Monday, October 31, 2011

U.S. Will Maintain Ties, Presence in Persian Gulf

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By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2011 – The United States will maintain a forward-deployed presence in the Persian Gulf region, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

The United States, he said, has had troops in that part of the world since World War II.

“Our goal is to promote stability and we expect to continue to have strong military-to-military relations with countries in the region including Iraq, to include Kuwait, to include others,” Little said.

The number of troops serving in the region and where they will be based remains to be decided, said Navy Capt. John Kirby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations.

“We’re still working through the decision process,” Kirby said. “There’s been no final decision made on any additional force presence anywhere.”

Little stressed that formal plans have not been submitted to President Barack Obama or Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

“Whatever decisions are made about force posture moving forward will be based upon our security commitments we have made and will continue to honor in that region,” Kirby said.

The U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf region is “not aimed at any one particular threat,” Kirby added, “but rather aimed towards our very serious commitments to security and stability in that part of the world.”

The United States has a range of interests and partners in the Persian Gulf region, Little said, noting the number of U.S. forces in the region has waxed and waned in response to events since the end of World War II in 1945.

Combined Forces Kill 10 Insurgents in Afghanistan

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases covering the front lines in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2011 – Afghan and coalition forces killed 10 insurgents, detained one suspect and seized three weapons caches during operations across Afghanistan yesterday, military officials reported.

Coalition forces killed three insurgents in Kunar province’s Bar Kunar district. Two others were killed in the Qarghaee district of Laghman province during an airstrike. In the Khost district of Khost province, two other insurgents were killed after engaging coalition forces in a mortar attack.

In Kapisa province’s Tagab district, coalition forces killed one insurgent who was attempting to emplace an improvised explosive device. In the Mehtar Lam district of Laghman province, two insurgents were killed and one was detained during a firefight with Afghan and coalition forces.

Coalition forces in the Shemal district of Khost province seized an assault rifle, an ammo magazine, a shotgun, seven chest rigs and shotgun shells.

Coalition forces seized a 40 mm grenade launcher and three 40 mm rounds in the Bak district of Khost province.

In the Qarghah’I district of Laghman province, coalition forces seized one box of machine-gun ammunition, one hand grenade and 300 machine-gun rounds.

In Oct. 29 Afghanistan operations:
-- A combined force killed a Taliban leader and detained one suspect in the Sherzad district of Nangarhar province. The leader conducted ambushes against Afghan convoys. The force confiscated one assault rifle and a grenade.

-- A combined patrol killed an insurgent leader and two other insurgents in the Khash Rod district of Nimroz province. The leader was responsible for the intimidation of local civilians and assassinations of Afghan government officials. The patrol confiscated two assault rifles and ammunition.

-- In the Qalat district of Zabul province, a combined force captured a Taliban leader and detained two suspects. The insurgent leader coordinated attacks against coalition forces.

-- In the Kajaki district of Helmand province, a coalition force seized detonation cord, homemade explosives, 20 pressure plates, IED-making components, four 82 mm mortars, a grenade, one 107 mm rocket, some landmines and small-arms ammunition.

-- A combined force detained multiple suspects while searching for a Taliban leader in the Panjwa’i district of Kandahar province.

-- In the Manduzai district of Khost province, a combined force detained numerous suspects during a search for a Haqqani network leader. The force confiscated several weapons.

-- A combined force detained several suspects while searching for a Haqqani network leader in the Gardez district of Paktia province. The leader coordinates roadside-bomb attacks in the district.

In Oct. 28 Afghanistan operations:
-- A combined force captured two Haqqani network leaders and two suspects in the Sarobi district of Paktika province.

-- In the Kandahar district of Kandahar province, a combined force detained several suspects while searching for a Taliban leader.

-- A combined force detained two suspects in Helmand province’s Nawah-ye Barakzai.

-- In the Kahmard district of Bamyan province, Afghan civilians discovered three weapons caches containing one 85 mm rocket, one 82 mm recoilless rifle round, one anti-personnel mine, 120 40 mm grenade rounds, 101 grenades, 49 grenade fuses, 11 rockets, eight rocket-propelled grenades and 140 rounds of ammunition.

-- In the Pul-e ‘Alam district of Logar province, a combined force detained two suspects during a search for a Haqqani network leader. The leader directs attacks against Afghan forces.

-- A combined force detained one suspect and confiscated multiple rocket-propelled grenades during a search for a Taliban leader in Logar province’s Charkh district. The insurgent leader is responsible for multiple attacks across the province.

Face of Defense: Marines Supply Ammunition to Troops

Get the real story of the front lines in Afghanistan from real Afghanistan War veterans!

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Snodgrass
II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward)

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2011 – A sophisticated supply system keeps ammunition readily available for troops posted in southwestern Afghanistan, according to a senior Marine Corps noncommissioned officer who’s involved in the effort.

 “We supply all [Regional Command] Southwest coalition units with ammunition,” said Marine Corps Master Sgt. Adam Newsum, the ammunition supply point operations chief for 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) here.

Ammunition deliveries in Afghanistan are conducted by ground supply convoys or helicopter, said Newsum, a New York City native.

“We make sure the ammunition is properly stored, transported, handled and inventoried,” he said, “and then we get it to the warfighters so they can conduct their missions.”

Several units work together, Newsum said, to coordinate the movement of a vast amount of ammunition to ensure Marines and other troops in Afghanistan can accomplish their missions.

Ammunition supplies, he said, must be systematically requested, tallied, and transported with efficiency and accuracy. Every shipment, he added, must be accounted for down to the last round -- quite a chore considering the numbers.

“We supply anywhere between $7 and $12 million dollars of ammunition a month to all the coalition forces within Helmand province,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brian Taylor, who hails from Dayton, Ohio.

Currently, Taylor said, about $250 million of ammunition has been distributed to Regional Command Southwest units.

“We’ve moved almost $60 million worth of ammo over the past six months,” he added.

Ammunition deliveries to Afghanistan are airlifted from Kuwait to Camp Leatherneck, Taylor explained.

“Then we look at who in our inventory list needs ammunition,” he continued, “and decide what will be the most efficient way for it to get to their final locations.”

Ammunition is something most Marines take for granted “without realizing how much effort goes into ensuring they always have a constant supply,” Taylor said.

“The Marines I have out here get all the credit for getting the job done,” Newsum said. “They’re motivated, disciplined and want to be here. For many, this is their second tour of duty out here in Afghanistan or Iraq. We’re all glad to be helping our guys get the missions done.”

Saturday, October 29, 2011

16 Coalition Personnel Killed in Afghanistan Attacks

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2011 – A car bomb smashed into an International Security Assistance Force convoy in Kabul today killing 13 coalition personnel, NATO officials said.

 Five of the dead are service members, and eight are ISAF civilian employees. The attack injured several Afghans and coalition personnel as well as innocent Afghan civilian.

News reports out of Kabul say the Taliban took credit for the car bomb attack, and reports indicate the car ran into what is popularly called a Rhino -- essentially an armored bus.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was informed of the convoy attack soon after it happened. “His heart goes out to those who were killed and wounded, and to their families,” said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little. “Continuing our aggressive pursuit of the enemy will honor their sacrifice, and he is determined that the United States – working closely with our Afghan and NATO partners – will do precisely that.”

A second attack in southern Afghanistan took the lives of three more coalition personnel and wounded others when a man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform shot the soldiers.

ISAF Commander U.S. Marine Gen. John R. Allen condemned today’s terrorist attacks.

“I am both saddened and outraged by the attacks that took place today against coalition forces and the people of Afghanistan,” Allen said in a written release. “The enemies of peace are not martyrs, but murderers. To hide the fact that they are losing territory, support and the will to fight, our common enemy continues to employ suicide attackers to kill innocent Afghan fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, as well as the coalition forces who have volunteered to protect them.”

Allen also mentioned a suicide attack launched by a young girl who walked into a building housing the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s internal intelligence service, in the eastern province of Kunar. The girl killed herself and wounded several NDS personnel.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured in today’s attacks,” Allen said. “Their sacrifices will be honored and the enemy will be held to account.”

NATO Commander Cites Continued Progress in Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – After a three-day trip to Afghanistan, the top U.S. European Command and NATO military officer reported positive security trends and continued momentum in transitioning security responsibility to Afghan forces.

“Overall, the trip reinforced my sense that we are making good progress in the security sector,” Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis wrote in his “From the Bridge” blog after visiting Kabul, Kandahar and Wardak.

“I can see the progress,” the admiral wrote, “especially in the development of the Afghan security forces and the ongoing transition.”

Stavridis said his briefings with commanding generals in the Afghanistan’s southern and eastern sectors, where most of the security challenges lie, gave him cause for optimism. “It is clear that they have solid plans, sufficient forces and are making steady inroads into the insurgency,” he wrote.

For example, twice as many Afghan troops than coalition troops are serving in both the south and east, he noted. Meanwhile, enemy attacks are down 10 percent nationwide, and even more in the south and southwest.

“This is a big improvement over the past couple of years,” Stavridis wrote. The fighting season, he added, “has clearly been a disappointment to the Taliban,” who’ve been forced to take up a defensive posture.

Meanwhile, Afghan security forces are leading more operations, which Stavridis called “a good sign that the transition to Afghan-led security operations is well under way and working.”

Twenty-five percent of the Afghan population is now under Afghan lead for security, he noted. That percentage, he added, is slated to double within the next few months and ultimately to reach 100 percent by the end of 2014.

But even as this progress continues, Stavridis said, the insurgents’ ability to move across the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border region continues to present “a serious challenge to our efforts.”

One of the most-striking impressions from his trip, he said, came when visiting a literacy training class for Afghan National Police recruits in Wardak province.

The training, conducted by the NATO Training Mission under in Afghanistan under the command of Army Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, is part of an ongoing effort to increase literacy among Afghan security forces. To date, 200,000 have been through or enrolled in the training.

Stavridis said he was impressed by the fast-paced coursework he witnessed, noting that the young police recruits are “hungry to learn.”

“This will be a very long, lasting contribution to the security and stability in Afghanistan,” he wrote.

Looking to the future, Stavridis recognized other challenges: governance, corruption that one Afghan observer called a “second insurgency” and economic problems, among them.

Upcoming international conferences in Istanbul and Bonn and the NATO summit in Chicago next spring will need to help in addressing these problems, he said.

Stavridis said he remains positive about Afghanistan.

“When I look back at where we were in the spring of 2009, I can see the progress -- especially in the development of the Afghan security forces and the ongoing transition,” he wrote. “My sense at this moment is that there is indeed hope in the time ahead, along with all the challenges.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

DOD Releases Report on Progress in Afghanistan

The October 2011 “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” a biannual report to Congress in accordance with Section 1230 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181) as amended, was provided today to Congress.

It is posted at .

Face of Defense: Convoys Truck Equipment Out of Iraq

By Army Spc. Anthony T Zane
362nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq, Oct. 28, 2011 – The number of convoys leaving Iraq is growing each day as Operation New Dawn nears the end of its mission.

October has been a busy month here, said Army Staff Sgt. Erick Torres, convoy commander, 233rd Transportation Company, as many military units on the base are packing up and sending their equipment back home.

“The most challenging part of this job is loading the vehicles,” said Torres, who hails from Phenix City, Ala.

Convoys of vehicles and equipment, he said, are being packed up and shipped out in preparation to exit Iraq.

Flatbed trucks carrying Humvees, tanks and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles are backed up to a ramp where the vehicles are carefully loaded. Once the cargo is loaded onto the trucks and the paperwork is complete, Torres said, the convoy is assembled at a staging area to await departure.

Meanwhile, tons of equipment needs to be shipped out before the year's end, Torres said, so soldiers and civilian contractors work long hours to ensure all equipment is packed properly and ready for transit.

Part of a convoy commander’s job, Torres said, is identifying vehicles and equipment by serial number and matching them against unit rosters before they are shipped. It makes for long days, but it is a necessary part of the process, he added.

Combined Forces Kill 11 Insurgents, Detain 15 Suspects

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2011 – Afghan and coalition forces killed 11 insurgents, detained 15 suspected individuals and seized a weapons cache during operations across eastern Afghanistan yesterday, military officials reported.

In Kunar province’s Nari district, three insurgents were killed after they were spotted before a rocket attack against a coalition base. Another three insurgents were killed by airstrikes after they attacked a coalition observation post in the Bar Kunar district. Three more insurgents were killed in the Khost district center of Khost province after they engaged Afghan forces with mortar rounds. Two other insurgents were killed during an airstrike in the Zankhan district of Ghazni province.

Meanwhile, Afghan police detained nine people suspected of throwing an improvised explosive device at a checkpoint in the Khost district center. Three other suspects were detained by Afghan and coalition forces in the Gardez district of Paktia province. Another three suspects were detained by coalition forces in Paktia province’s Zurmat district.

Coalition forces in the Gardez district seized a weapons cache containing 150 7.62 mm rounds, an assault rifle and one 82 mm mortar round.

In other Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined patrol in Uruzgan province’s Shahid-E Hasas district killed several insurgents, including an insurgent leader who was responsible for coordinating prison escapes, facilitating IED and suicide-bomb attacks, and supplying lethal aid to insurgents.

-- In the Maiwand district of Kandahar province, a combined patrol seized a weapons cache containing one rocket-propelled grenade, one RPG booster and five 82 mm recoilless rifle rounds.

-- In the Deh Rawud district of Uruzgan province, a combined force seized a weapons cache containing five 107 mm rockets.

-- In the Nahr-E Saraj district of Helmand province, a combined patrol detained an insurgent leader who was a tactical commander responsible for planning attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The patrol also seized some small arms.

Marine Casualty

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

Staff Sgt. Stephen J. Dunning, 31, of Milpitas, Calif., died Oct. 27 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the III Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office at 081-98-970-3803 or .

Clinton Discusses Way Forward in Afghanistan, Pakistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2011 – The United States has made tremendous progress in Afghanistan, but the work that remains to be done requires cooperation from both Afghanistan and Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee today.

Osama bin Laden and many top al-Qaida terrorists are dead, Clinton said. The terror group has been devastated, she added, and its ability to conduct operations is greatly diminished.

“Many of our successes against al-Qaida would not have been possible without our presence in Afghanistan and close cooperation with Pakistan,” she said.

Clinton just returned from visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and CIA Director David H. Petraeus accompanied her.

The coalition in Afghanistan still faces a difficult fight, the secretary said, but the surge in coalition troops and the plus-up in Afghan security forces has wrested momentum away from the Taliban.

Afghan forces are assuming more responsibility each day, Clinton said, noting that Afghan President Hamid Karzai soon will announce the next group of areas in the country where Afghan forces will assume security responsibility.

The Afghans undoubtedly have made progress, Clinton said.

“Ten years ago, fewer than a million students enrolled in Afghan schools -- all of them boys,” she said. “Now, more than 7 million [attend school]. Nearly 40 percent of them are girls. Afghans are better positioned to chart their own future.”

The United States cannot let up in the region, Clinton said. “We should build on our momentum, not undercut our progress,” she told the House panel.

Working with Afghan and Pakistani partners is not always easy, Clinton acknowledged. “But these relationships are advancing America’s national security interests,” she added, “and walking away from them would undermine those interests.”

During her talks with Afghan and Pakistani leaders, Clinton said, she emphasized America’s three-track strategy of “fight, talk and build.”

“The chance of success for all three [is] greatly increased by strong cooperation from the Afghan and Pakistani governments,” she said.

Coalition and Afghan forces have increased pressure on the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other insurgents, Clinton said.

“But our commanders on the ground are increasingly concerned … that we have to go after the safe havens across the border in Pakistan,” she said. “So in Islamabad last week, General Dempsey, Director Petraeus and I delivered a single, unified message: Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership must join us in squeezing the Haqqani network from both sides of the border and in closing safe havens.”

The three underscored to the Pakistanis how urgent this is, and “we had detailed and frank conversations about the concrete steps both sides need to take,” Clinton said.

In the second track, the United States is encouraging an Afghan-led peace process, Clinton said. She reiterated that insurgents must renounce violence, abandon al-Qaida and abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan to be accepted back into Afghan society.

“If insurgents cannot or will not meet those redlines, they will face continued and unrelenting assault,” she said. “And I want to stress, as I did in Kabul, that the hard-won rights of women and all Afghans cannot be rolled back, and the growth of civil society must be not be quashed.”

Pakistan has a big stake in reconciliation in Afghanistan, Clinton said, and the United States expects Pakistan to encourage the Taliban and other insurgents to participate in an Afghan peace process in good faith through unequivocal public statements and by closing off the safe havens.

The third track, Clinton said, is building capacity and opportunity in Afghanistan, Pakistan and across the region.

“Now, this is part of a clear-eyed strategy rooted in a lesson we have learned over and over again around the world -- lasting stability and security go hand in hand with greater economic opportunity,” she said.

The economic aspects of this track, Clinton said, are crucial for continued progress in security and reconciliation.

“Now, as the transition proceeds and coalition combat forces leave Afghanistan, there need to be realistic hopes for development,” she said. “We are working to achieve greater agricultural productivity, greater exploitation in a way that benefits the Afghanistan people of natural resources, increasing exports and strengthening the financial sector.”

America wants to move from “aid to trade,” the secretary of state said. Therefore, she added, U.S. lawmakers are being asked to pass legislation that will lower tariffs on Pakistani and Afghan products, and the Enterprise Fund, which will not require taxpayer dollars.

Clinton discussed the regional efforts called the New Silk Road.

“It’s not just an economic plan,” she said. “It talks about how we can get these countries that have so many problems with each other to begin cooperating.”

Insurgents Face Unrelenting Pressure in Afghanistan

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2011 – Insurgents fighting against the Afghan government and people can end their violent ways and rejoin their communities or face unrelenting pressure, a senior International Security Assistance Force commander said today.

“With our Afghan partners, we will continue to create an inhospitable environment for the insurgents to return to in the spring,” Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of ISAF Joint Command, said today during a teleconference with Pentagon reporters.

Scaparrotti laid out his plans for the upcoming seasonal change. Insurgent activity historically slows down during the harsh Afghan winter.

“Our objectives this fall and winter will be [to] maintain pressure on the enemy,” he said. “[We’ll] expand on our security gains; continue to hold the south, both Kandahar and the central Helmand River valley, [and] maintain a strong offensive in the east.”

“[We will] enable the Afghan security forces to take the lead during the spring fighting season. And finally, we will continue to press reintegration at all levels across Afghanistan,” Scaparrotti said.

The general cited significant advances in Afghanistan over the past decade, specifically since the troop surge of 2009 and 2010.

“Since 2002, the Afghan [gross domestic product] has grown by 12 percent a year on average,” Scaparrotti noted. “More than five times as many children are in school. And while there is still a need to improve health care, access has greatly increased. Today, nearly 85 percent of Afghans have basic health care within one hour of where they live.”

Scaparrotti lauded the Afghan government’s achievements since 2009.

“Now there are over 300,000 Afghan national security forces throughout the country,” he said. “On a daily basis, they are conducting operations across Afghanistan. A majority of all coalition operations are partnered with Afghan security forces, and increasingly, the Afghans are in the lead.”

ISAF and its Afghan partners have surpassed their own projections this past winter, Scaparrotti said, having significantly degraded the insurgents' capabilities by targeting their command and control, support bases and infiltration routes.

“As a result,” he added, “we created the right conditions for a successful summer fighting season and supported the process of transition.”

Scaparrotti told reporters he recognizes that transition in Afghanistan is not just about military operations.

“It is [also] about creating the right opportunities and conditions for the Afghan government and the people of Afghanistan to be successful and have a better way of life,” he said. Elections and the hiring of government officials are evidence of the growth of the government and development opportunities in Afghanistan, he added.

“Today, many more Afghans are voting in local elections and participating in their local governments,” he said. “Over 50 percent of all deputy provincial governors in the [Regional Command] South and Southwest [areas] have been employed through merit-based hiring.”

Earlier this month, 57 new judges were sworn in by the Afghan Supreme Court, Scaparrotti said, noting these judges will be working in districts considered by the Afghan government as having significant potential to expand the reach of formal governance in the population.

Scaparrotti also described “great progress” in education.

“Today, there are more than 13,000 schools, 170,000 teachers and 8 million students, including roughly 3.2 million girls,” he said. In 2001, the general said, it was estimated that Afghanistan had fewer than 1,000 schools and 1 million students nationwide, and few of those students were girls.

Although much progress has been made, Afghans and the coalition will face many challenges ahead and be forced to make some tough decisions, Scaparrotti said.

“At all times, we'll focus on our strong partnership,” he said, “which is based on frank communication, respect and integrity.”

Scaparrotti said the coalition is unified and committed to mission success. “Our strategy is now focused, the coalition is strong, our Afghan partners are fully engaged, and we have the momentum, resources and resolve to succeed,” he said.

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. John A. Lyons, 26, of Seaside Park, N.J., died Oct. 26 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire.  He was assigned to the 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas.

For more information, please contact Fort Hood public affairs office at 254-287-0106 or visit .

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Military Post Offices in Iraq to Close Nov. 17

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By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2011 – Because U.S. forces are coming home from Iraq by the end of the year, the U.S. Postal Service will stop accepting mail addressed to military post offices in Iraq starting Nov. 17, Defense Department officials said today.

Military post offices in Iraq also will stop processing mail Nov. 17, and service members there should begin now to advise those who send them mail about the Nov. 17 deadline.

Mail still in the postal system through Nov. 17 will be processed and delivered to service members in Iraq, officials said.

In November, U.S. military postal service responsibilities in Iraq will transition to State Department embassy or consulate post offices for service members assigned to Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq.

These sites will provide letter and parcel mail services to service members assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq.

The transition will be closely coordinated with the U.S. Postal Service Agency, which will delete ZIP codes for Iraq military post offices from the USPS database to prevent undeliverable mail from entering the postal system after Nov. 17, according to defense officials.

If APO mail arrives in Iraq after a service member departs, mail will be redirected to the new mailing address provided or, if no mailing address was provided, returned to sender.

Any mail mistakenly accepted by a USPS post office after Nov. 17 will be returned to sender once it reaches the International Gateway in New Jersey.

U.S. service members in Iraq who do not receive an absentee ballot by Nov. 17 should contact their U.S. Local Election Office to change their address. Unit voting assistance officers can provide state-specific voting details.

Service members who are remaining in Iraq after Nov. 17 and who are there on behalf of or are assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq should coordinate with their chain of command and the servicing State Department mail location to receive a new mailing address.

According to defense officials, conditions and situations in the Iraq transition change often. Officials recommend that service members check the Military Postal Service Agency website and USPS Postal Bulletins frequently for updates.

Army Casualty

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

Sgt. 1st Class David G. Robinson, 28, of Winthrop Harbor, Ill., died Oct. 25 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  He was assigned to the U.S. Army Support Activity, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

For more information the media may contact Maj. Charlie Barrett at Third Army/U.S. Army Central public affairs at 803-885-8875 or .

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sgt. Edward S. Grace, 39, of South Dartmouth, Mass., died Oct. 23 in Silver Spring, Md., from a non-combat illness.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment, 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Massachusetts National Guard, Braintree, Mass.
For more information the media may contact the Massachusetts National Guard at 508-958-3187.

South Dakota Guard MEDEVAC team stands ready despite drawdown

By Army National Sgt. A.M. LaVey
U.S. Forces - Iraq
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq  – Every morning flight crews from Forward Support Medical Team, Company C, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 189th Aviation Regiment, South Dakota Army National Guard, head to the flight line to bring their UH-60A+ Black Hawk helicopters through maintenance and pre-flight inspections.
The teams are ready and waiting to be called upon for a mission they hope they will never have to perform, but "when we aren't working, it's good for the rest of the Army," said Army 1st Lt. Joseph A. Stack, the team's section leader and operations officer.
Charlie Company has three teams spread throughout the central region of Iraq, and is one of two aerial medical evacuation companies responsible for in-flight medical care for the entire country. The FSMT here is responsible for the northwest sector of the central region.
The company is comprised of pilots, mechanics, crew chiefs, flight medics and support personnel split between both the South Dakota and Montana Army National Guards.
"At home we drill separately, each in our own state, but while deployed we all get to come together," said Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Alissa Bare, pilot and team tactical operations officer. "It's neat, like we've never been separated."
Team as family plays a big part in why these Soldiers join and stay in the National Guard.
"When I was active duty, my unit was my family, but generally after deployments, people leave the unit," said Army Sgt. Adam D. Max, one of the team's flight medics. "But in a National Guard unit, that family stays together pretty much their entire careers. So it's like a real family – you know each other and their families a lot more than you do on the active side."
Family also effects this team's Guard recruitment. A few of the Soldiers have family members also in the Guard, some of them aviators as well. Some just want to stay near their family.
"I joined the National Guard so that I could stay near home, while also serving my country and helping out the local community," said Army Pfc. Nicholas Pickett, a UH-60 repairer with Company D, 1/180th Avn. Reg.
For many members of this team, this is their first deployment, as well as their first real-world mission.
"This mission is the best mission in the military," Stack said. "We get to help people and it is the most challenging and most rewarding part of the job, flying a Soldier to get the care he needs at the hospital in Baghdad."
The MEDEVAC mission is very specific mission of timing and skill, as these helicopters are sometimes put through environment conditions that other crews often don't face and because of this, they require precision maintenance.
"We have to be ready to leave at any moment," Pickett said. "Each day brings maintenance checks. You're looking at all the moving parts, a helicopter has a lot more moving parts than a fixed-wing so you have to inspect those parts and make sure everything is good."
The maintainers are aware of the magnitude of their mission.
"Everybody relies on us," Pickett said. "I am the beginning of the domino effect, if I'm not doing my job keeping the aircraft ready, then we can't go out and fly and save other people's lives. A lot of people rely on me."
When not on mission or performing maintenance, the team is constantly training to ward of compliancy and to improve themselves personally and vocationally.
"Our operational tempo is slow most of the time, so we keep ourselves busy" Stack said. "The pilots host crew-led academics and the crew chiefs and medics cross train as much as possible."
With the upcoming transition from American forces to Iraqi, the team might not be as busy as they thought they'd be, but they understand their importance in the region, supporting the remaining troops on the ground.
"We need to be here," said Warrant Officer 1 Matthew T. Noble, one of the team's pilots. "We knew it was probably going to be slow, compared to Afghanistan – those guys are pretty busy – but we need to be here and we will be here until the last people leave Al Asad.

Army Guard members take back Sangar valley one footstep at a time

By Army National Guard Spc. Leslie Goble
45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – More than 600 Soldiers in search of insurgent activity, weapons caches, and material used to make homemade explosives, are making another big push to secure Laghman province's Sangar Valley.

The joint operation included Soldiers from 1st Brigade, 201st Corp, Afghan National Army and the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

"We are trying to disrupt insurgent activities in the Sangar Valley," said Army Capt. Morgan Ashworth, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 179 Infantry, 45th IBCT. "The ANA increases their interaction with the people, showing them that their forces can protect them and they know how to conduct large scale operations like these against their enemies."

Crowds of men and children watched from their rooftops and lined the streets. They greeted both Afghan and American soldiers with handshakes and smiles.

In the mostly peaceful villages of Sangar, Soldiers searched houses, businesses and fields. During the search, the villagers were grateful and spoke to the Soldiers, even offered food as they passed through.

Villagers came out to see the Soldiers during every step of their march in and out of the valley. Many of them were children cheering and holding their thumbs up as soldiers passed by.

"We are all out visiting with you," said a local villager while talking to Soldiers. "We like you guys. If we didn't like you we would all leave."

Afghan and U.S. soldiers did find an improvised explosive device making facility in a house within the village. Among the findings were several AK 47s, ammunition, knives and bomb-making materials.

"I am hoping this mission will help free the local population from insurgent control," Ashworth said. "They currently have a stronghold and by showing them that the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are here and willing to take an active role in their safety and security, slowly bringing them out of that insurgent control and into a positive and strong relationship with [the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan]."

Most of the fighting took place in the mountains surrounding the Sangar Valley. Insurgents attacked outlying positions, but they had little effect on the Soldiers who returned fire and called in airstrikes. No Soldiers or civilians were injured during the engagement.

The commitment to ensure the safety of village members in the Sangar Valley warranted an Afghan-lead patrol base to be built near the mouth of it; giving the population a hasty response to insurgent activity.

National Guard female engagement team empowers local Afghan women

By Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Rebecca Petrie
116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan (10/25/11) –Virginia Army National Guard 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team members, Joint Sustainment Command – Afghanistan, and Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul conducted a foot patrol through the Qalat bazaar Oct. 19 to visit a new local business venture.

The team followed up on two local women who have started an almond and raisin-cleaning business with funds they received from a small-business grant.

The Combined Team Zabul Female Engagement Team worked with Fatima and Bibi Hawa to get the project started and returned to conduct a quality assessment of the business and to help iron out some wrinkles. The establishment of the business is a small victory for the CTZ FET.

"We are giving someone an opportunity to create an environment, led by women, where women can be employed to earn a sensible living," said Army Capt. Iajaira Perez, the CTZ FET officer in charge. "Projects like this allow women to work together to make small changes within their communities."

As one of the more conservative regions in the country, Zabul province has been slow to recognize the positive contributions women have the potential to bring to the community.

Through the use of small-business grants, the local government and coalition forces are working together to change that dogma.

"The true assessment of the value gained through this investment will continue to be realized for years to come," said Army Lt. Col. Joel Jeffers, assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command serving in Kandahar. "This type of investment empowers those normally oppressed to realize a dream and expand their own visions, and break the norm."

The tolerance level will rise with the number of women who enter the workforce.

"This is a perfect way to establish women within the corporate structure of Qalat," Jeffers said.

"Giving grants to women that push the norm and empower women to become self-sufficient as a provider not only assists the family by producing another income, but provides a new level of respect and lets the town know that women can still be religious, handle a family and gradually begin to change minds as to the overall status of women."

Not only do these small businesses help the women, but they also aid coalition forces with counterinsurgency operations.

"These businesses are COIN in action," said Jeffers. "They are locally owned and operated, employ local workers and provide a continuing means of employment which may keep some of the local population from assisting the insurgents for money, and spur them to expel any insurgents that could be disrupting their livelihood."

The idea is to create jobs for the locals so they don't have to turn to the insurgents for their survival, but with so many widows and wives with incapacitated husbands in the area, it's hard for women to find work.

"I would love to see more women-owned and run businesses such as a women's clothing store, bakery and restaurants," Perez said.

The CTZ FET is planning a women's shura to discuss future business opportunities.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Combined Force Captures Insurgent Facilitator

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2011 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force captured a facilitator for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan terrorist organization, along with two other suspected insurgents, in the Bangi district of Afghanistan’s Takhar province yesterday, military officials reported.

The facilitator had coordinated attacks against Afghan government officials in northern Afghanistan, officials said.

In other Afghanistan operations yesterday:
-- A combined force detained two suspects during a search for a Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin and Taliban leader in the Alingar district of Laghman province. The insurgent leader plans attacks against Afghan forces. Six rocket-propelled grenade boosters were confiscated.

-- In the Sayyidabad district of Wardak province, a combined force detained several suspects while searching for a Taliban facilitator who conducts abductions and attacks throughout the region.

-- A combined force captured a Haqqani network facilitator and several suspects in the Pul-e Alam district of Logar province. The facilitator coordinated insurgent activity in the province.

-- A combined force captured a Haqqani network facilitator and another suspect in the Terayzai district of Khost province. The facilitator distributed rockets and roadside bombs, and he conducted attacks against Afghan forces.

-- A combined force confiscated bomb-making materials during a search for a Taliban leader in the Zurmat district of Paktia province. The leader constructs and stores roadside bombs and other weapons and leads insurgents in attacks against Afghan forces in the Zurmat and Gardez districts.

-- In the Ziruk district of Paktika province, a combined force detained a suspect during a search for a Haqqani network facilitator. The facilitator constructs roadside bombs and provides explosives training to other insurgent leaders.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained 21 suspects and seized two weapons caches in eastern Afghanistan. Afghan forces detained 15 people in Khost province’s Sabari district, and Afghan forces detained a suspect in the Dehyak district of Ghazni province. Coalition forces in the Sayyidabad district of Wardak province detained a man for having a hidden rifle, and an Afghan security force detained four suspects in the Mehtar Lam district of Laghman province. The Afghan force also seized eight mortar rounds and seven fuses. Another cache containing bomb-making materials, 100 pounds of explosives, five rocket-propelled grenade boosters and fuses, a pressure plate and wiring and casing materials was seized in the Gurbuz district of Khost province.

In Oct. 23 operations:
-- In Kandahar province’s Registan district, a combined patrol detained numerous suspects and seized 1,477 pounds of wet opium and 198 pounds of dry opium.

-- In the Tarin Kot district of Uruzgan province, a combined patrol detained several insurgents during an operation to disrupt an insurgent lethal-aid and narcotics network.

-- A combined patrol killed two insurgents and detained a suspect in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. One of the deceased insurgents had directed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The patrol seized a grenade and some small arms.

-- A combined force detained two insurgents, including a suspected insurgent leader, in the Kabul district of Kabul province. The leader is responsible for supplying lethal aid used in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- A combined patrol seized a 107 mm rocket, 37 75 mm rounds and a homemade grenade in the Ab Band district of Ghazni province.