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February 2007

Surge troops skipping NTC before deployment

UPDATE: John Hood from NRO's The Corner has linked here and is discussing the same bit. Matty O' points out in the comments that it was an AP piece by John Burns that ran in the Army Times, I missed that but think it explains the tone of the piece.

From the Army Times

Rushed by President Bush’s decision to reinforce Baghdad with thousands more U.S. troops, two Army combat brigades are skipping their usual session at the Army’s premier training range in California and instead are making final preparations at their home bases......

Instead of going to the National Training Center first, it imported personnel and equipment — even Toyota pickups like those used by Iraqi insurgents — from the training center at Fort Irwin for two weeks of final rehearsals that begin Wednesday.....

The main things that cannot be replicated in a home-station exercise are the vast spaces of the National Training Center, which is located in the Mojave Desert, and the weather and other environmental conditions that so closely resemble much of Iraq, Wagstaffe said.

“Your weapon won’t jam from sand at Fort Stewart,” he said.

I imagine we will hear some wailing and gnashing of teeth about this, but let's take an objective look at what this actually means. It would be great to send all our forces through an exact simulation of what they will face in Iraq, but NTC is not a perfect model either. The main thing our troops will be doing is urban/village counter-insurgency and while much of Iraq is desert, we are not conducting Rat Patrol operations chasing Rommel around North Africa. The training most important for these troops is building clearing, urban operations, and civil-military affairs. Both Ft. Stewart and Ft/ Lewis have excellent MOUT (military operations on urbanized terrain) training facilities where the units could work on the small unit tactics that they will use in Iraq.

I have been to NTC and traveled about in those vast spaces of California desert, and they are a great place to stage giant force on force battles where tanks and Bradleys and Humvees go screaming around hiding behind rock formations then blasting at each other. As I mentioned very helpful if we are attempting to repel an invading Iranian Armored Corps, not too helpful for house to house, cordon and clear, counter-insurgency. So these wise commanders decided that rather than pack up the whole unit and deploy them to NTC and then back home, they could just bring some of the training aids like Toyota pickups etc., have folks from their bases play the Iraqis and they could be ready to go weeks sooner to join the most important actions since our invasion. Awful idea I know.

Now I'm not saying it isn't a compromise and that in a perfect world it wouldn't be better to go to NTC. I'm saying this is a minor issue, that will be inflated and bandied about by the Murthas of the world and this doesn't even rise to "Embrace the suck" status. Also remember that most of the leadership of these units have already done a couple of tours in Iraq and they have been teaching their troopies how to deal with sand jamming their weapons, and I don't think the spokesman for NTC has ever been to Ft. Stewart and seen the evil red clay/dirt there in the summer either.

So deep breaths, we are not sending our troops un-trained into combat. They have been working on the tactics and techniques they will use to operate in the cities and villages they will help secure, I think they would join me in saying that they will get plenty of Iraq-like weather and terrain once they actually get there.


The Gathering of Eagles

Continuing our support of the Gathering of Eagles, Russ Vaughn, MilBlog poet laureate, has written a masterpiece.  Someone get Trace Adkins on the phone to sing this one:

You Ain't Gonna Touch This Wall

Look, boy, you're free to demonstrate,
March up and down this Mall;
But, son, I'm gonna set you straight,
You ain't gonna touch this Wall.

You shout and scream all you want,
On all that we'll give a pass;
But you try some Wall-defacing stunt,
And, son, I'm gonna kick your ass.

(Chorus)
Let us make it clear, we've all come here
To defend our long-dead brothers;
And understand you ain't layin' a hand
On our Wall you leftie mothers...

Read the whole thing at Old War Dogs (where else?).  Find out how you can join the gathering and stand for the Fallen at the Wall.


A Very, Very Important Announcement

Ibelogooriginal Folks, a short interruption here for an important announcement-

In my civilian capacity, I run a part of a new airline.  This airline has one basic goal- to help reduce the time it takes to get in and out of Iraq for all our folks there.  Recently, we have finally begun charter air service in and out of Baghdad- and we are the first AMERICAN owned airline to do so.

We are also the first that will operate at night, and have service that drops and picks up passengers at Sather Air Base (known as the 'mil-side' of Baghdad airport).  This is a huge event, as now soldiers and civilians working with the Coalition will be able to go from Baghdad to DC in as little as 17 hours- basically, you can leave Baghdad at 9:15 pm and be in DC by 06:30 the next morning!

No more 2 or 3 day waits to get in and out- we will get you to Kuwait quickly, and best of all, in a modern aircraft with air conditioning and real seats.  We are sending out press releases today on this, and our 'first' flight was this past Sunday.

Our flights will be Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, and we hope to expand those soon.  This has been years in development, and took a lot of cooperation with Iraqi air authorities and Kuwaiti air officials to get this service in operation, as well as the USAF and State Department. 

If people need to come home on emergency leave, we have the fastest way home.  I hope to serve as many as possible, because we're there to help them.

FlyGryphon Website

Thanks for the interruption- now back to your regularly scheduled support blog..

Wolf


Doc Kirby - Someone You Should Know Radio

Doc Kirby has been featured here and at Op-For and other blogs quite a few times.  I talked about Doc Kirby and his Marines on Pundit Review (click link for podcast) last night. 

You can see the list of Someone You Should Know - Radio podcasts at Pundit Review (also available at iTunes).


February in Iraq in Photos

36890

A Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division searches the shadows of a palm grove on a recent patrol in the area of Mahmudiyah, Iraq, 17 miles south of the Iraqi capital. Coalition and Iraqi army soldiers patrol this area together to deny the enemy safe haven and staging grounds to launch attacks against the capital city. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jon Cano, 2nd BCT, 10th Mountain Public Affairs).

More after the Jump...photos include Kurds arriving in Baghdad, Gate Breach, Hero's Highway, Critical Care, Scaling the Wall, and Medevac...

Continue reading "February in Iraq in Photos" »


Against the Surge and In Iraq

Below are the words of Rep. Marcy Kaptur:

...The intelligence was not faulty. No one should be allowed to blame this on the Central Intelligence Agency. Our intelligence community, including the CIA, tried to tell President Bush and Vice President Cheney, but they refused to listen.

   Madam Speaker, though I voted for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, I spoke out strongly against the resolution authorizing President Bush to wage preemptive war against Iraq because I feared what would happen:

more terrorism, not less; more instability, not less.

   Since that vote I have supported our troops at every turn and will continue to support them. And I do not regret my vote against the war in Iraq, and I do not apologize for my support of our troops. But now is the time to take the first step toward course correction to redeploy them more effectively.

   The roots of terrorism did not spring from Iraq. Terrorism sprang from diplomatic and political failures in undemocratic states, from an Afghanistan that was let fester after the Soviet defeat. Terrorism springs from an Iran whose Shia majority our Nation has isolated for the last quarter century and tried to throttle for the prior quarter century.

   Terrorism springs from Saudi families who pay to promote the most radical form of Islam in other nations to hold onto power in their homeland, one of the most undemocratic places on Earth. Terrorism springs from the unaddressed Israeli-Palestinian standoff. Terrorism springs from a Lebanon where the Shia majority has been underrepresented in the institutions of government.

   Terrorism springs from a view, fair or not, that the United States allies with the rich but not the poor across the undemocratic Islamic world. How can America stand for democracy in Iraq but not in all of the oil kingdoms and theocracies to which this Nation has been unfortunately tethered for our entire adult lifetimes?

   How can we ask our troops to bear the brunt of war in the most oil rich region of the world when we have refused to become energy independent here at home?...

So, according to the Congresswoman, terrorism is our fault.  Actually, it's all the President's fault because there was no terrorism during the Clinton administration.

[/sarcasm]

Rep. (D) Marcy Kaptur, who voted to yes the House Resolution on the surge in Iraq, recently went to Taji and met with Soldiers to talk about the status of the war (bold emphasis is mine):

Congressional Delegation Discusses Brigade’s Mission, Progress in Iraq During Taji Visit
Story by Sgt. Jon Cupp

...Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, asked the brigade leaders about successes in improving essential services in the area.
   
One example cited was the Husayniyah power plant.
   
“A company out of Texas is helping us to grow the capabilities in the power plant,” answered Lt. Col. Ken Kamper, commander, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment. “We’re making progress and there’s a decent system in place.”

Rep. Steve Rothman, D-N.J., voiced concerns about the sectarian violence in areas surrounding Taji, and whether any of the attacks on U.S. troops were a result of the people being unhappy with a lack of essential services.

“We believe their motivation is something different. There are various extremist groups. They aren’t attacking us because of a lack of essential services,” answered Funk. “It’s more of a grab for power by sectarian groups (of various factions) who are trying to expand their position.”

Funk added that the Iraqi people living in the region are making a genuine effort to end the violence. He cited an instance where a Shia sheik brought together both Shia and Sunnis to meet because they were tired of violence in their village. He also said that he does not believe that most Iraqis hold a sectarian view.
             
“That’s the kind of thing that’s starting to happen in our zone,” said Funk, noting the Sunni and Shia efforts to stop sectarian violence in his area of operation.
   
“The Iraqis have more of a national view, and they don’t want the influences of (foreign fighters from) Syria or Iran,” he told the delegation. “I think they’re tired and they want the violence to end.”

To illustrate the point, Funk noted the rise in the number of tips that ISF and Ironhorse Soldiers are receiving from concerned citizens, which lead to the capture of insurgents.
   
Near the end of the briefing, Kaptur asked the brigade senior leaders if they were concerned about polls that sometimes have a negative slant against U.S. military efforts in Iraq.

“I’m not really concerned with polls. When you go out and meet with the Iraqi people, they tell us they feel safe when we’re there and they’re happy to see us,” Funk said. “Sometimes it can bring tears to your eyes, especially when you look in the faces of the children. When you look in their eyes, you see hope and you know you’re making a difference.”...


Overdue - MOH to be awarded to LTC (ret) Bruce Crandall

Today, the President will award the Medal of Honor to LTC (ret.) Bruce Crandall, aka "Snake$h!t" (callsign so designated for his uncanny ability to fly extremely close to the ground).  Long deserved, this is a good day.

MOH Narrative

by Heike Hasenauer
Adapted from Soldiers Magazine

 
Bruce P. Crandall
   
    Bruce P. Crandall Today

President George W. Bush announced that he would award the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest honor for military service, to Lt. Col. (Ret.) Bruce Crandall at the White House for his actions on Nov. 14, 1965 in Vietnam's Ia Drang Valley.

"I still think about Vietnam a lot," said Crandall. "I have wonderful memories of the people I served with." Despite the horrors of war that he experienced - and the many times his life was on the line - "I don't really have bad memories," he added.

"I had very experienced pilots," said Crandall, who served as a flight mission commander and was an Army engineer. Three of the four company commanders in the 229th [Assault Helicopter Battalion] were engineers. We were bush pilots, who had flown in areas of the world that hadn't yet been mapped."

Crandall commanded 16 helicopter crews of the 1st Cavalry Division's Company A, 229th AHB that lifted troops on a search-and-destroy mission from Plei Me to Landing Zone X-Ray in what would become the most vicious fight of the Vietnam War to that date.

Then-LTC Harold G. Moore, commander of the 1st Cav. Div.'s 1st Bn., 7th Cav. Regiment depended on then-MAJ Crandall's helicopters to insert his Soldiers of the 1st Bn. into the LZ.

On the fifth and final troop lift, which involved eight helicopters, the LZ was under horrific enemy fire by small arms, automatic weapons, mortars and rockets.

As Crandall's helicopter landed and Soldiers exited, three Soldiers were wounded and three killed. Remaining helicopters waiting to land were ordered to abort and return to base.

When Crandall returned to the base, he learned that all medevac assistance had been cut off to the men of the 1/7 "due to the policy of the time," Crandall said. "The medevac pilots were all great pilots, but they weren't allowed to land on a landing zone until it was 'green' for a period of five minutes," meaning it wasn't being relentlessly attacked.

Crandall made the decision - without anyone requesting that he do so - to fly the medevac missions. When he asked for volunteers, his former colleague in Vietnam, Maj. (ret.) Ed Freeman, who had been his friend for 10 years before they deployed together to Vietnam, immediately stepped forward.

Crandall's helicopter led the two, and he supervised the loading of seriously wounded Soldiers over the course of 14 landings under intense enemy fire. He and Freeman saved the lives of some 70 wounded Soldiers.

"One of the principal reasons my company survived one of the largest and fiercest battles of the Vietnam War was the critical support provided by the aviators of Co. A, 229th Avn. Bn.," said Col. (ret.) John D. Herren, who commanded the 1st Bn.'s Co. B during the battle.

"These helicopter crews were our lifeline, as they brought battalion units into the LZ," he said. "They evacuated our wounded and brought in water and ammunition, despite intense enemy fire," Herren said.

"I was an eyewitness to one of Crandall's flights," Herren continued. "I was pinned down by intense enemy machine-gun and rifle fire that killed my radio operator and severely wounded the Co. D. commander, Capt. Ray Lefebvre.

Crandall's helicopter landed and evacuated Lefebvre and others. The act of bravery "was extraordinary and inspirational," Herren said...

Continue reading "Overdue - MOH to be awarded to LTC (ret) Bruce Crandall" »


Bush adminstration diplomatic successes?

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- U.S. plans to extend its ''star wars'' missile-defense program to Europe, which once dismissed the technology as unproven and unneeded, are gaining acceptance among governments here.

Despite Russia's mounting opposition, the Czech Republic, Poland, and -- as of Friday -- Britain have all expressed serious interest in hosting parts of the shield. Other countries traditionally cool to the idea have been notably quiet. The trigger: concern about a nuclear Iran.

''This is all a result of Iran,'' says Tim Williams, a European security analyst. ''Governments see that Iranian missiles can hit Europe, and suddenly they are very worried about the threat from ballistic missiles.''

''What we're seeing now is the product of near on seven years of diplomatic effort led by the Bush administration to get European governments to leave behind the cold-war version of missile defense,'' says Tom Karako, who heads a conservative think tank.

Now wait just a minute we all know that the Bush administration doesn't do diplomacy, they have no nuance, they are simple cowboys running roughshod around the globe. Oh but now that it looks like the Mullahs are going to have nukes, those Americans with that "star wars" stuff aren't so bad. Conveniently forgetting how much grief they gave Ronald Reagan and the US for even considering such a crazy and destabilizing plan, now they wouldn't mind if we parked a few interceptors around there in case Ahmadinejad programs in London instead of Tel Aviv.

The ironic part is their need for us to protect them from a threat they did everything they could to stop us from stopping. Iran doesn't have nukes yet, but the Euros seem to be playing the under and assume they will. They can at least be certain that they will not support anything robust enough to give the Mullahs pause.

The Israeli actions regarding overflight rights and a growing realization that a nuclear Iran threatens just about everybody might just turn Condi Rice into an even busier woman over the next year or so. The Sunni Shia rift allows us to play some of the Arab states against the Iranians, as they fear an ascendant Shia theocracy almost as much as the decadent infidel West. It also puts us back into dealing with bad regimes on an enemy of my enemy basis, which is very realpolitik, but we might just wrap a bunch of these problems up in one bag. Not in the weak tea version envisioned by Baker and the ISG, but a realization that talking to Iran should be from a position of strength, with Arab and Euro support. That type of diplomatic effort could help Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinians and maybe even keep the Mullahs nuclear free.


Israelis getting flyover rights to..?

If you guessed Iran, then you have been paying attention.

Three Arab states in the Persian Gulf would be willing to allow the Israel Air force to enter their airspace in order to reach Iran in case of an attack on its nuclear facilities, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa reported on Sunday.

According to the report, a diplomat from one of the gulf states visiting Washington on Saturday said the three states, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have told the United States that they would not object to Israel using their airspace, despite their fear of an Iranian response.

Al-Siyasa further reported that NATO leaders are urging Turkey to open its airspace for an Attack on Iran as well and to also open its airports and borders in case of a ground attack.

According to a British diplomat who spoke to an Al-Siyasa correspondent, Turkey will not repeat the mistake it made in 2003, when it refused to open its airspace to U.S. Air Force overflights en route to attacking Iraq.

One of the less helpful side effects of our lack of success in Iraq is the lessening of our deterrent factor and the consequent inability to pressure bad actors. Iran is the country causing the most trouble in the Middle East right now and we are working to stop them from building nukes as well as their other mischiefs in Iraq and Lebanon. while the possibility of a US armed incursion remains, few think it likely. So what kind of pressure can we bring, or maybe someone else? Recently when Iran greenlit Hezbollah's actions in Lebanon, many Arab countries gave approval, even openly, to Israel's military response. Even they recognize that nuked-up Mullahs can't be a net gain, and are willing to allow whoever can to handle that.

The nice thing about an Israeli wild card, is that now diplomacy has a chance again. As long as there was no credible military threat, there was no reason for the Mullahs to play straight. They have been gaming the system and watching Lil' Kim feed Hans Blix to the sharks and unless they think they might catch a batch of KABOOM, they have shown they will cheat. So now we have those crazy Israelis fighting for survival in the face of the craziest ruling clique in a region stacked to the gills with nuttahs. I don't think anyone doubts that the Israelis would turn much of Iran to rubble or even sheets of glass if they had no other recourse. They have no allies they can trust, but us, and the UN could more accurately be called the Union of whiners blaming their uselessness on the Jooooos. The other countries in the region my not have any love for Israel, but they have very little if any for a nuclear Shia Caliphate rising in Teheran.

Stay tuned this is getting lively. Oh did I mention that things have begun blowing up and a helo got shot down, in Iran. Hmmmmmm.