I don't think people realize all the good stuff going on over here. I get lots of feedback whenever I send out a story of local actions and operations. What people may not know is that those few I send out are the tip of the iceberg! Today I decided I would put all of todays releases on the blog so readers could see for themsleves what happens in a typical day here.
I actually did not add four that came out today becasue they were very similar to some that are included and just for the sake of saving space I omitted them.
Anyway, enjoy. And let me know what you think. Credit for these come from various unit-level pbulic affairs personnel across Iraq.
Exercise prepares Iraqi commanders
By Cpl. Benjamin Cossel
122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- Officers of the 301st and 307th Iraqi National Guard Battalions, under the supervision of the First Team’s 39th Brigade Combat Team, recently completed a three-day Command Post Exercise here designed to enhance the fighting effectiveness of Iraqi Security Forces.
The main objective of the CPX is to teach staff-level officers how to work together. The Iraqi Soldiers are learning that a command staff is broken down into sections. Each section is responsible for one piece of an operation for example; one section is responsible for intelligence, another for civil military operations and so on.
“[The ING officers] are at point in their training cycle where an exercise of this nature is appropriate,” said Maj. Michael Warrington from Sherwood, Ore., an observer controller with 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment. “It allows them to take what we’ve taught them so far and apply it as well as giving us, the trainers, a chance to see where we might need to focus some of our attention in future training sessions.”
This was the second CPX the 39th BCT has hosted for the ING since assuming responsibility for their training. While the staff has improved since their first exercise, Warrington said the group was still in the “crawl” phase.
“We’re using the Army training methodology of crawl, walk, run…and we are still very much in the crawl phase,” he said. “With that in mind, the main focus of this CPX isn’t necessarily on the correct resolution of battlefield scenarios; right now we’re more concerned with getting the staff to work together effectively.”
Warrington explained that for many of the ING staff officers, old counter- productive mentalities existed. This was a problem that was addressed early in the exercise.
“In the old regime, information was power,” he said. “So officers learned very quickly to keep information to themselves. That’s counter to everything we teach and how we operate, so very early on in the exercise we addressed the issue stressing the importance of sharing information between the sections.”
Each day the exercise stops long enough for the observers and staff officers to conduct an after action review. The group analyzes what went well and what did not and then proposes solutions to the problems.
“The stopping each day to analyze what we did wrong really helps,” said the 301st ING Battalion’s planning officer. “I’ve learned that I can make mistakes here and that it’s okay, we’re learning and getting better each time.”
By end of the second day of the exercise, the sections were working with each other to address and solve one of the many problems that affect a fighting army.
“We’ve given them scenarios straight out of what we’ve dealt with here,” said North Little Rock, Ark. resident Sgt. Maj. Roger Easley, brigade operations sergeant major. “Things like setting up a traffic control point and then while they’re convoying their forces out to the location we hit them with an [improvised explosive device] so they then have to react to that.”
Easley is part of the exercise’s White Cell. In the operation, the White Cell is responsible for giving the battalions problems they must face.
“The white cell acts as a brigade level entity; issuing orders, or problems, down to the battalion level,” said Maj. Michael Spraggins, CPX coordinator and brigade fire support officer. “It is then the responsibility of the battalion to issue orders and guidance down to their subordinate units as well as report back to the brigade element what their plan of action is.”
In the White Cell, the walls are covered with paper tracking the time difference of problems issued to tasking acknowledgement, how it was handled and whether the necessary reports needed for each action had been received.
“Both battalions as a whole are doing very well,” Spraggins said. “They’re doing a very good job of writing reports and showing themselves to be good decision makers.”
Warrington agreed that the officers are doing well with the training but said that the exercise was a learning experience for both the U.S. Soldiers as well as the ING Soldiers.
“The ING are handling some of the situations in ways we wouldn’t,” he said. “They have a knowledge gained from this being their home; understanding the local traditions, power structures…things like that and we are learning ways to perhaps adjust our tactics. So this has been a learning experience for everyone.”
VBIED attack foiled by First Infantry Division Soldiers
TIKRIT, Iraq -- Anti-Iraqi forces failed in their attempt to engage First Infantry Division Soldiers with a vehicle borne improvised explosive device near Taji at about 5:07 p.m. on November 3.
The Soldiers noticed the vehicle approaching their patrol at a high rate of speed and fired warning shots. The vehicle accelerated and crossed into the northbound lane in a hostile, aggressive manner. The patrol engaged the vehicle with crew served weapons and a MK 19 grenade launcher.
The vehicle exploded leaving a crater in the road. Explosive ordnance personnel assessed the vehicle, which contained at least 17-122mm rounds.
First Infantry, ING Soldiers find caches near Ad Duluiyah
TIKRIT, Iraq -- First Infantry Division and Iraqi National Guard Soldiers found two caches near Ad Duluiyah at about 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 3.
The first cache uncovered by Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment consisted of one .30-caliber machine gun, three RPG rounds,16-60mm mortars, 11-60mm mortar fuses, six rocket fuses, three-4.2 inch rockets, three-30mm rounds, nine blasting caps, 21-107mm rockets, two mines, five pineapple grenades, 20 yellow grenades, five RPK grenades, four RPK grenade fuses, one high-explosive grenade, seventy blocks of plastic explosives, one bag of propellant and an assortment of ammunition.
Another cache, found nearby by the 203rd ING soldiers, contained 9,000 PKC rounds. The weapons and munitions were transported to a Multi-National Forces facility for disposal.
One for Sarah; Tracking down a killer
By Cpl. Benjamin Cossel
122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
FOB SOLIDARITY, Iraq – For Soldiers of the Bowie Brigade’s Company A, 3rd Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, Sahara Latiff, known as Sarah to the guys, was more then just a translator. Her constant, radiant smile brightened everyone’s day, making some of the darker moments just a little easier to bear. Sarah was murdered on the morning of Sept. 20. Alpha company has searched for her killers ever since.
During an early morning raid on Oct. 23 in the village outside Camp Solidarity, Soldiers of Company A detained five individuals believed to be involved with the death of Latiff.
“Sarah was one of the good ones,” said Pfc. Jimmy Harris, an infantryman from Camden, Ark. assigned to the company. “Nothing ever seemed to really get her down too much. She would gladly go on any mission we asked her to.”
When not going out on missions, Latiff was stationed at the back gate where she was an indispensable asset with the many Iraqis who approached the gate. It is believed that Latiff was identified by anti-Iraqi forces (AIF) during her time working at the back gate.
So many people came up to that gate,” said Sgt. William Simkins from Conway, Ark. “One of the bad guys must’ve seen her back there and put a mark out on her.”
The news of Latiff’s murder hit the company hard, everyone was devastated and vowed to bring her killers to justice, but they faced a problem. Tracking down a murderer is difficult even for police back in the United States where they can move about the community, questioning witnesses. In a hostile land where traveling outside the wire requires gun-truck convoys, freedom of movement is limited.
“We were forced to rely on the intelligence gathering abilities of the locals in our area, and they came through,” said acting first sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Floyd Herron of Crossett, Ark. “Friends of Sarah and her family took it upon themselves to seek out who did this and when they thought they had enough information, they brought it to us.”
Any intelligence brought to Multi-National Forces must go through a process where it is verified for accuracy. Multiple sources with the same information are typically needed before action is taken.
“Once we got the information, we started checking into it,” Herron said. “The last thing anyone wants is to go busting into someone’s house, detaining individuals only to find out the information you were working on was completely bogus.”
Weeks elapsed between Latiff’s killing to the raid leading to the detention of five men believed to be involved. Planned out in excruciating detail, the operation centered on three houses only a few miles away from Camp Solidarity, a location that has seen a recent surge in improvised explosive device placement and increased resistance from AIF.
Herron said during the investigation, evidence indicated the men they were tracking were not only potentially involved in Latiff’s death but were leaders in a cell that was spreading their brand of terror throughout the neighborhood.
“This area has been quiet for a long time,” Herron said. “People were friendly [we] never saw too much insurgent activity. But as our investigation continued, the constant fear…in the locals…of these men kept coming up.”
Under the cover of darkness the company rolled out and brought their Humvee gun trucks around the location, creating a cordon to prevent any escape. They quickly entered the houses and a full search began. Much to the Soldiers’ dismay, the individuals they were looking for were not there. But all was not lost…
A local Iraqi living in one of the searched houses indicated the individuals were just across the street. The man’s fear was apparent when he refused to go with the Soldiers to positively identify the suspects and yet, a solution was found.
Fearing they had lost their opportunity, the troops sprinted across the street, lined up against the outer gate and launched into the building. Within minutes, an excited call of “I think we got them!” came across the radio.
“Someone get digital pictures of them and get that camera over here,” responded Capt. Joel Lynch, Company A commander, a resident of Shreveport, La.
The man who gave the information had agreed to positively identify the individuals via digital photographs.
Herron said along with the apprehension of the five men, several pieces of armament and weaponry were found in the building.
“We got these guys,” he said. “We’ll start questioning them and figure out exactly (what) their involvement in Sarah’s death (is), maybe even find the trigger puller. The other stuff, the rounds and such seems to confirm our suspicion that these guys, if not leaders, were involved with an insurgent cell operating in the area. So maybe we can bring some justice to Sarah’s family and make the neighborhood a little bit safer for its residents.”
Task Force 1-161st Infantry provides medical supplies to local Baghdad neighborhood
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Task Force 1st Battalion, 161 Infantry, of the 81st Brigade Combat Team and attached to 1st Cavalry Division , recently provided medical and dental supplies to neighborhoods in Baghdad on a Medical Civil Affairs mission.
Nearly 240 Iraqis, mostly women and children, were treated for minor injures or illnesses.
TF 1-161 Soldiers also distributed toothbrushes, toothpaste, and shoes during the day-long mission.
Medical Civil Affairs missions provide the local Iraqi population with immediate care for minor medical issues. Missions like these are critical for local nationals as Iraq still lacks adequate medical facilities and supplies needed to administer timely care.
In addition to supplying medical resources, these missions also generate popular support and acceptance of coalition forces. When a community sees coalition Soldiers providing medical care, it creates goodwill and a positive attitude toward coalition Soldiers and helps to improve the overall security situation.
Capt. Douglas Baer, the medical platoon leader for TF 1-161, commented on the medical supply mission. “All in all it was a good day,” he said. “The operation went smoothly; it was well-planned and well-executed, and I think we helped out a lot of these people.”
Over 100 soldiers from all companies of TF 1-161 were involved. The mission also included an Iraqi National Guard Company from 2/302 Battalion, as well as doctors and medics from Company E, 215th Forward Support Battalion, and 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
Company A of TF 1-161 is headquartered in Kent, Washington. The TF 1-161 medical platoon consists of Soldiers from multiple locations in western Washington as well as from cities in eastern Washington, including Spokane and Ellensburg.
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