Saturday, April 30, 2011

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. Matthew D. Hermanson, 22, of Appleton, Wis., died April 28, in Wardak province, Afghanistan of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.

For more information, media should contact the Fort Drum public affairs office at, 315-772-8286.

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Ronald D. Freeman, 25, of Plant City, Fla., died April 28 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 2nd Marine Division public affairs office at 910-378-6193 or .

Air Force Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of eight airmen who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died April 27, at the Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from gunfire.  The incident is under investigation.

Killed were:

Maj. Philip D. Ambard, 44, of Edmonds, Wash.  He was assigned to the 460th Space Communications Squadron, Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.  For more information media may contact the Air Force Academy public affairs office at 719-333-7731.

Maj. Jeffrey O. Ausborn, 41, of Gadsden, Ala.  He was assigned to the 99th Flying Training Squadron, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.  For more information media may contact the 502nd Air Base Wing public affairs office at 210-652-4410.

Maj. David L. Brodeur, 34, of Auburn, Mass.  He was assigned to the 11th Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.  For more information media may contact the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson public affairs office at 907-552-2341.

Master Sgt. Tara R. Brown, 33, of Deltona, Fla.  She was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Joint Base Andrews, Md.  For more information media may contact the Air Force Office of Special Investigations public affairs office at 571-305-8010.

Lt. Col. Frank D. Bryant Jr., 37, of Knoxville, Tenn.  He was assigned to the 56th Operations Group, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.  For more information media may contact the Luke Air Force Base public affairs office at 623-856-6011.

Maj. Raymond G. Estelle II, 40, of New Haven, Conn.  He was assigned to Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.  For more information media may contact the Headquarters Air Combat Command public affairs office at 757-764-5007.

Capt. Nathan J. Nylander, 35, of Hockley, Texas.  He was assigned to the 25th Operational Weather Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.  For more information media may contact the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base public affairs office at 520-228-3406.

Capt. Charles A. Ransom, 31, of Midlothian, Va.  He was assigned to the 83rd Network Operations Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.  For more information media may contact the 24th Air Force public affairs office at 210-977-5796.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Army Engineers Help to Rebuild Afghanistan

By Jessica L. Tozer
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2011 – When the task to help rebuild and reconstruct Afghanistan was established, Army Col. Thomas H. Magness IV, the commander of Afghanistan Engineer District-North, initially had concerns about how much could be accomplished.

“We'd shake our heads and be concerned about the ability for that contractor to finish,” Magness, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer, said yesterday during a DoDLive Bloggers’ Roundtable.

That concern, he said, was short lived. Since then, the Afghanistan reconstruction endeavor has progressed on a solid foundation of accomplishment and professionalism.

“Now we are awarding most of our contracts to Afghan contractors. They are competent, professional, safe on the job site and fully capable of completing the projects,” Magness said.

Reconstructing Afghanistan involves partnership and close working relationships with the Afghan people, Magness said, noting the pace of rebuilding is faster and more efficient than ever before.

“We have transitioned from being in construction, to finishing projects at the rate of one completed project per day,” Magness said. “I've never seen this kind of construction pace. But I've also never seen a community -- in this case, the engineering and construction community -- that has grown as much as it has. It has risen to the task.”

So what exactly is the U.S. doing to help rebuild Afghanistan? They’re doing just that, Magness said, literally reconstructing the foundations of the country’s infrastructure from the ground up.

“We are putting in electric transmission lines, we are doing roads, and we’re doing repairs on some key strategic bridges,” Magness said. “We’re also doing infrastructure projects, all of which is geared towards being able to hand this mission off to the Afghans.”

The Afghan engineers and construction workers under his purview are “the best of the best and these guys are capable, they're competent,” Magness said. “For the most part, we recruit them to stay and work on projects near their homes.”

The Army Corps of Engineers also is committed to ensuring that Afghan engineers and construction worker receive the proper training to excel –- for today and into the future, Magness said.

“We're not leaving this to happen on its’ own,” he said. “We are investing in the [Afghan] universities pretty significantly so that we can continue to produce those quality engineers.”

The holistic approach to rebuilding Afghanistan doesn’t stop with just brick-and-mortar facilities. The Army Corps of Engineers, Magness said, also is seeking more efficient methods to produce energy in Afghanistan.

Solar energy is one option, Magness said. Using the abundance of sunlight in Afghanistan as a source of energy, he said, could provide a better way to increase electric power.

For example, he said, a demonstration project in Kabul is designed to provide energy for several buildings –- an office building, guard towers, lights and ammunition bunkers –- using a solar and wind turbine. The Corps of Engineers also is working with the mayor of Kabul to employ solar energy to power street lights.

“There is no reliable electric grid here in this city of five million people, and so we looked at putting in solar street lights as a way to provide safety, security, improve commerce in an otherwise dark city at night -- part of the mayor's campaign to light up the city at night,” Magness said.

The Corps also has established its own solar-powered lighting demonstration project, he said.

“These lights are working great,” Magness said. “We're also looking at other infrastructure [improvements] that include putting solar lights on some of our larger installations and bigger projects. Those [projects] are all geared towards creating a more sustainable Afghan infrastructure.”

Magness has nothing but high praise for his Afghan team.

“They believe in what they're doing, and I really believe in them,” he said. “If you want a face to this mission, it is the Afghan engineer, it's the Afghan construction worker -- male and female -- who have turned a corner and truly will be a major part of the future of this country.”

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn.

Spc. Andrew E. Lara, 25, of Albany, Ore., died April 27, of a noncombat related incident, in Babil province, Iraq.  He was assigned to F Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion, attached to the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment.

For more information, please contact the Oregon National Guard public affairs office at 503-584-3885.

This Day in Naval History - April 28

From the Navy News Service

1862 - Naval forces capture Forts Jackson and St. Philip, La.
1965 - Dominican Republic intervention began.
1944 - U.S. Tank Landing Ships (LSTs) attacked during Operation Tiger.
1993 - Secretary of Defense memo orders Armed Forces to train and assign women on combat aircraft and most combat ships, but not to ground combat positions.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Iowa Guard Agribusiness Development Team saves Afghan man’s eyesight

By Air Force Capt. Peter Shinn
Combined Joint Task Force 101

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (4/28/11) - During a mission in the Sarkani District April 25, the senior combat medic for the Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team provided urgent medical care to an Afghan road worker whose eyes had been accidentally doused with diesel fuel.

Co-workers of the injured man, Roz Amin, carried him to the Sarkani District Center shortly after the accident, which occurred on a road paving project just a few meters away. Members of the ADT were at the district center conducting a key leader engagement with the district sub-governor and other officials.

Amin’s co-workers brought him to a member of the ADT’s security forces and explained Amin had fallen into hot tar.

The security forces team member quickly located U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Martinez, the ADT’s senior medic, and asked Martinez if he could help Amin.

“When we’re out on mission, our job is to treat our soldiers first, but if an Afghan has an emergency involving life, limb or eyesight, we have a duty to treat them, too,” said Martinez.

“So when I first heard it was a burn, I was prepared for the worst, because I’ve seen a lot of burns at home and here in Afghanistan and it can be pretty bad.”

However, when Martinez assessed Amin, he discovered he had only minor burns on his hands and face.

Working through an ADT interpreter, Martinez learned that immediately after Amin had fallen into the tar, his co-workers had pulled him out and bathed him in diesel fuel to remove the tar accidentally splashing Amin’s eyes.

“It became clear that the primary injury was to his eyes,” Martinez said. “So my focus was to clear all the fuel from his eyes to preserve his vision.”

Martinez gently washed Amin’s burns and began aggressively irrigating the injured man’s eyes.

“I had to work with whatever I had in my aid bag, and my aid bag is primarily geared toward combat trauma, so I improvised,” said Martinez. “I was also lucky to have a lot of help, because this was really a team effort.”

The treatment team included both Afghans and Americans.

A friend of Amin’s helped hold Amin’s eyes open as Martinez irrigated them. U.S. Army Spc. Daniel Kersbergen, an ADT security forces team member, prepared and administered an intravenous fluid bag to prevent Amin from becoming dehydrated.

“I’m an EMT back in Iowa,” Kersbergen said. “So this was just another day at the office for me.”

After Kersbergen administered the IV, Martinez bandaged Amin’s eyes and led him to a room that the employees of the district center had prepared. Through the ADT interpreter, Martinez instructed Amin to remain still for four hours and to seek additional care if his eyes did not improve.

Amin expressed gratitude for the treatment Martinez and Kersbergen provided him.

“I am a poor man,” Amin said. “I do not know what I would have done if they had not helped me, and I thank them very much.”

Martinez emphasized the outcome for Amin would probably have been grim in the absence of prompt medical attention.

“Without prolonged irrigation of his eyes, the chemical burning process would have continued, and he almost certainly would have lost his eyesight,” said Martinez.

Petraeus to Leave Battlefield for CIA

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2011 – Army Gen. David H. Petraeus plans hang up his uniform in September to lead the CIA.

President Barack Obama announced his intention today to nominate Petraeus to succeed Leon E. Panetta as CIA director. Panetta is the president’s choice to succeed retiring Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Petraeus said he would be grateful to continue his public service by heading the CIA. His nomination is subject to Senate confirmation. The general, who assumed command in Afghanistan on July 4 after serving 20 months as commander of U.S. Central Command, announced his plans to retire to take the CIA position.

Petraeus’ retirement will end a four-decade career highlighted by his development of the Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual and his leadership of U.S. and coalition forces through the “surge” credited with turning around the war in Iraq.

He is a 1974 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, and he holds a doctorate from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Obama Taps Allen to Command Forces in Afghanistan

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2011 – Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John R. Allen, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, is poised to become the first Marine to command all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama today named Allen as his pick to replace Army Gen. David H. Petraeus as commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan as part of a reshuffling of his national security team.

Obama is nominating CIA Director Leon E. Panetta to succeed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who is retiring June 30. Obama plans to pull Petraeus from Afghanistan to become the new CIA director in September, after he retires from the Army. The president also announced his nomination of Ryan C. Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq, as the next ambassador to Afghanistan. All must be confirmed by the Senate.

Allen assumed his current duties in July 2008. He served briefly as Centcom’s acting commander when Petraeus, Centcom commander at the time, left for Afghanistan until Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis succeeded Petraeus.

“It is absolutely critical we have this team in place to sustain our mission,” Obama said in announcing his selections at a White House event. The new team, he added, would provide “the continuity and unity of effort that this time in history demands.”

Obama called Allen “a battle-tested combat leader in Iraq who helped turn the tide in Anbar province,” where Allen served as deputy commanding general of Multinational Division West and the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from 2006 to 2008.

Since becoming Centcom’s deputy commander, Allen also has been immersed in the war in Afghanistan, helping to execute military strategy there, Obama said.

“I understand well the demands of this mission,” Allen said at the White House today. “If confirmed, I will dedicate my full measure to the successful accomplishment of the tasks before us.”

A senior administration official speaking to reporters on background yesterday said Allen and the others were chosen because they have a proven record of working closely as a team. For his part, Allen is well-known to White House officials for working through some of the toughest problems in dealing with Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, the official said.

Allen is a 1976 Naval Academy graduate who holds three master’s degrees in national security-related subjects. He is a former commander of The Basic School and deputy commandant of the Naval Academy. In 2002, he became the first Marine to serve as the academy’s commandant of midshipmen.

Fairview Heights Man Convicted for Making Terroristic Threats

Man Claimed to Have Bomb

A Fairview Heights man was convicted in U.S. District Court on April 27, 2011, for Making a False Threat to Detonate an Explosive Device, and Influencing a Federal Officer by Threat, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. Roman O. Conaway, 51, was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on October 5, 2010, in a two-count indictment following a seven hour standoff with federal authorities.

The indictment alleged that on September 21, 2010, agents of the FBI and United States Secret Service went to Conaway's home to investigate allegations that he had threatened to kill the president and threatened to burn a Quran. These threats were made to an individual associated with a St. Louis area mosque. Conaway walked out of his home to confront the agents wearing what appeared to be an explosive device affixed to his torso. Count 1 of the indictment charged that, Conaway attached two bricks of an inert putty-like material designed and formed to replicate blocks of C-4 explosive to a belt that was wired to a homemade detonation device and that he falsely threatened to detonate that explosive device and kill an FBI Special Agent during the performance of his official duties. Count 2 of the indictment charged that Conaway also threatened to detonate the purported explosive device and kill a United States Secret Service Special Agent with intent to impede, intimidate, and interfere with the agent while he was engaged in the performance of his official duties.

The crime of Making a False Threat to Detonate an Explosive Device is punishable by not more than five years' imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years' Supervised Release. The crime of Influencing a Federal Officer by Threat is punishable by not more than 10 years' imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and three year's Supervised Release

Agents from eleven law enforcement agencies participated in ending the seven-hour standoff. The investigation is being conducted by the United States Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft.

Guard Unit Supports Force Protection at Bagram

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 28, 2011 – Awareness and vigilance remain the watchwords here as news spread of yesterday’s attack at Kabul International Airport that left eight airmen and a U.S. civilian employee dead.

The attack, which occurred during an uptick of enemy activity and coalition casualties coinciding with the spring thaw, resonated with a Florida National Guard unit that supports the force-protection mission on Bagram and within the surrounding Parwan province.

“When things happen in an area of operations around here, basically the information comes down and we … look for the same patterns that happen elsewhere here as well,” said Army Spc. Xavier Flores, a 164th Air Defense Artillery soldier.

“If something happens elsewhere, it is an indication that more likely something similar could happen here or somewhere else, so you just kind of tighten down on security,” agreed Army Spc. Joseph Deramo.

Flores and Deramo are part of a joint, multitiered system that provides security at the largest coalition base in Afghanistan and intelligence support for troops operating “outside the wire.”

Their detachment runs three 107-foot towers on the base, all equipped with cameras able to scan 360 degrees in search of suspicious activity. In addition, 18 four- and five-soldier teams provide support at eight other sites within the area of operations.

Working in conjunction with aerostats and other ground-based sensors, as well as Air Force and Marine Corps security forces and the Joint Defense Operations Center, they provide persistent surveillance for troops on Bagram and beyond its perimeter.

The unit provides overwatch for convoys and patrols outside the base as well. “We save patrols all the time,” said Army Master Sgt. Wesley Erb, the detachment first sergeant, noting that tower operators have provided ground troops with their sightings of roadside bombs being planted and ambushes being staged.

One of the detachment’s proudest achievements was the discovery of a homemade explosives laboratory with 600 pounds of munitions at a village northeast of Bagram, he added.

In addition, working with the 34th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the Iowa National Guard -- responsible for force protection and base support operations within Bagram and the surrounding province -- the Guardsmen provided intelligence used to identify and capture a local insurgent leader.

“We are the quickest to get eyes on [developments],” Deramo said. “We keep a pretty good eye out, so if anything looks suspicious, we are going to report it up and we are going to have it checked out. If we see something suspicious, we report it to them, then we get with the Air Force as well to provide their drones accurate locations of things we have spotted.”

The unit also works with defense contractors operating radar systems that detect fast-moving objects in the airspace such as rockets or mortars, and sensors that detect motion along the base perimeter.

This speeds the response, said Army Pfc. Audrey Triplitt, “because we can give them an exact grid coordinate where they can go, so their mission can go outside the wire and locate where it is and [confirm] a possible threat.”

Trained to do air defense artillery support, the unit attended a two-week crash course at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., to receive tower certification before deploying here in November.

Flores admitted that when the unit first arrived in Afghanistan and hadn’t yet learned the local patterns of life, “everything was a red flag.”

“Anybody out there almost seemed like a threat to us,” he said. Now, with five months of experience under their belt, Flores said, the team knows what to look for and is ready for what’s expected to be a busy summer.

“We are all anticipating just anything,” he said. “Our guard comes up come summer, because it gets a lot busier.”

Deramo said the team’s mission boils down to providing a watchful eye.

“By keeping 24-hour watch on the area and the surrounding population … we can allow soldiers that have to go out and do convoys a chance to actually rest and not have to worry about what is going to happen when they sleep,” he said.

Forces Kill 2 Insurgents in Ghazni Province

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2011 – Combined forces killed two armed insurgents in a gun battle and detained several other suspected insurgents yesterday in the Ab Band district of Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, military officials reported.

Troops were searching for a Haqqani terrorist network leader who is responsible for leading attacks on security forces in western Paktika and southeastern Ghazni provinces. Security forces already had detained two suspects when they came under attack. Troops returned fire, killing two gunmen, and they eventually detained several others suspected of being Haqqani terrorists, officials said.

In other operations yesterday throughout Afghanistan:

-- Security forces detained several suspected insurgents, while searching for a Haqqani network bomb maker in Khost province’s Sabari district.

-- Forces found several drug and weapons stockpiles. Operations resulted in seizure of 2,500 pounds of hashish, 400 assault rifle rounds, 37 pressure plates, 12 mortar rounds, five suicide-bomb vests, three assault rifles and assorted bomb-making materials.

Marine Casualty

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

Cpl. Adam D. Jones, 29, of Germantown, Ohio, died April 27 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 2nd Marine Division public affairs office at 910-378-6193 or .

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Insurgents to Face Cold Reception After Winter, General Says

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2011 – Enemy fighters are beginning to make their annual spring resurgence in Afghanistan, but are resurfacing as a weakened force with less support from local residents, a U.S. military commander said today.

Marine Corps Gen. Richard P. Mills spoke with journalists at the State Department’s Foreign Press Center here, along with Derek Hogan, the State’s senior advisor to the department’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mills returned to the United States three week ago at the end of his command of the International Security Assistance Forces’ Regional Command Southwest in Afghanistan’s Helmand and Nimruz provinces.

The southwest provinces are critical to the insurgency, Mills said. The area is at the center of the Pashtun community and provides most of the insurgency’s funding through drugs derived from poppy plants that are plentiful in the Helmand River valley.

The regional command there is made up of U.S. Marines and soldiers from Great Britain, Denmark, Georgia, Estonia, and Italy, who mitigated the insurgency with “a very effective winter campaign” that brought insurgent leaders out of hiding, Mills said.

“When [the enemy] shows his face again, he’s going to find a very different battlefield where Afghan army and police are much more confident,” the general said. “He’s not going to find the same Helmand province. He’s going to find a very cold reception” from residents.

Helmand, once a hotbed of the insurgency, is now safe enough for residents to move about freely, Mills said. Numerous roads have opened, there is improved telephone coverage, and about 125,000 children go to school – including some 20,000 girls – something the Taliban disapprove of.

“The Taliban burn schools, we build them,” Mills said.

The Afghan army has grown to about 10,000 soldiers in three brigades in the area, and is increasingly proving its competency, Mills said. “The Afghan army likes to fight, is good at it, and is not reluctant to take the enemy on,” he said.

Afghan police is also flourishing with 7,500 officers patrolling communities, mostly those they were raised in, he said.

As the military has improved security in southwest Afghanistan, civilian workers, including the U.S. State Department’s foreign service workers, are stepping up to prepare areas to transition to Afghan leadership, which will formally begin in July, Hogan said.

“Because of the military’s great gains, we are able to shift our focus to a diplomatic surge,” he said. “That means the conflict in Afghanistan will come to an end by a political solution.”

Seven Afghan provinces have been identified for transitioning to Afghan forces, but the process can take as long as 18 months, Hogan said. NATO ministers agreed in November to a process for transitioning Afghan provinces, and “we must make sure each [step in the] process is met before we move on to the next one,” he said.

The start of the transition in July should not be viewed as a NATO exit strategy, Hogan said. “What we should see over the next months and years is a more clearly articulated plan that ISAF is diligently working on,” he said.

State workers have created outreach programs and community councils to act as a bridge between levels of government to handle issues such as the reintegration of insurgent followers into communities, and dealing with corruption, Hogan said.

Afghan army and police already have taken over security in many areas of the regional command, Mills said, “and in other areas we’ve thinned out our forces significantly.

“The Afghan security forces are growing more competent every day, willing to take on more every day, and … are anxious to arrive at that capability,” he said. “It will be a slow thinning out process. Hopefully, one day people will wake up and say, ‘Gee, didn’t there used to be U.S. Marines here?’”

Shooting Incident in Kabul Leaves 9 Dead

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2011 – Eight International Security Assistance Force service members and an ISAF civilian died today following a shooting incident in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul, military officials reported.

Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said ISAF has confirmed that the service members and civilian were Americans. Because next of kin had not yet been notified, he would not provide the service affiliations of the service members who were killed.

The shooter reportedly was an Afghan air force officer who was killed during the incident, Lapan said.

A written statement released by ISAF headquarters in Kabul said the command joins Afghan President Hamid Karzai in condemning the attack.

In the statement, Army Lt. Gen. William V. Caldwell IV, commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, said the deaths of nine coalition trainers are “a tragic loss.”

“On behalf of those here at NTM-A, and all of ISAF, I wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to the families of the trainers killed today,” Caldwell said.

"President Karzai has directed an investigation into this morning’s events," Navy Rear Adm. Hal Pittman, senior ISAF spokesman, said in the statement. "ISAF is already working closely with our Afghan partners to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident.”

In other news from Afghanistan:

Coalition forces killed at least 10 armed insurgents during operations yesterday along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

Troops used artillery fire after receiving reports that a group of armed insurgents planned to attack their patrol. Several insurgents were killed in the engagement, officials said.

The same patrol later came under attack by another group of armed insurgents. Troops returned fire, killing several more enemy fighters. An air weapons team providing overwatch security for the patrol launched a third engagement after seeing three more armed insurgents maneuvering into Afghanistan from Pakistan. Two were injured and one was wounded, officials said.

In other operations yesterday:

-- Afghan and coalition forces in Khost province’s Sabari district captured several suspected insurgents, including the senior Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin leader responsible for all operations in the province.

-- Security forces detained a Taliban leader and several of his suspected associates allegedly responsible for launching attacks on troops in Kandahar province’s Dand district.

-- In Helmand province’s Sangin district, troops captured three suspected insurgents, including a Taliban weapons trafficker responsible for supplying enemy fighters with money, explosives and munitions.

-- Forces detained two suspected insurgents, including a Taliban leader responsible for coordinating and carrying out attacks on security forces in Nangarhar province’s Sherzad district.

-- Security forces found several weapons and drug stockpiles throughout Afghanistan. The operations resulted in seizure of 1 million Afghan afghanis, which is the equivalent of $23,264, more than 4,000 pounds of marijuana, 2,250 assault-rifle rounds, 90 hand grenades, 60 rocket-propelled grenade boosters, 13 82 mm mortar shells, two automatic machine guns, an assault rifle and antiaircraft ammunitions.

(Lisa Daniel of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.)

Iowa Agribusiness Development Team helps youths get orchard training

By Air Force Capt. Peter Shinn
734th Agribusiness Development Team

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (4/27/11) - The Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team provided fruit production training for 16 high school boys from the Shegal District at the Bar Chage Demonstration Farm just north of Asadabad, Afghanistan, April 23.

The boys, dressed in matching school uniforms, waited patiently as the Iowa National Guard’s 734th ADT arrived to begin the training session—the first-ever at the team’s newest demonstration farm.

Iowa Guard member Army Master Sgt. Bill Dunbar, project manager for Bar Chage, breathed a sigh of relief.

“I was pretty sure we had this training all lined up, but you never know if things are going to go exactly as planned in Afghanistan,” Dunbar said. “I was sure glad to see the students on-time and ready to go.”

Three months ago, the Bar Chage Demonstration Farm was no more than a rocky field.

A partnership between Dunbar and Haji Hazrat Ali Gul, a successful local orchard owner—who owns the land where the demo farm was established—transformed the bare ground into a fully-functional orchard training facility, complete with more than 200 young and growing tangerine trees, in less than three months.

Gul was on-hand when the inaugural training session began, and he told Dunbar the training session represented the fulfillment of a personal vision.

“I am very happy to see these students learning how to plant an orchard of their own; this is why I offered my land as a training site,” Gul said. “Some of these children may grow up to be teachers, sub-governors, or one might become the president of Afghanistan.”

Said Obaidullah, a young Afghan agricultural professional employed by the ADT, provided the orchard training to the students.

Obaidullah covered what kinds of fruit trees grow best in Kunar, basic planting techniques and how to keep young fruit trees healthy.

Obaidullah, a graduate of the agriculture degree program at Nangarhar University, then guided the students as they each planted a fruit tree sapling.

“The students all got a lot out of this training,” Obaidullah said. “They all asked me, ‘When can I come back again and learn more?’”

Dunbar expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the initial training session at the Bar Chage Demonstration Farm, and called it “just the beginning” of the training he hopes will continue in the months and years to come.

“Today was a good start, but there’s a lot more training to come,” Dunbar said.

Paktika Task Force Honors Fallen Soldier

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan, April 27, 2011 – To the strains of “Amazing Grace,” hundreds of Task Force Currahee soldiers slowly filed into a warehouse-like multipurpose room here yesterday.

At the front of the room, facing rows of simple folding chairs, were the upright rifle, boots, helmet, dog tags and photograph of a man they will never see again.

The 101st Airborne Division’s “Currahee” 4th Brigade Combat Team from Fort Campbell, Ky., gathered to pay tribute to the 16th of its own to die since the brigade deployed to Afghanistan’s Paktika province last summer: Army Sgt. John Paul Castro, a 25-year old husband and father of two, who was killed April 22 when his unit was attacked by enemy small-arms fire.

Castro’s battalion commander, Army Maj. Justin Reese, spoke of the soldier who had been assigned to “Dealer Company,” 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, for his entire seven-year career, deploying once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

Castro’s last mission was “a fight that occurred at distances measured in hand-grenade range, within a complex environment of walled mazes and collapsed structures during the hours of darkness,” Reese said. “It was within this context -- closing with and destroying a determined enemy force -- that Sergeant Castro gave his life.”

Reese praised Castro as a loving husband and father, brother and son.

“His selfless actions will never be forgotten by his brothers, our nation, and our Afghan partners,” he said. “Rest in peace, faithful warrior.”

Castro’s company commander, Army 1st Lt. William Weber, said although Castro had been shot during his last battle, he reported that he was fine and needed additional support.

“Unbeknownst to Sergeant Castro, the injuries he sustained were more severe than he realized,” Weber said. “Sergeant Castro lost his life before he realized he needed help.”

Castro’s platoon leader and two of his fellow soldiers also spoke, remembering the sergeant’s love for his wife and children, music and sports, family cookouts and working on cars. Army 1st Lt. Gregory Shoemaker said Castro was the sort of noncommissioned officer that every platoon leader wants serve with: a man of unparalleled distinction, the embodiment of a soldier, dedicated and mentally and physically resilient.

“To the men of 3rd platoon, he was a rock,” Shoemaker said. “The man who feared nothing, and who would be the first to be there for you, no questions asked.”

Army Spcs. Joseph Rhodes and Bo Rice said Castro was a dedicated leader, friend and mentor.

Rhodes said Castro was passionate about sports, and had “a fierce personality to be the best he could be,” yet always was ready to make friends laugh or help them through their troubles.

As a father, Castro had no equal, Rhodes said. “His love of his children went above and beyond, and was the strongest of any man who’s ever been graced to walk the Earth,” he said.

“John was that guy that everyone wanted right beside them when bullets start flying,” Rice said. “Here’s to you, John. … May you rest in peace.”

Army Chaplain (Maj.) Randall Robison read the 23rd Psalm and spoke of the young man the assembled soldiers were there to honor. “Remembering his commitment to his family, his team, his unit and his country should inspire all of us to dig deep, to do our best,” he said.

Each soldier -- two by two, then four by four -- marched to, saluted, and knelt before Castro’s displayed boots and helmet. Many of them placed tokens of remembrance on and around the wooden stand supporting the boots. A video game, a card listing the Army values, various unit coins, a baseball and a baseball glove were among the offerings. One soldier ripped the airborne and division patches from his sleeve and laid them down.

The mementos will be delivered to Castro’s family.

Marine Casualty

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

Lance Cpl. Joe M. Jackson, 22, of White Swan, Wash., died April 24 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the 1st Marine Division public affairs office at760-725-8766.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Face of Defense: 9/11 Memories Motivate Officer

By Paul Taylor
Pentagon Force Protection Agency

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2011 – For Zelma Owens -- then a uniformed officer with the Defense Protective Service -- the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon set in motion a career path that has led to her current position as an antiterrorism officer with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

“It was a loud boom, and the building shook,” she recalled. “I thought somebody had pushed one of those big safes and knocked it over, and I thought ‘Why would somebody do that?’ Then everybody started coming out of their offices screaming, ‘We’ve been hit! We’ve been hit!’”

For Owens, the attack began a long series of days with little rest as she helped to secure the site, establish a force protection perimeter and manage the massive influx of investigators, rescuers and others involved with the recovery effort.

Today, Owens still works for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, but she has traded in her uniform for civilian attire, serving in the agency’s antiterrorism and force protection directorate, working with managers of Defense Department-leased facilities in the national capital region.

“We advise them on their antiterrorism plans,” she explained. “That means helping them conduct vulnerability assessments, threat assessments and criticality assessments. For me, it’s actually helping people to go through the process of determining how they are going to respond to certain types of emergencies. That’s what I like about the job.”

In addition to developing and maintaining antiterrorism and force protection plans for more than 20 leased facilities, Owens also represents her directorate for table-top exercises with the agency’s training directorate.

“Zelma is one of my budding superstars,” said Jim Pelkofski, antiterrorism and force protection director. “The more I get to know her and the more I learn her talents, the more I lean on her, and the more tasks and responsibilities I push her way.

“I’ve very much placed her in an operational role within the organization, because I see that kind of talent in her,” he added. “I really think highly of her. She has a great attitude. She has a great level of knowledge.”

Owens began gathering that knowledge with the Pentagon police in 1997. Before 9/11, she was a liaison from the police to the antiterrorism and force protection directorate.

“That was my first experience with [the directorate], and my interest grew,” she said, especially in 9/11’s immediate aftermath.

“We had to identify guard positions, define how many officers were going to work each post, what their hours would be, and we had to do it quickly,” she said. “That was my first experience in helping to develop mitigation measures for an [antiterrorism] plan.”

She earned two promotions in the Pentagon police department, attaining the rank of lieutenant and becoming responsible for “random antiterrorism measures” -- security measures that routinely change their look and type to make it difficult for terrorists to predict challenges they would face in an attack -– on the Pentagon reservation. She was hired into her current position in 2006.

Owens said it’s easy to understand why she’s passionate about her job.

“Saving lives,” she said. “I’m in the business of saving lives.”

UAE Steps Into the Fight Against Piracy

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tracey L. Whitley, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- One of the U.S. Navy's top commanders attended an international anti-piracy conference held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), April 18 and 19.

Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, and a U.S. delegation led by Ambassador to the UAE, Richard Olson participated in the two-day conference that gave government and shipping industry leaders from around the globe a chance to convene and seek out solutions to ending piracy in the region.

Held under the theme "Global Challenge, Regional Responses: Forging A Common Approach to Maritime Piracy," the meeting focused on finding ways to counter the recent spike in criminal activity at sea, off the Somali coast and in the Arabian Sea.

Many nations have deployed their naval assets off the coast of Somalia in an effort to counter piracy, especially in the strategic shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden. Navies, including those of the UAE, coalition forces and regional nations, have met Somali pirates with force; however, piracy continues to be a growing international problem.

The conference allowed military and government officials to present the developing issues of international law, addressing the root causes of piracy and opportunities for intelligence sharing.

"We should use the same tools we use in the counter-terrorism fight," said Fox. "We need to take preventative measures to disrupt piracy by following the money, tracing phone calls and disrupting their supply chains."

Mohammed Abdullahi Omar, the foreign minister of Somalia, expressed his concern with the issue by stating that despite the best efforts of foreign nations to contain pirate activity, pirates have gotten smarter and are repositioning their operations further away from Somalia's coast, making them harder to catch without an effective Somali government.

Somalia's government is prepared to act through a comprehensive strategy on piracy, Omar said, but it needs international help. States in the area were urged to extend any logistical support they could to the military response effort, which has notably reduced the achievement rate of pirate attacks and therefore 'must be continuously and vigorously pursued.'

This was the first time the UAE has held an international conference on the topic, taking a strong stand on the problem and proving that they are ready to step up and assist in the fight against piracy.

There were record high numbers in piracy attacks worldwide for the first quarter of 2011, reaching 142, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Almost 70 percent of the attacks occurred off the coast of Somalia, up from 35 percent in the same time frame in 2010.

"The piracy issue requires a mosaic of different people working together - from creating the rule of law ashore in Somalia, industry leaders using best management practices, the military to patrol, disrupt and deter the pirates, and finally we need an appropriate legal 'finish,' so that when we catch people in the act, they're able to be taken to justice," said Fox. "It's an international problem and it's going to take an international cooperative solution."