, Iraqi air force communications director, called the arrival of the system "another historical day" for the service. "Through that system, we will identify more ... aircraft entering our sovereignty," he said at an Oct. 26 ceremony.

The radar signal eventually will be remotely accessible from Baghdad International Airport so air traffic controllers can see all the airspace in Iraq.

The system also brings the Kirkuk airfield up to international civil aviation and surveillance standards, giving it the potential for future commercial airline use.

"We started this process by installing over $53 million of air traffic control and navigation capabilities for the Iraqi air force more than three years ago," U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Kane, director of the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission Air Force, said.

"Beginning in August of 2006, our governments, air forces and civilian contractors cooperated to not only fund the purchase of this highly technical equipment, but to train the Iraqi air force personnel how to use it and maintain it," Kane said. "I'm very proud to say that the Iraqi air force now possesses these capabilities."

(From a Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news release.)

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Robert K. Charlton, 22, of Malden, Mo., died Oct. 27 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident Oct. 23 in Wardak, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

The circumstances surrounding the non-combat related incident are under investigation.

For more information media may contact the Fort Drum public affairs office at 315-772-7267, or after hours at 315-778-5759.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of seven soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Oct. 26 of wounds suffered when the MH-47 helicopter they were aboard crashed in Darreh-ye Bum, Afghanistan.

Killed were five soldiers assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.:

Chief Warrant Officer Michael P. Montgomery, 36, of Savannah, Ga.

Chief Warrant Officer Niall Lyons, 40, of Spokane, Wash.

Staff Sgt. Shawn H. McNabb, 24, of Terrell, Texas.

Sgt. Josue E. Hernandez Chavez, 23, of Reno, Nev.

Sgt. Nikolas A. Mueller, 26, of Little Chute, Wisc.

Also killed were two soldiers assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.:

Sgt. 1st Class David E. Metzger, 32, of San Diego.

Staff Sgt. Keith R. Bishop, 28, of Medford, N.Y.

For more information media may contact the Army Special Operations Command public affairs office at 910-432-6005; after hours 910-689-6187, or visit

Department Takes Steps to Reduce Casualties

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 29, 2009 - Defense Department officials have taken steps to stem mounting casualties in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said here today. October has become the deadliest month for American servicemembers in Afghanistan, with 56 killed, and Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has no higher mission than ensuring troops have everything they need to protect themselves from improvised explosive devices and other threats.

Some assets already are moving to Afghanistan, he noted, including additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The theater also is receiving the most advanced drones and new platforms such as the MC-12.

"Last month, ... Secretary Gates ordered nearly 3,000 enablers, including additional route clearance and explosive ordnance disposal teams, into Afghanistan," Morrell said. The teams comb routes to locate and defuse roadside bombs before they go off.

The department also is sending new mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as M-ATVs, to the country. The all-terrain vehicles are designed to operate in the Afghan country and towns and are smaller and more maneuverable than the large vehicles that were successful in Iraq.

"The M-ATVs are being delivered by air as fast as we can get them off the factory floor, with hundreds due to be fielded to our warfighters by year's end," Morrell said.

American forces are not the only ones making sacrifices, Morrell noted, as NATO allies, Afghan forces, United Nations aid workers and the Afghan people have suffered from the terrorist strikes in the country.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen and also with their comrades in arms, who continue to press ahead courageously in the face of danger," he said.

And the casualties will continue, because the enemy believes they have an advantage, Morrell said. The 68,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan are the most ever, and enemy fighters have stepped up their use of roadside bombs to target them.

"We expect our troops will continue to be targeted by improvised explosive devices, the No. 1 killer in Afghanistan," he said.

U.S. Seeks to Counter Enemy's 'Weapon of Choice'

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 29, 2009 - The Defense Department expects U.S. forces in Afghanistan to continue to be targeted by improvised explosive devices -- which have claimed more lives there than any other weapon -- while it seeks ways to counter the threat, officials said. As President Barack Obama and his advisors weigh decisions on the next phase of the Afghan war, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is working to protect against and defeat the growing threat from IEDs, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today, noting that October has been the deadliest month for U.S. forces in the eight-year war.

"Secretary Gates is working to ensure that this department continues to do everything possible to provide our men and women in uniform with the very best protection and capabilities to defeat the growing IED threat," Morrell said in a news conference at the Pentagon.

More intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, including the most advanced drones and other equipment, are among the supplies the department is working to field to troops in Afghanistan, where one defense official today said the IED has emerged as the enemy's preferred means of attack.

Gates last month ordered nearly 3,000 extra route clearance and explosive ordnance disposal teams and other key personnel downrange, in addition to a parcel of the more than 6,600 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles designed specifically for Afghanistan's rugged terrain that the department plans to field.

Morrell has said previously the department would like the M-ATVs, as the vehicles are known, to have an effect in Afghanistan similar to the one that the original MRAP vehicles had when they were delivered en masse to Iraq, leading to a reduction in casualties resulting from roadside bombs.

"Even with all these additional counter-IED resources, there will no doubt be many difficult and dangerous days ahead for our forces," Morrell cautioned.

A Defense Department component dedicated to countering the IED threat, meanwhile, indicated that use of the makeshift bombs has gained widespread appeal among insurgents in Afghanistan.

"Although initially slower to develop in Afghanistan [than in Iraq], the IED has now replaced direct-fire weapons as the enemy's weapon of choice," Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, director of the department's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, said today.

"Furthermore, Afghanistan's local insurgents, tribal factions and the Taliban enjoy a greater freedom of action to emplace large numbers of IEDs in movement corridors, such as the ring road, which are so vital to our success," Metz told the House Armed Services Committee.

The organization, known as JIEDDO, formed as a means to aid combatant commands in addressing IED attacks. Metz said he is pleased with the organization's efforts in Iraq, and that it will remain focused on the country as U.S. forces draw down in accordance with an agreement between Washington and Baghdad.

But lessons gleaned in Iraq are not always applicable to Afghanistan, Metz added.

"In addition, while we have an enormous amount from our experience in Iraq, not all of these efforts translate to our efforts in Afghanistan," he said. "The environment and the enemy in Afghanistan pose many different and difficult challenges."

Though it's impossible to chase IEDs off the battlefield, Metz said, the United States must continue to eliminate their ability to affect its forces strategically.

"We must be willing to invest the money, the time, the energy, and the talent to make sure we win," he said. "This is not an easy task, but I believe that it is necessary."

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of seven soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Oct. 27 in Arghandab Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, 27, of South Ozone Park, N.Y.

Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, 24, of Alamo, Texas.

Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, Ind.

Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, 27, of Plattsburg, Mo.

Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson, 24, of Broussard, La.

Spc. Jared D. Stanker, 22, of Evergreen Park, Ill.

Pfc. Christopher I. Walz, 25, of Vancouver, Wash.

For more information media may contact the Fort Lewis public affairs office at 253- 967-0152, 253- 967-0147 or after hours at 253- 967-0015 (ask for the Public Affairs Officer on call).

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Cody R. Stanley, 21, of Rosanky, Texas, died Oct. 28 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

For more information media may contact the 1st Marine Division public affairs office at 760-725-8766.

Parts From Wrecked Plane Become Training Aids

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 29, 2009 - U.S. and Iraqi airmen moved parts of a wrecked C-130 Hercules transport from here to New Al Muthana Air Base, where they will be used as training aids for Iraqi aircraft maintainers. Elements of the 447th Expeditionary Air Group, the 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Group and Iraqi airmen moved the parts Oct. 27.

"This is something they'll have here for many years to come, and they'll be able to train like we do in our Air Force," said Air Force Master Sgt. Dellet Weaver, New Al Muthana production superintendent. The parts removed include the left wing, a dry bay and fuel cell sections, landing gear struts and electrical components. They'll be modified to render them nonoperational before they are deployed as training aids, Weaver added.

Air Force Capt. Martin Hagg, New Al Muthana maintenance advisor, said he expects the training aids to be ready for use within the next three months.

"It's always better to get hands-on training than it is to get just theory training," he said. "You can always look at a picture or take them out to an actual aircraft and point to the parts out and say, 'This is how what we talked about works.' But if you can actually get your hands on it, if you can cut wires and rework wires, crawl inside a fuel cell -- that always gives you a higher fidelity of training."

The benefits will become apparent soon after the parts are ready to use, Hagg said. "I believe everyone is going to benefit from it," he said. "The Americans will benefit on a personal level by working with the Iraqi air force and getting to know them. The main beneficiary will be the Iraqi air force, who will get to continue on with their training."

(From a Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news release.)

Parts From Wrecked Plane Become Training Aids

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 29, 2009 - U.S. and Iraqi airmen moved parts of a wrecked C-130 Hercules transport from here to New Al Muthana Air Base, where they will be used as training aids for Iraqi aircraft maintainers. Elements of the 447th Expeditionary Air Group, the 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Group and Iraqi airmen moved the parts Oct. 27.

"This is something they'll have here for many years to come, and they'll be able to train like we do in our Air Force," said Air Force Master Sgt. Dellet Weaver, New Al Muthana production superintendent. The parts removed include the left wing, a dry bay and fuel cell sections, landing gear struts and electrical components. They'll be modified to render them nonoperational before they are deployed as training aids, Weaver added.

Air Force Capt. Martin Hagg, New Al Muthana maintenance advisor, said he expects the training aids to be ready for use within the next three months.

"It's always better to get hands-on training than it is to get just theory training," he said. "You can always look at a picture or take them out to an actual aircraft and point to the parts out and say, 'This is how what we talked about works.' But if you can actually get your hands on it, if you can cut wires and rework wires, crawl inside a fuel cell -- that always gives you a higher fidelity of training."

The benefits will become apparent soon after the parts are ready to use, Hagg said. "I believe everyone is going to benefit from it," he said. "The Americans will benefit on a personal level by working with the Iraqi air force and getting to know them. The main beneficiary will be the Iraqi air force, who will get to continue on with their training."

(From a Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news release.)

Iraqi Forces Arrest Terrorism Suspects

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 29, 2009 - Iraqi forces, with U.S. advisors, arrested several terrorism suspects in Iraq in recent days, military officials reported. In Samarra today, Iraqi police with a warrant searched for a man suspected of having close ties with the Islamic State of Iraq terrorist group. Although the suspect was not captured, another was arrested based on evidence found at the scene.

In western Baghdad yesterday, Iraqi soldiers, with U.S. advisors, searched several buildings for terrorists believed to be responsible for deadly Aug. 19 and Oct. 25 bombings in Baghdad. Although the targeted men were not captured, a suspected accomplice was arrested without incident.

In eastern Mosul yesterday, Iraqi soldiers and U.S. advisors searched several buildings with an arrest warrant for a man suspected of having close ties to key figures in the Islamic State of Iraq-sponsored Mosul extortion network. A suspected accomplice of the man was arrested without incident.

In Kirkuk on Oct. 26, a combined team of Iraqi police and soldiers and U.S. soldiers detained six people wanted on warrants for attacking security forces and private citizens in Tal al Raba in Kirkuk province. The team also discovered a weapons cache consisting of a 57 mm projectile, blasting caps and mortar charges.

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

Afghan Police Learn to Engage Public

By Air Force Master Sgt. Sarah R. Webb
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 29, 2009 - In America, we look to our local police to provide a sense of security, protect our streets, help in time of need and be role models for our citizens. Every day, our police force gives us reason to trust and depend on them. Because that same trust and confidence hasn't always been felt for the police force in Afghanistan, 19 Afghan National Police officers from the Andar district here were handpicked by their commander to learn engagement skills that will lead to improved, proactive policing techniques.

Civil affairs members of the provincial reconstruction team here conducted a course designed to coach, mentor and train the Andar police officers. The instruction covered techniques on how to interact with the population, gather information and develop relationships and trust between the police and the people they serve.

The course was broken down into three parts, beginning with an introduction to what civil affairs is about and how to shape public opinion. The second was a lesson on public policing, and the third was a practical exercise conducted at the district's bazaar.

"We would like the people from Andar to see the [police] team working closely with coalition forces," said Army Spc. Hyrum Robb, civil military operations center noncommissioned officer from Salt Lake City. "Then we want the [Afghan police officers] to take the lead with confidence in their training."

The proactive policing technique, Robb explained, is a method that involves the public to assist in the security of their village.

"Many times, the officers are not from the same district where they serve," he said. "Once they build relationships with the villagers, they start becoming a part of the village."

Acting on the concerns of the public can improve the police force's reputation over time, Robb said. "We hope to help them take the initial steps for this productive interaction," he added.

In the past, the police officers would patrol the area from behind their weapons in their trucks. They didn't stop to see what people thought of them, nor did they show the people they were there to assist in providing security. The program is designed to get the police officers out of the trucks and put them on the same level as the shopkeepers.

"We are hoping that the [police officers] will continue to use the engagement techniques and become welcome members of the village," Robb said. "As devoted members of the village, [they] will have the trust and confidence of the people that they serve. We want the villagers to have a positive view of their government and feel comfortable telling the [police] about any problems they have, to include insurgent activities."

After completing the first portion of instruction at Combat Outpost Four Corners, the training moved to the bazaar in Andar for the practical portion.

"The purpose of holding the practical exercise at the bazaar was to have the [police officers] observe as civil affairs engaged with the public," Robb said. "After our engagement, I chose two [police officers] to speak to a shop owner and his customers while being observed by the civil affairs team."

When Robb asked the police officers how they felt they did, their huge smiles showed how proud they were of themselves and how well they felt they were received by the people.

"We learned that when we talk to the shop keepers, they tell us that we are not the dangerous people that they thought we were," one policeman said. "He told us that we are just humans like them. This is good for us to hear."

A squad leader for the police team agreed. "Shop keepers are happy that the police are here asking them questions, Sayeed Shah said. "This is the first time we've asked what they want, and this is the first time I've felt like the shop keepers are giving us honest answers."

One village elder was so touched by the interaction that, on the verge of tears, he begged the police officers for help to solve his village's security problem. Before this event, Robb said, the village elders and police had no interaction or communication.

Before departing the bazaar, Robb brought the group back together to critique their performance.

"You did really well," he told the police officers. "If you continue to engage with the people in the village, they will grow to trust you. Once you become part of the village, it will help you make it safer."

Shah promised they'd do their best.

"Some of us have been working honestly for the last 10 years," he said. "As we have the last drop of blood in our bodies, we will do our job."

(Air Force Master Sgt. Sarah R. Webb serves in the provincial reconstruction team public affairs office in Afghanistan's Ghazni province.)

Army Casualty

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

Spc. Brandon K. Steffey, 23, of Sault Sainte Marie, Mich., died Oct. 25 in Laghman province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 178th Military Police Detachment, 89th Military Police Brigade, III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas.

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Immigrant Serves Adopted Country

By Army Spc. Eugene H. Cushing
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 28, 2009 - A native of China's Fujian province who was not in the United States long before she decided to serve her adopted country says the dedication of her fellow soldiers helps to inspire her own service. Army Spc. Meirong Wang was about to finish her college degree and start teaching high school physics when she was granted the opportunity to leave China and travel to the United States.

"When you see a different country, it's not about the country or the area, it's about the people," she said of her decision to leave China. "People are brave to stand up for the things [they] want to fight for."

Wang said she is proud to be here, and cited the discipline required in the military as something that makes it different from any other career.

"As long as you maintain discipline, you want to do better," she said. A human resources specialist for Task Force Mountain Warrior's 4th Special Troops Battalion, Wang uses her discipline to better herself every day.

"Specialist Wang makes my job easy," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason A. Coulter, Wang's noncommissioned officer in charge. "Her work ethic, attention to detail and willingness to take on responsibilities [make her] the type of soldier leaders want and the Army needs."

Though Wang's discipline and desire to do better drive her every day, Coulter said, she still faces some challenges as she works to overcome the language barrier.

"Specialist Wang has identified that as a weakness, and has improved her English tremendously," he said. "As leaders, we identify our weaknesses and seek self-improvement. Wang has many characteristics of a leader, and that is just one of them."

Wang attributes much of her success to her fellow soldiers and leaders.

In the process that led to her being named as Task Force Mountain Warrior's soldier of the quarter, Wang had to face many challenges and her teammates helped her to prepare. Even though the competition was an individual event, she noted, it still took a team effort for her be selected.

"So many people stood behind me and supported me," Wang said, adding that her leaders want her to be a good leader as well.

"They also tell my comrades we need to support each other to be good leaders," she said.

Coulter proudly recalled how Wang's fellow soldiers helped her prepare for the evaluation board.

"Specialist Wang and her co-workers pulled together as a team; they went to the gym together, woke up early and did physical training," he said. "And the team drilled her with evaluation board questions daily."

The support paid off in Wang's selection as soldier of the quarter.

"There's no way I could win this board without everyone here," she said. Coulter said it's typical of Wang to give credit to her leadership and fellow soldiers.

"She is an unselfish soldier [who] exemplifies selfless service," he said.

(Army Spc. Eugene H. Cushing serves in the Task Force Mountain Warrior public affairs office.)

U.S. Medics Train Iraqi Counterparts

By Army Capt. Steve Johnson
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 28, 2009 - U.S. Army medics here are taking a major step forward in normalizing the training of medical personnel at the 7th Iraqi Army Division's Camp Mejid clinic by matching the training curriculum to the clinic's real-time needs. "I looked through the clinic's records and noticed 90 percent of their patients were diagnosed with influenza," said Army Staff Sgt. Tiari Ventura, noncommissioned officer in charge of a medical training team, of the 82nd Airborne Division's 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade.

Previous medical training teams focused almost exclusively on trauma injuries such as those from improvised explosive devices, said Army 1st Lt. Jessica Larson, officer in charge of the medical training team. Although trauma is important for Iraqi medics to understand, 98 percent of health care demand at the Iraqi clinic will be for common conditions such as colds and minor injuries, Larson added.

Al Asad is located in Iraq's Anbar province, once a hotbed for the Sunni insurgency and the site of some of the most intense fighting following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Since the drop in violence resulting from local tribes switching their allegiance from al-Qaida to cooperate with U.S. forces, the need to treat trauma injuries at local clinics has diminished.

"We're devoting more time to give [7th Army Division medics] the skill sets they'll need once we leave Iraq," said Army Lt. Col. Andrew Danwin, 307th Brigade Support Battalion commander.

Army Pfc. Mohammad Shaker, a training team member fluent in Arabic, recently taught a class to Iraqi medical personnel on diabetes.

"The Iraqis were very interested and asked lots of questions," he said. "Some had family members affected by diabetes."

On one occasion, Larson used an Iraqi soldier with a foot injury who visited the clinic for a follow-up to make a teaching point. The soldier's toe had been infected for more than three weeks because Iraqi medics had prescribed the wrong treatment. Larson explained how to properly treat infections with antibiotics.

"[Iraqi medics] have a stocked pharmacy, but don't understand how to best use their medicine," Larson said. Ventura noted the training is changing that situation.

"After our first few classes," she said, "the Iraqis grabbed medicine from their pharmacy to ask us what it was used to treat."

(Army Capt. Steve Johnson serves in the Multinational Force West public affairs office.)

Low Visibility Blamed for Helicopter Crash

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 28, 2009 - U.S. military authorities have determined that the cause of an MH-47 helicopter crash in Afghanistan's Badghis province Oct. 26 was a combination of factors caused by very low visibility, officials said today. The crash killed seven U.S. servicemembers and three U.S. civilians.

The incident occurred about 3:30 a.m. when the helicopter lifted off following a successful operation against militants. Thick dust stirred up from the initial takeoff and overwhelmed the visibility of the helicopter crew. As the crew tried to correct the aircraft's movement, it struck a tall structure, causing it to crash. Militants did not fire at the helicopter at any point during the departure or crash, officials said.

Before the crash, a combined team of Afghan and international forces and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency members was conducting a mission to disrupt arms smuggling and narcotics trafficking in the Darreh-ye Bum Village in the province's Qadis district. Finances from these illegal activities provide support for the insurgency.

The names of the deceased servicemembers will be released when their families are notified, and investigation of the incident still is ongoing, officials said.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, an Afghan and international security force detained several suspected militants today after two separate compound searches in the Saydabad district of Wardak province.

The first compound is known to be used by a Taliban commander involved in making improvised explosive devices. The second compound is known to be used by a Taliban enabler. Both are believed responsible for several attacks and for supplying IEDs to other militant groups in the region.

In the first search, near the village of Belangash, the combined force detained several militants, one of whom was disguised as a woman and is believed to be the sought-after Taliban commander and bomb-maker. The second search, near Maru village, resulted in the detention of "a couple of militants," officials said, with one surrendering immediately and identifying himself as the Taliban enabler.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.)

Army Casualty

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

Maj. David L. Audo, 35, of Saint Joseph, Ill., died Oct. 27 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 22nd Military Police Battalion, 6th Military Police Group, Fort Lewis, Wash.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

For more information media may contact the Fort Lewis public affairs office at (253) 967-0152, (253) 967-0147 or after hours at (253) 967-0015 (ask for the Public Affairs Officer on call).

Commanders Note Security Gains in Southern Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 27, 2009 - The security situation in southern Iraq is stable, and American and Iraqi commanders said they expect security gains in the region to continue. Army Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, the commander of Multinational Division South, and Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz, the commander of the 14th Iraqi Division, briefed the Pentagon press from the banks of the Shatt al-Arab near Basra today.

The two men praised the military cooperation in the region, and said the U.S-Iraqi partnerships will allow them to work through any issues that may arise.

"We share the same goals of safety and security for all the Iraqi people," Nash said.

About 14,000 American troops are in the nine southern Iraqi provinces. Basra is the hub of the area and is the second-largest city in the country.

The Americans' continuing mission is to support the Iraqi security forces as they increase their capabilities, to build civil capacity, to improve the lives of Iraq's citizens and to set the conditions for a full transition to Iraq.

The Iraqi forces are stepping to the line. "All Iraqis can be proud of the professionalism and the courage of the Iraqi security forces, which include the Iraqi police, the department of border enforcement and the Iraqi army," Nash said.

Aziz praised the cooperation and training of the American forces. "By working with our American friends in some areas, such as logistics and training, and with our internal partners in all matters of local security, we are achieving very good results here in our beautiful Basra," the general said.

The Americans have helped train both the Iraqi army and police, and that is allowing the two forces to work closely together.

"Many of our checkpoints are now manned jointly by members of both Iraqi forces," Aziz said. "The training both sides have received and the trust built between them has been very positive."

The general said he is confident that his forces will continue to maintain and improve on the security gains of the past year. He said the "positive trend and direction cannot be turned back by criminals or terrorists."

Nash said there has been an uptick in violence in the northwest area of his division - around Babil and Karbala.

"We're looking into an [al-Qaida in Iraq] connection and Sunni extremist groups that possibly could be causing strife up there, tried to get sectarian violence started again," Nash said. "But at this point, the Shia in the south have been able to resist that urge to reach violent levels again, as has been done in the past, in 2006 and 2007."

Nash said the Iraqi forces have been doing a good job in stopping Iranian operatives and influence along the border.

"Major General Aziz and I work very closely together here in Basra, sharing information and sharing intelligence here at the Basra Operations Center, through our 17th Fires Brigade," he said. "We track those extremist networks that tend to do harm here in southern Iraq, want to influence the Iraqi government, that will bring lethal aid into Iraq to do harm, whether it's here in Basra or up through the Euphrates Valley up into Baghdad."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

School Opening Brings New Hope in Iraq

By Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 27, 2009 - A project that began last year came to fruition here Oct. 12, when this small Iraqi village celebrated the official opening of a newly renovated school. Dammadi Radi, director general of education for Iraq's Babil province attended the ceremony, along with local sheiks, the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team and a crowd of supporters.

The renovation project began in 2008 with Company B, 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion. The 1411th Civil Affairs Company took over the project and worked with 3rd Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, to finish the renovations and coordinate the ceremony.

"This project has been something we've been working on since March," said platoon leader Army 1st Lt. Joseph W. McCarthy. "Projects like these are the basis of change for Iraq, and I'm proud of my soldiers on the ground who are helping to shape the future of Iraq."

About 950 students attend the school in two shifts. The first shift is primary school for 700 students in Grades 1 through 6. The second shift is secondary school, with 250 students in Grades 7 through 9 attending classes.

The ceremony began with Radi and McCarthy cutting a ribbon held by two students. Speeches in both Arabic and English welcomed guests and thanked attendees for their continued support and efforts to improve the school.

"We are all brothers, and we all help one another," Radi said. "We will never forget what the Americans have done to help bring success to the future of our children."

Village sheiks helped Radi, McCarthy and others in passing out backpacks, soccer jerseys and soccer balls donated by the U.S. Army.

"The overall mission today was a huge success," said Army Staff Sgt. Magaly Santillan, civil affairs team sergeant with the 1411th Civil Affairs Company. "Our goal today was to officially open the school as well as establish credibility and good working relations with the local populous here."

(Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little serves with the 172nd Infantry Brigade.)

Afghans Hold Rule of Law Conference

By Army Pfc. Beth Raney
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 27, 2009 - Members of Afghan legal rights departments and police from three Afghan provinces came together here Oct. 11 to discuss the strategy for improving the legal system in the northeast region. The rule of law conference, held at the Nangarhar governor's palace in Jalalabad, focused on the provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman. The morning was filled with briefings and presentations by U.S. and Afghan agencies and nongovernmental organizations operating in eastern Afghanistan, including representatives from the U.S. State Department, the Supreme Court of Afghanistan and the Afghan Justice Sector Support Program.

"The conference succeeded in bringing all of these key players together into one room," said Army Maj. Jeffrey Thurnher, Task Force Mountain Warrior's legal officer, from Woodbridge, Va. "This was the first time all of these police and judicial leaders have gathered together for a regional conference."

After lunch, the attendees reconvened and divided into three groups.

One group discussed building ties between the formal and informal legal systems. In many remote areas of Afghanistan, local elders and community council members resolve disputes and pass judgment outside the formal legal system. The second group discussed improving public awareness of legal rights, and the third worked on improving cooperation among prosecutors, police and courts to reduce arbitrary detentions.

"The hope was to develop two or three suggestions for how to handle each of those problems, and to challenge the group to begin implementing them," Thurnher said. "They discussed ways to tackle some of the most challenging problems facing the legal systems of their provinces."

Army Capt. Craig Scrogham, a native of Richmond Hill, Ga., and Task Force Mountain Warrior's rule of law attorney, said the attendees also discussed a pilot program used in Kabul to track cases more effectively. Scrogham added that he hopes the program will be available in the area soon.

"The timing couldn't have been more perfect, because all the ministries joined together in Kabul the week after the conference and signed into law the use of this case-tracking system," he said.

"Although we certainly did not develop a comprehensive strategy with just one meeting, we took a great step toward increasing cooperation between the groups and developed some great ideas for making changes," Thurnher said.

"We have done training for rule of law before, but we have never brought all of these groups together for a session before," Scrogham said. "Training normally has been specific to police or to prosecutors or to [Rights] Department officials. Being able to talk to everyone at once was one of the primary benefits of this session."

(Army Pfc. Beth Raney serves in the Task Force Mountain Warrior public affairs office.)

Bomb Attacks Kill 8 U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 27, 2009 - Eight U.S. troops and an Afghan civilian working with NATO forces were killed today in multiple "complex" bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan, military officials reported. Several other servicemembers were injured in the attacks and were transported to a regional medical facility for treatment, U.S. Forces Afghanistan officials said.

"A loss like this is extremely difficult for the families as well as for those who served alongside these brave servicemembers," said Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force's Joint Command. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who mourn their loss."

Further details about the event are being withheld pending notification of the families.

Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said a complex improvised explosive device attack can refer to the use of several explosives, with additional bombs set to strike first responders to an initial blast.

"A complex [IED attack] usually is more than one, set up in a way to cause maximum casualties," he said.

Army Casualty

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

Pfc. Devin J. Michel, 19, of Stockton, Ill., died Oct. 24 in Zhari province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

For more information media may contact the Fort Carson public affairs office at (719) 526-7525; after hours (719) 526-5500.

Iraqi Forces Detain 7 Terrorism Suspects

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 27, 2009 - Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. advisors, arrested seven suspected terrorists today while searching for terrorist network leaders, military officials reported. Iraqi security forces with U.S. advisors arrested five suspected vehicle-bomb network members while searching for a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq bomb network leader west of Mosul.

The security team searched two buildings at the targeted location. During the search, the team encountered a suspected terrorist who became physically combative. The suspect grabbed the weapon of one of the security officials, and subsequently was shot and killed.

The team apprehended five others who were identified as suspected members of the Mosul-based network. Iraq forces arrested the suspects.

Meanwhile, Iraqi soldiers arrested two suspects on warrants during a security operation in northwest Baghdad.

Iraqi soldiers and U.S. advisors searched two buildings for a Jaysh al-Mahdi terrorist group member wanted on a court warrant for allegedly was planning homemade bomb attacks against security forces in Iraq.

The team did not find the man, but arrested two suspects based on evidence found at the scene linking them to criminal activity.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. Eduviges G. Wolf, 24, of Hawthorne, Calif., died Oct. 25 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked her vehicle with a rocket propelled grenade. She was assigned to the 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

For more information media may contact the Fort Carson public affairs office at (719) 526-7525; after hours (719) 526-5500.

Force Recovers Missing Crew, Aircraft in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 27, 2009 - International Security Assistance Force members today recovered the remains of three civilian crewmembers and the wreckage of an aircraft missing for two weeks in the rugged mountains of northeastern Afghanistan, military officials reported. The crew was flying an Army C-12 Huron when they failed to return to Bagram Airfield after a routine mission early Oct. 13 above Afghanistan's Nuristan province.

Due to continued recovery efforts, officials said, information was not immediately released so as to not interfere with operations. Upon visible inspection of the site, the mission changed from search and rescue to search and recovery.

The incident is under investigation, though hostile action is not believed to be the cause of the crash, officials said.

Additionally, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter en route to the recovery site Oct. 17 experienced a strong downdraft and performed a hard landing near the site. All crewmembers were rescued. On Oct. 21, the aircraft was stripped of its sensitive and useable parts, and destroyed in place Oct. 25. Mountainous terrain and elevation prevented aircraft recovery operations. Hostile action was not involved, officials said.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, an Afghan and international security force killed several militants yesterday in Paktia province during an operation to pursue a suspected Haqqani terrorist bomb maker and his associates.

The Haqqani element is believed responsible for several homemade bomb attacks in the Khowst-Gardez Pass in southeastern Afghanistan.

Security forces coordinated an air strike on the enemy location based on intelligence that Haqqani militants were in transit outside Haqdad Kheyl village in Wuza Zadran district. A combined security force ground element searched the location, confirmed that militants were killed by the air strike and identified the sought-after Haqqani bomb maker among those killed.

During the search, the force also seized bomb-making components, small-arms weapons and communications gear.

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.)

Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of four Marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The following Marines died Oct. 26 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Cpl. Gregory M.W. Fleury, 23, of Anchorage, Alaska.

Capt. Eric A. Jones, 29, of Westchester, N.Y.

Capt. David S. Mitchell, 30, of Loveland, Ohio.

Capt. Kyle R. Van De Giesen, 29, of North Attleboro, Mass.

Fleury, Jones and Van De Giesen were assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Mitchell was assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.
For additional background information on these Marines, news media representatives may contact the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Public Affairs Office at (858) 577-6000

Monday, October 26, 2009

Iraqis Arrest Bombing Suspects in Baghdad

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 26, 2009 - Iraqi forces, with U.S. advisors, conducted a series of operations today resulting in the arrest of 11 suspects in vehicle-bomb networks operating between Baghdad and Mosul. Iraqi forces searched several buildings in western Baghdad for a suspect believed to be responsible for a truck bomb that struck government buildings in Baghdad and killed at least 150 people. The cell leader also is suspected of staging the deadly Aug. 19 attacks in the Iraqi capital.

Based on evidence found in the buildings, Iraqi forces arrested eight people suspected of being linked to a bomb network in Baghdad that receives support from cells stretching north along the Tigris River Valley.

The 3rd Emergency Services Unit, with U.S. advisors, also targeted a bomb network today in southwest Kirkuk. The team searched a building for a member of the Kirkuk-based terror group who is believed to organize bombings throughout the Tigris River Valley. The operation resulted in the arrest of two people.

Iraqi police, with U.S. advisors and acting on a warrant, arrested a person suspected of procuring vehicles for use in the attacks. The security team arrested the suspect without incident about 50 miles south of Mosul.

Also today, Iraqi soldiers acting on intelligence reports arrested 14 suspects believed to be associated with a Mosul-based al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader.

On Oct. 24, Iraqi soldiers arrested a suspected Islamic State of Iraq terrorist group member in eastern Mosul who served as the former extortion ringleader for the region. Based on credible intelligence, the soldiers, with U.S. advisors, searched for Islamic State of Iraq members suspected of extorting money from companies in Mosul.

During the search of a building, the security team found and apprehended a man suspected of using extortion money to fund attacks against Iraqi security forces and civilians. He is alleged to be closely associated with extortion network members operating in northern Iraq.

Iraqi police on Oct. 24 also captured a suspected vehicle- bomb network member and two additional suspects in southern Kirkuk.

Iraqi forces, with U.S. advisors, searched two buildings and arrested a suspected bomb network member based on a warrant. The suspect is an alleged member of the Islamic State of Iraq-sponsored bomb network.

In other recent operations, Kirkuk police detained nine suspected al-Qaida in Iraq members Oct. 20 in possession of possible bomb-making materiel. One is believed to have purchased thousands of pounds of ammonium nitrate throughout 2006. The man is suspected of having ties to known al-Qaida in Iraq members associated with insurgent activity in Baghdad.

Iraqi police in Kirkuk called on U.S. forces advisors to test suspicious material found when two vehicles were stopped during a routine traffic checkpoint. Police discovered more than 300 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a can of gasoline and other suspected bomb-making materials in the vehicles.

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, submitted samples of the material for chemical testing to verify that it is explosive material.

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

Helicopter Incidents Claim Lives in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 26, 2009 - Separate helicopter incidents today have claimed the lives of servicemembers in Afghanistan, military officials reported. ISAF officials said four U.S. servicemembers died when two International Security Assistance Force helicopters apparently collided over southern Afghanistan, and a recovery operation is under way for another helicopter that went down in western Afghanistan.

In addition to the four servicemembers killed, two more were injured in the collision, officials said, adding that they've confirmed hostile fire was not involved.

In an unrelated incident, a helicopter went down "due to unconfirmed reasons" as a combined force in western Afghanistan was departing after a firefight that left more than a dozen enemy fighters dead, officials said.

Military casualties are reported, officials added, and a recovery operation is under way.

(From a NATO International Security Assistance Force news release.)

New Road to Link Both Sides of Afghan River

By Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 26, 2009 - The road to economic success here is paved and has bridges linking both sides of the Kunar River. The provincial government, with the help of the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team, is making that success a reality with the 11.25-mile Asmar to Nishigam road and Marawara bridge span. Dan Dunleavy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative to the provincial reconstruction team, said the road project is well under way and will spur economic development and increased security in the province.

"I'm very pleased with what I saw. ... They are doing a good job getting the project on track and constructing the road," Dunleavy said. "The road is in a tough place that is frequently attacked by [insurgents]. Many trucks and transportation vehicles line the riverbed, because they were destroyed while traversing this road. Once completed, the road will improve safety in the area by giving security forces quicker access to the area to respond to threats."

In the long term, Dunleavy said, the road will link the villages along the road to the provincial capital and beyond, which will in turn stimulate economic development.

The $5.1 million project was assessed at 30 percent complete. Dunleavy said the project got a little behind because insurgents used corn fields along the road to attack the workers and disrupt traffic.

"Now that the corn is harvested, the contractor is putting his workers back on the job and protecting them and his equipment," Dunleavy said. "Overall, there are more than 100 workers employed on this project, and we saw eight different road crews working during the assessment."

The provincial reconstruction team evaluated the progress of the Marawara truck bridge project and the approach roads. The new bridge, a little more than three miles north of Asadabad, will link the two sides of the Kunar River when it's completed in November.

Though a few construction concerns need to be addressed with the contractor about the approach road, Dunleavy said, the bridge is in great shape and will be a vital thoroughfare linking the province together. Dawood, the lead construction engineer on the project, echoed that sentiment.

"The bridge is important to the people here," said Dawood, who like many Afghans, goes by only one name. "We have to cross the river very far away, but now we are happy to get this work done and cross the river here."

Pointing at the old bridge currently used to ford the river upstream, Dawood pointed out the differences between that bridge and the bridge under construction.

"This is a concrete bridge and very good and stable. That bridge over there is not stable, because it shakes and is very scary," he said. "This is a very good improvement."

The construction project is nearly complete, and was an economic engine for the province because it employed about 300 people from the local area at various times during the year-long, $1 million project. Dawood said once his company is done with the bridge, his workers will begin construction on a police station near the bridge.

"After this job, we will go to work on the construction project on the other side of the bridge. We will hire more local people, because it's honorable to hire local people," Dawood said. "We have to do the survey first, think about how many people we will need and then hire 200 or 300 workers, because it will take two years to build."

(Air Force Capt. Tony Wickman serves in the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office.)

Forces Kill Taliban Commander, Other Enemy Fighters

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 26, 2009 - Afghan and NATO forces have removed dozens of insurgents from fighting in Afghanistan in recent days, including a long-sought-after Taliban commander, military officials reported. Combined Afghan and International Security Assistance Force units killed at least two dozen insurgents during fighting in southern and eastern Afghanistan and detained numerous others. In operations yesterday:

-- A combined force killed a dozen enemy militants in Kandahar province in an operation to interdict a Taliban commander and his unit believed to be responsible for attacks in the Arghandab district west of Kandahar City. The force coordinated an air strike on the enemy position. During the search, several of the dead were discovered armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition belts and communications gear. All items were destroyed in place.

-- A combined force killed several militants and detained several suspects in Khowst province after searching compounds in pursuit of a Haqqani terrorist organization leader linked to a bomb-making and foreign-fighter facilitation network in the area. The force searched two compounds north of Khowst City. Militants outside of one of the compounds posed a hostile threat to the combined force and were killed. During the search, the joint security force discovered multiple hand grenades and assault rifles.

- Combined forces killed several militants in Ghazni province after searching an enemy position in pursuit of a district Taliban commander linked to several other militant commanders and foreign fighters in the area. The force received hostile fire during the operation from an enemy position. Returning fire, they killed several militants. The force then searched the enemy location and found multiple rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and ammunition belts. All items were destroyed in place.

- In Wardak province, a combined force detained two suspects after searching a compound known to be used by a Taliban commander. The joint force searched compounds southwest of Kabul without incident and without firing shots.

- A combined force detained suspected militants after searching compounds in Khowst province known to be used by a Haqqani bomb technician linked to several militant commanders in the area. The force searched the compounds without incident.

In an Oct. 24 operation, a combined force searched a compound and detained several suspected militants believed to be members of a bombing network in Farah province. The suspects surrendered peacefully during the search and no shots were fired.

In operations Oct. 22:

- A combined force killed a dozen militants and detained several suspects in Kandahar province after stopping a number of vehicles in pursuit of a Taliban commander of the province's Maywand district. The force initially targeted a number of vehicles in transit across southern Maywand after intelligence indicated militant activity. Several militants were killed after they failed to respond to warnings, and others were detained. Subsequently, the combined force received hostile fire from militants in multiple vehicles maneuvering in their direction. The force returned fire, killing another group of militants. The force searched each of the vehicles and recovered a number of small-arms weapons, documents and 2,600 pounds of black-tar heroin. The force identified one of the dead as the sought-after Taliban commander of Maywand.

-- A combined force detained several suspected militants after searching compounds in Wardak province known to be used by a Taliban commander and his unit responsible for several rocket and bombing attacks in the region. The force targeted the compounds near the village of Patankhel in the Sayed Abad district after intelligence indicated militant activity there. The force searched the compound without incident and detained several suspects. No shots were fired, and no one was injured in the search.

In other news from Afghanistan, international forces have responded to accusations that a U.S. servicemember burned the Quran last week in Wardak province's Maydan Shar district.

In response to the accusations, ISAF troops conducted an investigation in conjunction with local Afghan army commanders and found the claim groundless.

A spokesman for Wardak Gov. Mohammad Alim Fadayee, and Mullah Qari of the Afghan army in Wardak, publicly stated that ISAF troops were not responsible for the desecration and found no wrongdoing by international forces.

In his public address, Mullah Qari provided the results of the investigation into the incident and offered an explanation.

"Dear brothers, recently, the incident of burning of the Quran that happened in Kowte Ashrow, it was the actions of the enemies of Afghanistan and Islam for their private purposes," Qari said. "The enemies of Afghanistan are trying to make people go against the government in order to start riots."

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)