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June 30, 2009

3/9 Attacks Simulated Enemy in Enhanced Mojave Viper

Marines and Sailors with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment defended their position and attacked a simulated enemy during Clear, Hold, Build Exercise III in the Combat Center's Quackenbush and Gays Pass training areas, June 17 and 18.

http://www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/public/InfolineMarines.nsf/ArticlesListingReadCurrent/D32A1D2756A3BA95852575E50060E855

06/30/2009
Cpl. Margaret Hughes

The exercise is a two-day training event set up as a battalion defense throughout the first night, then transitions into an offensive counter attack against the enemy the following morning, said Master Sgt. Brian Criley, the assistant operations chief for 3/9.

The exercise is part of Enhanced Mojave Viper, a pre-deployment training package that concentrates on multiple scenarios of warfare, said Capt. David Chin, an instructor controller for Tactical Training Exercise Control Group.

"We are training to give them a full spectrum of operations," said the South Brunswick, N.J., native.

3/9 is one of the first units to train through EMV.

During the exercise, each company set up their defense as the simulated enemies pushed forward. A platoon of tanks and amphibious assault vehicles were attached for the exercise to support the battalion. Artillery and close air support were also provided, with both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft, said Criley, a Butler, Pa., native.

The night was filled with explosions in the distance from tanks, close air support and artillery attacking the simulated enemy.

As the fight progressed late into the night, the enemy started their dismounted assault when the companies in the defense were able to attack with the final protective fire.

"The FPF is a mass of fire power that stops the enemy from progressing," said Capt. Nathan Dmochowski, the assistant operations officer for the battalion. "It's basically a wall of lead."

Mortars, grenade launchers and all weapons commonly used in an infantry battalion were fired down range to stop the simulated enemy in their tracks.

Early the next morning, the battalion and supporting units changed from defense to an offensive counter attack to eliminate the enemy.

The tanks initiated the attack as each company "leap frogged" one another after each objective point, Criley said.

"The overall goal is to kill the enemy," said Gunnery Sgt. Carroll Williams, the company gunnery sergeant for Company I. "But we want our Marines to take a lot away from this."

This exercise will teach the Marines and Sailors a lot of different skills, said the Pomona, Calif., native. They will learn how to set up a battalion defense, what it takes to sustain a detailed operation for over 24 hours and how to transfer from the defense to the offense.

Clear, Hold, Build Exercise III is one of the many training events 3/9 has endured over a month of pre-deployment training aboard the Combat Center. Each event will teach the Marines how to fight and make quick decisions in any situation or environment, Williams said.

Stalemate in Afghan town shows task ahead

By Chris Brummitt - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Jun 30, 2009 19:17:11 EDT

NOW ZAD, Afghanistan — Marines patrol slowly along streets laced with land mines and lined with abandoned shops, clinics and homes. As night falls over this Afghan ghost town, the only sounds are the howling of coyotes and the creaking of tin roofs in the wind.


To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_marines_now_zad_063009/


June 29, 2009

Former anti-war hotbed reaches out to military

By Ryan J. Foley - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jun 29, 2009 15:25:23 EDT

MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Madison, which saw some of the fiercest Vietnam War protests in the nation, is shedding its long-standing antimilitary image by hiring a military historian and teaching a new course for military officers.

To read the entire article:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_military_university_wisconsin_062809/

June 28, 2009

Dogs more actively integrated into rehab

By Alysia Patterson - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Jun 28, 2009 13:48:10 EDT

FORT CARSON, Colo. — Army Spc. Cameron Briggs washes down a cocktail of prescription drugs every day for post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury he suffered when four roadside bombs rocked his Humvee in Iraq.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_military_service_dogs_062809/

U.S., Iraqi experts developing plan to preserve Babylon, build local tourism industry

Story and photos by Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, June 28, 2009

HILLAH, Iraq — The remains of what was once the greatest city in the world occupy a vast site on the bank of the Euphrates River.

To read the entire article:

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=63495
Click above link for Photo Gallery, too.

June 27, 2009

Zip up for safety

Jackets might be latest piece of bikers’ required gear

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Jun 27, 2009 9:15:21 EDT

Members of the Corps’ Executive Safety Board are considering whether protective jackets should join the list of personal protective equipment required for Marine motorcycle riders.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/marine_vouchers_062709w/

Highly decorated Marine pilot dies at 89

Received 59 medals for actions in three conflicts

The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Jun 27, 2009 10:07:49 EDT

CLACKAMAS, Ore. — Retired Marine Corps Col. Kenneth L. Reusser, who was called the most decorated Marine aviator in history and was shot down in three wars, has died at age 89.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_marine_reusser_decorated_pilot_062709/

Free retreat offered for TBI vets, families

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Jun 27, 2009 12:00:25 EDT

The deadline is July 27 for troops with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, and their families, to register for a free getaway near Big Bear Lake in California’s San Bernardino Mountains.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/military_camp_TBI_062609w/

June 26, 2009

Island Getaways for Vets a 'Click' Away

There were no lines when I got to the Veterans Health Administration office.

http://www.military.com/news/article/island-gataways-for-vets-a-click-away.html

June 26, 2009
Military.com|by Bryant Jordan

There also was no one sitting at a desk -- merely a sign reading "Click here for Contact Details.” And there was no one moving about anywhere in the building, so far as I could see.

But there was a video screen on the wall with actor Gary Sinise offering support for vets and encouraging them to get help if they're stressed and have suicidal thoughts. Other walls bore oversized posters touting veteran health care benefits that, with a "click," reveal additional information. One wall bore a U.S. map that could provide locations of VA facilities, and elsewhere there were posters entitled "VA News" and "The American Veteran," which were links to additional benefits information.

So, just because I could, I jumped up and sat on top of the desk, then flew around the office, out the door and took in a birds-eye view of the place.

Such is the power of a virtual Veterans Health Administration office, existing as one "island" among many in a digital archipelago called Second Life, a computer-generated world created by Linden Lab of San Francisco. Access to VHA’s Second Life island can be found on its Web site, www.va.gov/health.

"About two years ago we were asked to explore all means of outreach to our veterans," said Joyce Bounds, director for VHA Web communications in Washington. The emphasis is on the younger vets, she said, who are so used to electronic communications; they looked at the various social media -- YouTube, Facebook and the virtual reality worlds of Second Life. The VHA's virtual world started out as one building, she said, "a two-story home ... with VA logos on it, a computer screen you can touch and find out where VA facilities are."

They would put up press releases on the site and posted a version the GI Bill on what looks like a roll of parchment paper. And when Veterans Day rolled around they put up an American flag that flies in the virtual breeze outside the building.

Especially for younger veterans who’ve grown up accustomed to video games and computer-generated graphics, the virtual world that provides both access and anonymity would seem a great way to get information and help from the VHA.

"Virtual reality is set up for gaming," Bounds said, "but we found there is a real training opportunity when you work in a simulated environment, you can let people go where and when they want.”

But in the half-dozen visits that Military.com made to VHA's island, we were the only ones present, with Sinise's narrative the only sound.

Bounds cannot say how many vets have visited the site -- or even if those who have been there are vets, since everyone is anonymous.

"We've not set up for measurement," she said, and acknowledged that "we're getting better [responses] out of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. ... This is not high volume like Facebook."

The purpose of the Second Life site is to give some vets, particularly those who wish to remain anonymous, an alternative means of communicating to the VA. "You don't even look like yourself" in the virtual world, she said.

VHA is not alone among government agencies or veteran-oriented organizations which have set up virtual locations. The Disabled American Veterans has two islands, says spokesman Joe Chenelly -- one for the general public and one for DAV members. Links to its islands also are found on its Web site, www.dav.org.

"We are hoping it will enable us to reach younger vets, and we believe this type of outreach will give disabled vets more access to our services," Chenelly said. Like the VHA's island, the DAV's features a plaza, some buildings and an assortment of posters and signs that a visitor may interact with and get information.

And also like the VHA island, it was uninhabited during Military.com's visit.

"We advertise [our island] in Second Life, we have posted it on our Web site, and we have advertised our island on Facebook and Twitter,” Chenelly said. “To be honest, I am not sure when or if Second Life will take off [as a popular social venue], but if it does, we will be ready."

Rick Weidman, executive director for policy and government affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America in Maryland, is familiar with the Second Life worlds, but says VVA has not established one.

"Some of the [social networking] things people are using make sense. I don't know if this does because of the amount of stuff you have to download to take advantage of it," he told Military.com.

Other sites prove to be stronger.

"Student Veterans of America went from 20 schools [participating] to over 200 just using Facebook," he said. "Other veterans groups are doing the same thing, with that and with Twitter."

But currently, while there are a number of "Vietnam Veterans of America" accounts on Facebook -- some with as few as three members, some with several hundred -- they are local or regional groups.

According to John Rowan, national president and chief executive officer of VVA, the national VVA has yet to jump into the electronic community.

"I've got a Facebook account," he said. "I haven't even utilized it."

Post-9/11 GI Bill going smoothly, VA says

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jun 25, 2009 15:40:12 EDT

Department of Veterans Affairs officials expressed confidence that the Aug. 1 launch of the Post-9/11 GI Bill will go smoothly, with the first benefits checks to be cut by the Treasury Department on Aug. 3.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/military_post911gibill_implementation_062509w/

June 25, 2009

VA begins stimulus payments to veterans

WASHINGTON (June 25, 2009) -- The first $250 payments to veterans as part of President Obama's recovery plan were sent Monday, and officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs said all payments will be distributed by June 30.

http://www.army.mil/-news/2009/06/25/23506-va-begins-stimulus-payments-to-veterans/?ref=home-headline-title3


Jun 25, 2009
By VA Public Affairs


As part of the recovery plan, VA is making one-time payments of $250 to eligible veterans and survivors to offset the effects of the current economy.
VA estimates $500 million in payments will be made to approximately 1.9 million veterans and eligible beneficiaries as part of this measure.

To be eligible for the payment, VA beneficiaries must have received VA's compensation, pension, dependency and indemnity compensation, or spina bifida benefits at any time between November 2008 and January 2009.
Also, beneficiaries must reside within the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

No application is necessary.
VA has requested that the Department of the Treasury make the $250 payments to eligible veterans.

VA used its existing payment records to determine eligibility for the $250 payment. Beneficiaries will receive their payments the same way they receive their monthly VA benefits -- either by direct deposit or in the mail.

This payment is not countable in determining eligibility for VA pension or Parents' dependency and indemnity compensation, VA officials said.
The law allows one $250-payment per person.

The payment is tax-free.
VA beneficiaries who also receive benefits from the Social Security Administration or Railroad Retirement Board will be paid through those agencies, and will therefore not receive the payment from VA, offiicials said.

VA will spend more than $1.4 billion as part of President Obama's economic recovery plan to improve services to America's Veterans.
VA's Internet site - www.va.gov/recovery - provides current information about VA's work to deliver its portion of recovery act funds to benefit veterans.


Marine behind Wounded Warrior barracks to retire

Staff report
Posted : Thursday Jun 25, 2009 21:38:01 EDT

The Marine officer who devised centralized barracks for wounded warriors is leaving the Corps.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/marine_maxwell_062509w/

Kyrgyzstan Ratifies U.S. Base Accord

MOSCOW — Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament ratified an agreement on Thursday to allow the United States to maintain operations at an airport that has become a key support base and transit hub for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/26/world/europe/26base.html?_r=2&ref=world

By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
Published: June 25, 2009

The vote was unanimous, with 75 deputies in the 90-seat body supporting and none opposing the measure, according to the Parliament’s Web site. It was considered largely a formality since President Kurmanbek S. Bakiyev’s party holds a majority.

The vote finalizes an agreement that essentially reversed a decision by Kyrgyzstan last February to evict American forces from the Manas Air Base, apparently under pressure from Russia. That would have hampered the war effort in Afghanistan at a time of increased military activity there.

The agreement, signed on Monday, came after months of intense lobbying by Washington. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama sent a letter to Mr. Bakiyev , seeking greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism, Kyrgyz officials said.

Russia has so far refrained from criticizing the measure, calling it Kyrgyzstan’s “sovereign right.” But the Russian daily Kommersant quoted an unnamed Russian official as saying this week that the deal had surprised Moscow, and that an “adequate response” would be made.

The deal does not appear to levy any significant new restrictions on the American military, though the United States will now pay $60 million annually for use of the facility, up from $17.4 million under the previous arrangement.

June 24, 2009

Social Networking Sites Victimizing Families of Deployed U.S. Military Personnel

Press Release

The Kansas City Division is issuing information regarding a new scam involving the victimization of families of deployed U.S Military personnel through social networking sites. Significant personal data is available through these sites which users join by city, workplace, school and region to connect and interact with other people. The scam involves individuals using these social networking sites to contact relatives of deployed U.S. military personnel, most specifically grandparents. The impostor advises the grandparents that he is returning home on leave from Iraq and asks the grandparents to keep his presence secret so he can surprise his parents. A short time later, the grandparents are again contacted and the impostor advises them that he and a friend are stranded with a broken down car. He then asks the grandparents to wire a significant amount of money to cover the cost of the repairs.

http://kansascity.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel09/kc062409.htm

For Immediate Release
June 24, 2009

As always, caution is advised regarding the posting and protection of personal information on public websites. It is recommended that family members of U.S. Military visit social networking sites in which they have accounts to ensure that no exploitable information is available.

Additionally, it is recommended that all relatives should verify the identity of anyone who contacts them by asking specific questions known only to that person if you must wire funds or develop a code word or phrase to verify identity.

FBI Kansas City
Contact: Public Affairs Specialist Bridget Patton
(816) 512-8200

Recon-improvement plan pays off for Corps

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jun 24, 2009 13:41:57 EDT

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — They endured countless hours of swimming and finning in the combat pool and then in the open, cold ocean.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/marine_recon_062209w/

Another of famed Navajo Code Talkers dies

The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 24, 2009 21:28:16 EDT

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Another Navajo Code Talker has died.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_death_navajo_codetalker_062409w/

June 23, 2009

Military Moves High-Tech Tools to Afghanistan

On Saturday at 9:45 p.m., an American unmanned aerial vehicle, complete with streaming-video equipment, circled over an area in Afghanistan's Khost province and transmitted photographs of three people, including one who was digging in a roadway, apparently to plant an improvised explosive device.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/22/AR2009062202977.html

By Walter Pincus
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Information from computer data at a ground-based Counter-IED Operations Integration Center allowed intelligence specialists to "positively identify" the three as insurgents, and thereafter "coalition forces used a precision munition to eliminate the militants," according to a U.S. military news release. The drone aircraft saw one of the insurgents running from the explosion toward nearby trees and a second precision munition was used to kill him, the release said. The military's fuzzy video of the attack can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/usfora.

Saturday's episode illustrates one result from what is becoming a major transfer from Iraq to Afghanistan of people, equipment and techniques of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). The makeshift bombs caused about 70 percent of the deaths and casualties among U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq, so the administration is putting additional assets to work to reduce that threat in Afghanistan.

The fiscal 2009 supplemental appropriations bill passed by Congress last week includes $1.1 billion to pay for the activities of JIEDDO, which has developed several devices to defeat improvised explosives. For example, electronic jamming devices such as Warlock are in play. Warlock uses low-power radio-frequency energy to block the signals of radio-controlled explosive detonators, such as cellphones, satellite phones and long-range cordless telephones. The supplement contains $355 million for additional Warlock devices. Other new instruments can look through the walls of metal, concrete or brick buildings and detect chemicals used for explosives.

A separate $4.5 billion in the supplemental bill is for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle Fund, of which $1.9 billion is to go for a lightweight version of the MRAP, the heavily armored troop-carrying vehicle developed to provide improved protection against IEDs. The Afghanistan version, dubbed the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV), is "urgently needed to protect service members against improvised explosive devices and other threats in Afghanistan," according to the congressional conference report on the bill.

Expanded operations in Afghanistan also have led the U.S. Army to seek the assistance of contractors in one of its most secret operations -- the intelligence fusion centers in the United States and Afghanistan that work to identify the insurgent networks that produce IEDs. The Army is specifically seeking people with the highest security clearances who have specialized in irregular-warfare analysis and have an understanding of "insurgent-based unconventional warfare," according to a June 11 work statement.

Making IEDs has become a multimillion-dollar business. Some networks in Iraq and Afghanistan that have gotten into the business can trace their origins back centuries, and are based on tribal and commercial links that traditionally have supported enterprise in other areas, such as smuggling and drugs. In Iraq, according to a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, "small, highly skilled IED cells often hire themselves out to other insurgent groups, such as al-Qaeda in Iraq or the Sunni group Ansaar al Sunna."

Some have advertised on the Internet, others have produced DVDs that show U.S. vehicles exploding to gain customers, while many have contracted for specific jobs and remained anonymous.

The CRS report described an IED cell as having someone to provide the finances, a bombmaker, someone to place the bomb in a roadway or building and another person to press the trigger. Often there will be an additional person to stand guard while the work is being done. For the more enterprising group, there is a person to photograph or videotape the results for later promotional use.

The Army contract is looking for 42 Special Forces-trained individuals, 12 of whom will serve in forward operating bases in Afghanistan where they will "engage in systematic identification and analysis of insurgent cells and networks germane or in some way associated with employing or facilitating IEDs," according to the work statement. They will deal with data on network structures; terrorist techniques; and individuals with chemistry, explosives or electronics training, as well as others who support insurgent groups with money, safe houses or bank accounts.

The 30 assigned within the United States will work on "assessing of past terrorist trends and adaptations . . . factoring current adversary intent, constraints, capabilities and likely targets at an operational level."

The end product, according to the work statement, should be development of "notional concepts of operations and courses of action that best represent likely adversary activity."

June 22, 2009

From country roots to combat boots, Marine sings his patriotism

CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq — Sittin’ in the desert, a thousand miles away from home, Lance Cpl. Stephen D. Davis, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, thinks about his lifetime and all the songs he wrote.

http://www.usmc.mil/units/marforcom/iimef/2ndmlg/hq/Pages/Fromcountryrootstocombatboots,Marinesingshispatriotism.aspx

6/22/2009 By
Byline
Cpl. M. M. Bravo,
Unit
2nd Marine Logistics Group

Davis, currently deployed to Al Anbar province, Iraq, and winner of a recent talent show held aboard Camp Al Taqaddum, started playing the guitar when his parents bought him his first one when he was 10 years old.
After learning a few chords from his dad, he spent a lot of time listening and watching others play, learning as he went.
He wrote his first song about his grandfather when he was 11 years old.

“My grandpa and my great grandpa were both in the Army and my great grandpa was in World War II,” Davis said.
“He never really talked about this stuff all that much but my grandpa was in the Army during the Cold War and he used to always tell me he never did anything but he would always talk about the sacrifice people put out for their country.”

The oldest of seven kids, Davis said most of his songs are patriotic and have been inspired by war veterans he’s met and the stories they tell him.

“For some reason I can talk to old people better than I can young people. It’s almost like they’re drawn to me for some reason,” Davis said.
“I like talking to them, I like hearing their stories and how stuff used to be compared to now.”

“Most veterans come up and talk to me after they hear my songs,” Davis continued.
“They say they think it’s a little weird ‘cuz’ all the songs I wrote, I wrote before I ever joined and they think it’s pretty cool that somebody who’s never done anything wrote a song like that and they all told me that I pretty much hit the way they feel about things right on the head; like I’d actually been there or something.”

Recalling the first patriotic song he ever wrote, Davis told the story of a youth conference he attended, held by Tim Lee, a former sergeant in the Marine Corps, who lost both of his legs in combat.

“They were out on patrol,” he said.
“One of his buddies was up in front of the patrol and for some reason [Lee] said he felt that he needed to be at the front of the patrol.
So he told his buddy to get back and he took point.
Probably ten minutes after that, he walked into a minefield and he stepped on a mine and lost both his legs.”

Davis went on to explain how he met a homeless man that same day who was a Vietnam veteran.
He told Davis about the war and all the things that went on there that ended up messing with his head.
When the man came home from war, his family and friends disowned him.

“I just had that in the back of my head and when I got back from the youth conference I was playing my guitar and just wrote down how [the veterans] made me feel, telling me their stories.
How I could see how they felt about all that.”

“They’re just people doing their jobs, some of them volunteered, some of them didn’t,” he continued.
“They were just doin’ what they had to do, doin’ what they were told to do. And they get home and people hated them for it.
And they really had no control over it at all.”

“My family has always been really patriotic and taught me that what we have in America is not free.
People had to pay for it.
It’s because of veterans who fought for our freedoms, we have all those rights,” Davis said.

Davis joined the Marine Corps to give back to his country and to continue the legacy of all the men and women who fought for our freedoms.

“To me people don’t realize why we get to live as we do as Americans, so that’s why I did it,” he added.

When he went to boot camp, he met his brother-in-arms, Lance Cpl. Jeffery A. Cook.
The two of them slowly built a strong friendship throughout their training time together.

“It wasn’t until [School of Infantry] that he and I became such good friends,” Cook, a machine gunner with 1st Bn., 8th Marines said.
“We were in the same platoon in SOI and he just happened to have the rack right next to mine.
We became closer [there] and after a few weeks we realized we had a lot more in common than we thought.
Stephen is probably one of the most loyal friends I have.”

“We were like brothers and we were daily made fun of for always being by each other’s side,” he said.

With both of them raised in the country, enjoying country music comes with the territory.
Cook said he and Davis used to sing together but he didn’t know how great of a guitar player Davis was until they got to their first duty station.

“At boot camp and SOI we would pass the time as best we could by singing every country song we knew,” Cook said.
“When we ran out of songs, we just made up new ones.
I knew early on that he was an extremely talented singer, so when we got to the fleet and I heard him play the guitar, it wasn’t much of a surprise.”

“I think like most people - when he sings or plays it makes you feel like you have something to live for.
He’s definitely an inspirational writer,” Cook said.

With different military occupational specialties and being in different platoons, the two friends aren’t together as much as they used to be but they stay in touch as best they can.

“We still do our best to watch each other’s backs and I know if I ever need anything he is the first person I go to,” Cook said.
“I’m sure he feels the same way about me.”

Cook went on to describe his brother-in-arms.

“He loves his job, his friends and his family,” Cook said.
“He never takes anything for granted. Davis is one of the best friends I have. He knows he has been blessed by the Lord and he isn’t afraid to show it.
If someone doesn’t like his lifestyle, it doesn’t bother him. He just keeps right on doing what he’s doing.”

With his love for God and his country, Davis is becoming one of the veterans he sings so proudly about.

Marines Train To Conquer Taliban, Their Own Fears

All Things Considered
June 22, 2009 · The Marines known as "America's Battalion" are in Afghanistan as part of the 21,000 additional forces President Obama is deploying in the administration's strategy to counter the Taliban insurgency. NPR is following the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment over the months of their deployment, focusing on the efforts of these Marines in Afghanistan and the burden shared by their families back home.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105747774
Please click above link to find an audio newscast.

Photo Gallery:
http://www.npr.org/multimedia/2009/06/afghan_desert_training/gallery/index.html

by Tom Bowman

At a desert camp in southern Afghanistan, a squad of Marines dashes toward the trench line, rifles high.

Sgt. Joe Garrison leads the way. They flop on their bellies, take careful aim and let loose a barrage of fire against a Taliban force in a trench cut into a landfill at Camp Leatherneck, in Helmand province.

These Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment's Fox Company are in full battle gear, carrying 70 pounds of armor and ammunition in 100-degree heat.

But the gunfire is pretend and the enemy is imaginary — for now. The Marines are running through a training exercise.

The youngest privates, their junior officers and old sergeants — even the commanding general — are doing what they have to do to get ready and stay focused for the coming fight against the Taliban.

The Marines arrived in Afghanistan recently for a seven-month tour of duty, as part of an influx of U.S. forces to carry out the Obama administration's new strategy to confront the insurgency and train the Afghan security forces.

"Once we get in a real situation, it's going to be a lot different. We're not going to be running targets; everyone's going to be hitting the deck when rounds are cracking around," says one Marine.

Iraq Easy Compared To Afghanistan

Watching it all is the platoon leader, 1st Lt. Steven Lind, a New Yorker from Long Island. The Marines have been training every day for about three weeks. He says they are ready for their mission.

The Marines at Camp Leatherneck fall into two groups: those who have seen combat before, and those who have not.

Lind has been there before. He is 25 and considered an "old man" among the young Marines in his platoon.

He saw action last year in Iraq — in the city of Ramadi — though by the time he got there, Ramadi was mostly pacified.

But Iraq was easy compared with what these Marines are about to face in Helmand province.

"They know it's not going to be Ramadi," Lind says with a laugh. "They're going to be tired. They're going to see things that people shouldn't have to see. They'll have to do things that people shouldn't have to do."

Veterans Help Marines Face Prospect Of Real Enemy Fire

Lind says many Marines will be turning to Garrison, the sergeant and squad leader who guided them through the afternoon's make-believe combat. Garrison is a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan, and he knows most of his Marines have never faced enemy fire.

Garrison's first contact with the Taliban left a searing imprint, like a job loss or the death of a parent.

The Taliban attacked a Marine unit in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley on Dec. 24, 2004. Garrison's squad went to help. The insurgents ambushed the Marines in a little town called, ironically enough, Taliban.

Garrison, a short, stocky Marine from Pittsburgh, says they ended up killing some, but capturing more. Nine Taliban were rolled up.

"It's, I'll honestly say, probably the biggest adrenalin rush I ever had in my life. ... It's something that you can't really explain. It's something that you have to experience yourself," he says.

Garrison's job, though, is to explain it — to help all the young Marines in his unit who haven't experienced it yet, but are likely to soon.

He isn't sure if he shot anybody in that first firefight, but there were others.

But when asked about it, Garrison replies: "I really don't like talking about that too much, sir, if that's alright."

Honing Skills, Preparing The Mind

At a shooting range about a mile from Camp Leatherneck, the Marines line up on their stomachs and aim their rifles at paper targets, concentric circles stapled to plywood set up in the distance.

Around them, the desert stretches unbroken to the hazy mountains on the horizon.

Dozens of Marines take turns shooting.

For the battalion's senior Marines, Lt. Col. Christian Cabaniss and Sgt. Maj. Robert Breeden, it turns into a friendly competition.

Several months ago on the range at their home base, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the sergeant major beat the colonel by one point.

Cabaniss shoots well this day, his final four rounds closely grouped in the black at the center of the target, the size of a quarter.

The Marines will tell you that shooting that paper target — a make-believe enemy — isn't the same as shooting a person, frozen in your cross hairs.

That's something Cabaniss wants to talk to his Marines about; he wants them to think about that moment before it happens.

"I don't want the first time that the thought has ever crossed their mind is the first time the weapon comes up," he says.

Cabaniss wants to train the Marines to handle not just the enemy, but their own fears and doubts.

'Pursue The Enemy Ruthlessly'

So does the battalion's top commander, Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson. His message to the troops is simple: It's us or them.

Just before dinner, most of the battalion, hundreds of men, gather outside their tents to listen. Some sit on the ground, others gather around in a semicircle. Nicholson grips a microphone and sends them off to war.

"I know America's Battalion is going to kick ass in there. You're going to do well. You find that enemy, you hang on to him. You don't let him get away. You pursue ruthlessly this enemy, because by letting him get away, he has another day to fight. He has another chance to come back at you," Nicholson says.

As the general finishes his speech, the Marines slowly head back to their tents. The training is over. Soon they'll head out to fight, for real.

Iredell soldier laid to rest

Family, friends, and military personnel gathered in New Prospect Baptist Church to say farewell to a young man taken too early.

http://www2.statesville.com/content/2009/jun/22/iredell-soldier-laid-rest/

By Chyna Broadnax | Statesville R&L
Published: June 22, 2009

Lance Cpl. Johnathan Dale Mitchell Sharpe, 19, of Statesville, was laid to rest Sunday at his home church. He was killed during a training accident June 16 at Camp Lejeune.

Saralena Sharpe, Johnathan's grandmother who adopted him at 19 months old, said the past few days have been a time to remember the young man who loved fishing, church, his Lord and Saviour, and Scouting.

"There has been a great joy of remembrance," she said. "With God as our substantial almighty being we have made it through."

Sharpe, who was operating a machine gun on top of a Humvee during a training exercise, died instantly when the vehicle flipped on a gravel road at the military base, according to Sharpe's adoptive father, Roger Sharpe.

Johnathan also leaves behind his birth mother, Amy McDaniel, and a host of family and friends, including the fellow Marines and other military personnel who came in droves to honor one of their own Sunday.

Sharpe, who was a former member of Scout Troop 618, joined the U.S. Marine Corps in July 2008.
He was training at Camp Lejeune and preparing for his deployment to Afghanistan.

Joining the Marines was a goal Johnathan set for himself at a young age.

"From the time he could walk, he wanted to fight for his country because it needed him as its defender," Saralena Sharpe said. "Everybody said Marines was the hardest to join, but he did it."

Roger Sharpe said he and his wife found out about the accident Tuesday when two uniformed officers came to their home.

"I knew what happened before I even opened the door to let them in," he said. "I felt the world come to an end."

During Sunday's celebration of life service before the funeral, a crowd of people lined the walls of the small church and extended to the entrance.

Speakers during the ceremony included Dwight Dowell, Mark Robinette, Joey Campbell and Mike Hyde.
As the service concluded, Sharpe's fellow Marines carried his casket, draped with an American flag, to a waiting hearse.

As the vehicle drove slowly to the burial site in the church's cemetery, Marines walked in a procession behind the vehicle.

During the burial ceremony, some 100 military men saluted Sharpe's casket and immediately followed with a 21-gun salute.

As two officers removed the flag from the casket and began to fold it, "Taps" was played by a Marine in the distance.

Firefight shows challenge for U.S.

NOW ZAD, Afghanistan — Missiles, machine guns and strafing runs from fighter jets destroyed much of a Taliban compound, but the insurgents had a final surprise for a pair of U.S. Marines who pushed into the smoldering building just before nightfall.

http://www.kentucky.com/216/story/838502.html

Monday, Jun. 22, 2009
By Chris Brummitt - Associated Press

As the two men walked up an alley, the Taliban opened fire from less than 15 yards, sending bullets and tracer fire crackling inches past them. They fled under covering fire from their comrades, who hurled grenades at the enemy position before sprinting to their armored vehicles.

The assault capped a day of fighting Saturday in the poppy fields, orchards and walled compounds of southern Afghanistan between newly arrived U.S. Marines and well dug-in Taliban fighters. It was a foretaste of what will likely be a bloody summer as Washington tries to turn around a bogged-down, 8-year-old war with a surge of 21,000 troops.

"This was the first time we pushed this far. I guess they don't like us coming into their back door," said Staff Sgt. Luke Medlin, who was sweeping the alley for booby traps as Marine Gunner John Daly covered him from behind when the Taliban struck.

"And now they know we will be back," said Medlin, from Richmond, Ind.

The fighting was on the outskirts of Now Zad, a town that in many ways symbolizes what went wrong in Afghanistan and the enormous challenges facing the United States. It is in Helmand province, a center of the insurgency and the opium poppy trade that helps fund it.

Like much of Afghanistan, Now Zad and the surrounding area were largely peaceful after the 2001 invasion. The United Nations and other Western-funded agencies sent staff to build wells and health clinics.

But in 2006 — with American attention focused on Iraq — the insurgency stepped up in the south. Almost all the city's 35,000 people fled, along with the aid workers.

British and Estonian troops, then garrisoned in Now Zad, were unable to defeat the insurgents. They were replaced last year by a small company of about 300 Marines, who live in a base in the center of the deserted town and on two hills overlooking it.

The Taliban hold much of the northern outskirts and the orchards beyond, where they have entrenched defensive positions, tunnels and bunkers.

The Marines outnumber the Taliban in the area by a ratio of at least 3 to 1 and have vastly superior weapons but avoid offensive operations because they lack the manpower to hold territory once they take it. There are no Afghan police or troops here to help.

"We don't have the people to backfill us. Why clear something that we cannot hold?" said Lt. Col. Patrick Cashman, head of the battalion in charge of Now Zad and other districts in Helmand and Farah provinces, where some 10,000 Marines are slowly spreading out in the first wave of the troop surge.

Cashman said the Marines did not intend to allow the Taliban free rein in parts of Now Zad, but he was unable to give specific plans or time frames for addressing what he said is "a bad situation."

Saturday's mission was aimed at gathering intelligence and drawing a response from enemy positions close to a street called "Pakistani alley" because of one-time reports suggesting fighters from across the border had dug in there.

"We're bait," one Marine said as the convoy of five vehicles left the base at 8 a.m. and trundled north.

It quickly came across a roadside bomb — the kind that killed a member of the company on June 6 and has wounded at least seven others in the four weeks since the company has been stationed here. An engineer was dispatched and came back an hour later carrying the parts of the bomb — two 82mm mortar shells attached to a pressure plate.

The vehicles were heading to inspect a suspected tunnel when the Taliban struck, firing mortars that landed close by. Machine gunners atop the vehicles and troops in an open-sided truck scanned the scene for plumes from weapons fire.

"We're taking fire from both sides here!" Lance Cpl. James Yon yelled.

"Hit 'em Yon!" came the call from below.

Hours of exchanges followed, with the Taliban opening fire with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, machine-gun fire and rockets from the orchards or inside walled compounds.

A mortar punctured the tire of a Humvee; a grenade swooshed just over a troop truck.

"That was close," Daly said. "If they were a better shot, we'd be canceling Christmas."

June 21, 2009

Afghan firefight shows challenge for US troops

NOW ZAD, Afghanistan -- The vehicles were heading to inspect a suspected tunnel when the Taliban struck, firing mortars that landed close by. Machine gunners atop the vehicles and troops in an open-sided truck scanned the scene for plumes from weapons fire.

http://www.fresnobee.com/world/story/1485909-p2.html
Click above link for photos.

Published online on Sunday, Jun. 21, 2009
By CHRIS BRUMMITT - Associated Press Writer

"We're taking fire from both sides here!" Lance Cpl. James Yon yelled.

"Hit 'em Yon!" came the call from below.

Hours of exchanges followed, with the Taliban opening fire with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, machine-gun fire and rockets from the orchards or inside walled compounds.

A mortar punctured the tire of a Humvee; a grenade swooshed just over a troop truck.

"That was close," Daly said. "If they were a better shot, we'd be canceling Christmas."

Each time the insurgents attacked, the Marines returned fire if they could spot their foes or radioed in coordinates for air strikes.

"Bombs are away," a voice crackled over the radio as Dutch fighter jets dropped laser-guided bombs on a compound, sending clouds of dust mushrooming into the air. The planes then strafed the position, leaving a line of fire and destruction 50 yards long. Other times mortar teams back at the base in Now Zad pummeled enemy positions.

The Marines left their vehicles twice. Each time, they came under attack as they entered maze-like, high-walled compounds with ill-fitting, aging wooden doors and small windows, ideal for sniper positions.

In the late afternoon, U.S. forces fired two missiles from 55 miles away to hit a compound being used by the attackers. Minutes later, Marine Harrier jets strafed the compound, setting fire to a wheat field outside it but sparing a poppy patch - an irony not lost on the troops.

The Marines got their final close call as they assessed the compound for damage.

After blowing a hole through the wall, Medlin and Daly were met by a hail of bullets as they pressed up an alley.

"Gunner, are you good? You need to come back!" one Marine shouted into the gathering gloom. "I'll cover you!"

The two man leapt to safety. Daly sprained his ankle as he leapt from a wall, but that was the only Marine injury.

Twenty minutes after the troops withdrew, two Cobra helicopters fired a Hellfire missile that streaked at a 45-degree angle across the night sky into the building, then bombed and strafed it, igniting a blaze.

"Payback time," one Marine muttered in the dark of a truck; cheers erupted in another vehicle.

There were no confirmed Taliban casualties, but observers later spotted a funeral, and video images suggested others were killed in the aerial attacks.

Capt. Zachary Martin said such sustained contact sent the militants a message that they were not safe anywhere and bought the Marines - and the few civilians in the area - some "security space."

"We kicked the snot out of these guys," he told the Marines on their return to base, some 14 hours after they left.

2/7 Scout Snipers take a ‘little’ hike

MOUNT SAN JACINTO STATE PARK, PALM SPRINGS, Calif. —
“We’d be going that fast too if we had such small packs,” said a hiker with a full camping load on her back as eight men with military hair cuts and proper civilian attire passed her on the steep mountainside.

http://www.marines.mil/units/mciwest/29palms/Pages/27ScoutSniperstakea‘little’hike.aspx

6/21/2009
By Cpl. Corey A. Blodgett
Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command 29 Palms

“Oh, those are the guys who started hiking at three in morning from the bottom,” said another man in her group.

“Never mind,” she said.

Seven Marines and a sailor from Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, passed a lot of hikers and weekend warriors June 12 on their way to San Jacinto Peak nearly 11,000 feet above Palms Springs, Calif., but the most important thing they passed was the wooden sign that told them they had reached the top.

After more than 10 hours into the hike, Sgt. Matthew C. Walker, a team leader with Scout Sniper Platoon, said it was pretty much the only thing on his mind.

“In my head I just kept thinking, ‘can I make it up to the summit?’ he said. “That is why we did this, more of a mental challenge than anything. So everyone would learn that if you keep pushing yourself you can just keep going and forget how you feel. Learn that your body can actually take a lot more than you think it can.”

Mount San Jacinto is famous for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which lifts thousands of tourists a year 8,516 feet to camping areas and trails throughout the state park. Unlike most hikers though, the Marines and sailor opted to start at the base of the mountain near the Palm Springs Art Museum, 16 miles from the summit.

“All together, from the museum to the summit and then back down to the tram it took 12 hours and 40 minutes. We went 22 miles and gained 10,500 feet of elevation,” said 1st Lt. Andrew H. Melander, the Scout Sniper Platoon commander. “It was definitely challenging. My feet felt like ground beef after it, but I was amazed by some of the performances of the guys. There were a lot of guys you could tell were struggling, and they just kept going.”

Everyone agreed on the high level of drive and endurance it took to finish.

“That was probably the most grueling thing I’ve done,” said Lance Cpl. Jesse R. Lopez, a rifleman new to the platoon. “It was not what I expected beforehand, because as we were hiking up, we’d get to the top of one peak where I thought I could see the top, but then they were like ‘no, we still have six more hours to go.’

“That was the point though,” he said. “What they wanted us to take away from that experience was to just have that ‘no-quit’ mentality, always be on top of our game and be ready to just tackle any challenge that comes our way.”

Putting the men through the struggle and labor of the climb was an important aspect of the training, said Staff Sgt. Timothy R. Solum, the Scout Sniper Platoon staff noncommissioned officer in charge.

“One of the things I learned early on in my career is that there is no better way to build camaraderie than being put through a shared, common suffering to accomplish big goals you can be proud of,” he said.

Melander agreed, saying after awhile, they would know all the pain would be worth it.

“I’m sure they were hurting quite a bit, but I know they got a lot out of it afterwards,” Melander said. “They’re going to drive down to Palm Springs now, see those peaks and know they conquered that mountain.”

Solum said he could tell the guys were “beat” after the climb, but he also saw that they built a solid connection with each other, by overcoming obstacles few have overcome.

“The hike was an excellent way to bring everyone together,” Solum said. “It was challenging and no one was looking forward to it because it was going to suck, and it did. But at the same time, even when it was sucking, the guys knew they were accomplishing something they could be proud of.

“This is probably something none of them have ever done in their lives before; most of them have probably never climbed a mountain,” he said. “Most of them probably never went 22 miles with a pack.”


A Change in Mission

Lt. Arthur Karell and his Marine battalion were sent to Now Zad, Afghanistan, to train Afghan police. Instead, they had to fight the insurgents who had taken over the town.

By Kristin Henderson
Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Fix bayonets."

To continue reading:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/12/AR2009061202123.html

June 19, 2009

Chance Phelps Foundation Donates $10,000 to ‘Hope for the Warriors’

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2009 – A foundation formed by the family of a fallen Marine whose story was told in the HBO movie “Taking Chance” has donated $10,000 to a group that works to help wounded veterans and their families.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=54838

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

Hope for the Warriors, a national nonprofit group, received the donation from the Chance Phelps Foundation during Fleet Week activities in New York on May 22.

Gretchen Mack, mother of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Chance R. Phelps and founder of the Chance Phelps foundation, said her family decided to make the donation based on what they experienced last year in New York at a Hope for the Warriors event that included wounded warriors involved in extensive rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio for loss of limbs, eyesight, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We spent a lot of time with these servicemembers, and were very impressed and touched,” Mack said. “This year, we decided to donate to Hope for the Warriors because what they do for those that serve is incredible.”

The Chance Phelps Foundation, founded after Phelps was killed in Iraq in April 2004, is a nonprofit organization that raises money for donations to various charities that support quality-of-life issues for servicemembers, particularly those who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Tina Atherall, Hope for the Warriors vice president, said the contribution was gratefully accepted and will assist the group in its mission of “No sacrifice forgotten, nor need unmet.”

“We are forever grateful for their dedication and support to the wounded, their families and the families of the fallen,” Atherall said. “This donation will help enhance our various programs: Immediate Needs, Above and Beyond, Hope and Morale, A Warriors Wish, Spouse Scholarships, Family Support Program, Wounded Warrior Barracks and Warrior House.”

Mack and the fallen Marine’s father, John Phelps, presented the donation to Robin Kelleher, president of Hope for the Warriors.

Mack said money donated to Hope for the Warriors was given to her family after she lost her son, and the family wanted to pass the money on.

“Hope for the Warriors help veterans with quality-of-life issues that they and their families may face after deployment,” Mack said. “This may include physical injuries, financial issues and, of course, making sure they get the medical treatment they need and an opportunity to enjoy some well deserved rest and relaxation. We are very passionate about being a part of helping our veterans and their families.”

Hawaii Ready for N. Korean Attack

SEOUL, South Korea - The United States says it has deployed anti-missile defenses around Hawaii, following reports that North Korea is preparing to fire its most advanced ballistic missile in that direction to coincide with the U.S. Independence Day holiday next month.

http://www.military.com/news/article/hawaii-boosts-defense-to-counter-threat.html?col=1186032325324&ESRC=marine-a.nl

June 19, 2009
Associated Press

Last week, the communist regime vowed to bolster its nuclear arsenal and threatened war to protest U.N. sanctions in the wake of its May 25 nuclear test. It conducted its first nuclear test in April, and there are suspicions it is preparing for a third.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that the military has set up additional defenses around Hawaii, consisting of a ground-based mobile missile system and a radar system nearby. Together they could shoot an incoming missile in mid air.

"Without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say ... we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect Americans and American territory," Gates told reporters in Washington.

Gates' comments come after Japan's Yomiuri newspaper reported that North Korea might test fire a Taepodong-2 missile with a range of up to 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers), sometime around the U.S. holiday of Independence Day on July 4.

Yomiuri said the missile, which could be launched from North Korea's Tongchang-ri site, would fly over Japan but would not be able to reach Hawaii, which is about 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) from the Korean peninsula.

North Korea test-fired a similar long-range missile on July 4 three years ago, but it failed seconds after liftoff.

A spokesman for the Japanese Defense Ministry declined to comment on Yomiuri's report, which cited an analysis by Japan's Defense Ministry and intelligence gathered by U.S. reconnaissance satellites.

South Korea's government also remained silent on the report, but made a general appeal to North Korea to follow international norms.

"We hope that North Korea, first of all (will) give up nuclear ambitions and abide by the agreement that we made in 1992 -- that is, a basic agreement for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo told reporters.

The sanctions mandated by the U.N. Security Council resolution on North Korea call on all 192 U.N. member states to inspect vessels on the high seas - with the owner country's approval - if they believe the cargo contains banned weapons.

In what would be the first test case for the sanctions, the U.S. military has begun tracking a North Korean-flagged ship, Kang Nam, which left a port in North Korea on Wednesday, two U.S. officials said.

The ship, which may be carrying illicit weapons, was in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of China on Thursday, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were discussing intelligence.

It was uncertain what the Kang Nam was carrying, but it has been involved in weapons proliferation before, one of the officials said.

Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs are centerpieces of the regime's catalog of weapons of mass destruction.

On Thursday, the independent International Crisis Group said the North is believed to have between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, including mustard gas, phosgene, blood agents and sarin. These weapons can be delivered with ballistic missiles and long-range artillery and are "sufficient to inflict massive civilian casualties on South Korea."

June 16, 2009

In Afghan Heat, Marines Prepare For The Storm

All Things Considered

The Marines known as "America's Battalion" are in Afghanistan as part of the 21,000 additional forces President Obama is deploying in the administration's strategy to counter the Taliban insurgency. NPR is following the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment over the months of their deployment, focusing on the efforts of these Marines in Afghanistan and the burden shared by their families back home.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105470542
Please click on above link to find an audio news broadcast.

Photo Gallery:
http://www.npr.org/multimedia/2009/06/afghan_fox_company/gallery/index.html

June 16, 2009
by Tom Bowman

In hairdryer-in-the-face heat, talcum-like dust swirls around Camp Leatherneck, a U.S. Marine base in the desert of southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. In the early afternoon, the dust rolls in like a brown fog and seeps into a massive tent.

Perched on a cot inside, Lt. James Wende from San Antonio, Texas, is reading The Steel Wave, a novel about World War II. Wende is eager to start his own war.

Like many Marines in the tent, Wende did a tour in Iraq last year. By then, it was largely peaceful — boring, the Marines say. That deployment ended and they went back to their base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. There, they got word they would deploy to Afghanistan rather than head back to Iraq.

"The Marines want to go, and they want to get in the fight. So everyone was pretty much hoping for Afghanistan. We'll see. They say be careful what you wish for," Wende says.

Hanging behind the Marine is a Texas Tech banner. In front of him is most of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment's Fox Company, a sea of 120 bodies on green cots stretching out in the low-slung, circus-sized tent that is half the length of a football field. Fieldpacks and boxes are stacked next to the cots.

Some Marines are shirtless, revealing tattoos spread across torsos and arms: skulls, crossed rifles, the Marine Corps insignia. Some clean their weapons. Others lay on their cots, listening to iPods, chatting with friends, writing letters. The aroma of dirty socks fills the air.

The Marines are mostly in their 20s, some still in their teens. Their unit is part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the vanguard of an additional 21,000 American troops in Afghanistan, part of a new strategy by the Obama administration to take back parts of the country from Taliban control. Their territory is roughly the size of New Jersey.

Waiting, Worrying

Most of the Marines say they are anxious.

Lance Cpl. Zachary Rash says he is constantly running through various scenarios in his mind — possible encounters with insurgents, what the best reactions would be, what to do if a comrade is wounded.

His worry keeps him up at night sometimes. "But if it's my time to go, it's too late to change your mind now. I'm here," he says.

Another Marine, Cpl. Wesley Dutch Perkins from Louisiana is eager to leave the dull routine of the barren landscape.

"It's hot. It's dusty. It sucks," he says.

What keeps the men sane is word from home. Families send letters and packages.

Perkins receives a care package from his parents: baby wipes, nuts, dried fruit. A separate dose of anxiety comes in brief phone calls with the folks back home.

"[My parents] were really nervous about it. Mom is … really close friends with Army wives and they heard a lot of bad things about Afghanistan, so she's really worried. … [I tell them,] 'Don't worry, I'll be fine.' It's about all you really can tell them," he says.

Perkins, 22, is on his first deployment. When he lies in his cot at night, he admits he worries — mostly about landmines and IEDs, or roadside bombs.

"Everybody just wants to come back in one piece," he says.

Preparing For Insurgent War

About 70 percent of casualties in Afghanistan are from IEDs. Last week, a roadside bomb killed two Marines, the brigade's first loss. A few days later, a blast struck a convoy, wounding another five Marines.

It's no secret that the IEDs are the biggest threat the Marines face, says 2nd Lt. Samuel Oliver, who describes them as one of the insurgents' most effective methods for leveling the playing field.

"I put IEDs and landmines everywhere, I might not have to have as many people as you," he says, summarizing the enemy's thinking.

Oliver is a platoon leader, responsible for about 50 Marines. His biggest challenge, he says, is making sure that his Marines remain disciplined if an IED hits his team — and not reacting by lashing out at the nearest Afghan civilian.

"You step on a mine. Who are you shooting back at? Who are you going to kill?" he asks.

In a bar fight, you know who hits you — and who to hit back, Oliver says. In Afghanistan, you don't have that knowledge, he adds.

"So the biggest thing is people are going to start getting pissed off. You get blown up enough, you're going to get pissed. That's when you have to start watching how guys are acting, because it's easy, once you see your friends start getting blown up, then that's when you got to start watching, making sure nothing stupid happens," he says.

Before Oliver deployed from Camp Lejeune, he wondered whether he could lead men in combat. It's his first deployment, too.

Now, he devours after-action reports — combat reviews from Marine and British officers about firefights with Taliban forces. "What they did, didn't and should have done," Oliver says.

Before The Final Push

At the other end of the tent, Capt. Junwei Sun sits on his cot, working through a list of the Marines in his company. He is checking names, blood types, next of kin — the last of the paperwork.

The captain is among the veterans, with two tours in Iraq under his belt. Now, he is waiting for this tour of Afghanistan to start.

"You can't really complain. We have three meals and a cot. Nobody's shooting at us — yet," he says.

Sun and the rest of the Marines in America's Battalion know the shooting will begin soon enough, once they push out of the base and head deep into the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province.


June 15, 2009

Discovery Channel's SOMALI PIRATE TAKEDOWN THE REAL STORY Documents Never-Before-Told Stories Behind Dramatic Maersk Alabama Pirate Standoff

Comprehensive Special Features New Footage of U.S. Navy's Decisive Response, First-Ever Accounts from Maersk Alabama's Crew and Exclusive Footage From Military Channel Production Crews Aboard U.S. Navy Vessels Leading Counter-Piracy Operations

http://ca.sys-con.com/node/1002723

By: PR Newswire
Jun. 15, 2009 04:56 PM


SILVER SPRING, Md., June 15 /PRNewswire/ -- This past April, news of U.S. Navy snipers bringing a swift end to the Somalia pirate standoff captivated the world's attention.
After failing to seize the Maersk Alabama, the three remaining Somali pirates were dramatically shot dead while holding Captain Richard Phillips hostage aboard a powerless lifeboat.
However, the heroic stories of the Maersk Alabama's crew and the U.S. Navy's courageous maneuvers have not been shared fully, until now.
Discovery Channel and Military Channel have combined forces to tell the complete story in the world premiere special, SOMALI PIRATE TAKEDOWN THE REAL STORY.
This comprehensive special features compelling new footage of the pirates aboard the rogue lifeboat, first-ever broadcast interviews with members of the Maersk Alabama crew, an outline of the U.S. Navy's efforts to successfully rescue Captain Phillips, and exclusive footage shot by Military Channel's embedded crews aboard U.S. Navy ships leading counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
SOMALI PIRATE TAKEDOWN THE REAL STORY premieres Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 10 PM ET/PT on Discovery Channel.
An extended version premieres on Military Channel on Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 9 PM ET.

Discovery Channel's SOMALI PIRATE TAKEDOWN THE REAL STORY Documents Never-Before-Told Stories Behind Dramatic Maersk Alabama Pirate Standoff

By: PR Newswire
Jun. 15, 2009 04:56 PM

- Comprehensive Special Features New Footage of U.S. Navy's Decisive Response, First-Ever Accounts from Maersk Alabama's Crew and Exclusive Footage From Military Channel Production Crews Aboard U.S. Navy Vessels Leading Counter-Piracy Operations -

Please go to the following link to read the entire article:

http://ca.sys-con.com/node/1002723

June 13, 2009

More dwell time for Marines in future, Conway says

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, June 13, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps hopes to give Marines 14 months at home after deployments by mid-2010, Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said Thursday.

To continue reading:

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=63275

June 12, 2009

Lionesses work to improve community in local Iraq city

CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq —
Female Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), have been participating in civil affairs missions with the Civil Affairs Group 10, 2nd Marine Division for approximately three months in various cities surrounding Camp Korean Village, Iraq

http://www.marines.mil/units/marforcom/iimef/2ndmlg/hq/Pages/LionessesworktoimprovecommunityinlocalIraqcity.aspx

6/12/2009 By
Lance Cpl. Melissa A. Latty,
2nd Marine Logistics Group

The women are part of an all-female team called Lioness that was first formed several years ago to implement culturally-sensitive methods of searching Iraqi women to deter the enemy’s use of females to conduct terrorist attacks.

However, Lionesses aren’t just female searchers. In fact, they now do little to no searching at all.

Sgt. Leticia L. Eslinger, Cpl. Rachelle J. Fernandez, and Lance Cpl. Holly M. Burd were tasked to help the CAG gather information about the local economy using surveys and other methods of communication.

“We were sent here to support missions with the Civil Affairs Group and collect information and perspectives that our male counterparts are unable to obtain,” said Burd, who is originally from 1st Radio Battalion.
“When the locals see us they are interested because they don’t see many females out on these missions.
We use that interest to gain their trust or get perspectives that were unobtainable before.”

The need for Lionesses in Camp Korean Village, Iraq, came about three months ago when Fernandez, who at the time worked with the camp’s security forces, was asked to accompany an Army Operations Team on a mission to interact with local females.

Her presence in the mission was so successful that one mission turned into months of information gathering, rapport-building, and engaging with the local Iraqi populace.

Capt. Natalie M. Trogus, the camp commandant, submitted a request to 2nd Marine Headquarters Group for more Lioness-trained females to join Fernandez in helping the Army Operations Team and the CAG.

“Historically, feminine interaction with adult Iraqi males has been a rarity outside of exchanges within one’s immediate family,” said Lee Bagan, an intelligence specialist and cultural expert embedded with the CAG.
“Lioness presence is thereby a magnet effectively utilized to obtain ground truth, understanding and dialogue, otherwise difficult to achieve with all-male military interviews.”

The CAG focuses mainly on the city of Rutbah, a highly populated city where Coalition forces have recently focused on providing aid to residents.

This aid comes in a variety of forms, including food and water, as well as agricultural and educational needs.
These efforts are designed to help citizens of the town complete the transition from reliance on Coalition forces to dependence on the Government of Iraq as the responsible drawdown of U.S. Forces continues.

“I have established key communications in Rutbah,” Fernandez said.
“I have spent three months building a strong foundation with the locals there.
When working with Army Operations, we helped the locals set up a radio station, a website and a newsletter.
We also helped them develop their veterinary clinics and performed medical capability missions, where we gave on-the-spot medical care to the locals.”

“Our mission in Iraq isn’t the same as it was during the invasion,” she continued. “It’s more of a rebuilding process and that’s not something we can walk away from.
When we talk to the people we ask how progress is being made, how their government is operating and if their community is being rebuilt.”

Although the Lionesses are trained to interact with the Iraqi women, they don’t restrict themselves to only females.
They have learned that even the male Iraqis are more willing to open up to them when asked about their community.

“The Lionesses are essential to our missions in gaining atmospherics in the city of Rutbah,” said Sgt. Daniel Furner, the security chief with CAG.
“To the Iraqi men and women, females are more approachable. They are able to communicate with the locals better.”

The presence of Lioness-trained females at Camp Korean Village continues to assist Coalition and Iraqi forces in gaining knowledge of the local community’s struggles and improvements.

Essex Departs For Talisman Saber

USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) departed Sasebo, Japan, for exercise Talisman Saber 2009 (TS09) June 12.

http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=46162

Release Date: 6/12/2009 9:10:00 AM
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Greg Johnson

The exercise is designed to enhance bilateral interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces and will feature more than 20,000 U.S. and 10,000 Australian personnel.

"This is the third time exercise Talisman Saber has been conducted since exercises Tandem Thrust and Crocodile were combined into a biennial, joint combined exercise with Australian and U. S. forces," said Capt. Brent Canady, Essex' commanding officer.
"Essex Sailors are looking forward to the opportunity to work with our Australian counterparts to enhance our warfighting skills."

The exercise will focus on crisis action planning and execution of contingency response operations and is concentrated in the Shoalwater Bay training area near Rockhampton in central Queensland as well as the Townsville field training area.
TS09 will provide an opportunity to work in a combined, joint environment and refine procedures and doctrine.

Essex Sailors will be instrumental in accomplishing the primary goal of the exercise, which is to train Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the Australian Deployable Joint Force Headquarters as a designated, combined task force.

"Talisman Saber is a great opportunity for us to enhance our interoperability," said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Sigurdson, Essex' aircraft handler.
"It's especially important to what we do on the flight deck.
Being familiar and comfortable with the way each other operates is essential to conducting safe, effective operations."

The deployment will also serve as a first opportunity for many Essex Sailors to visit Australia.

"Everyone has heard stories about what a great time it is to visit Australia," said Information Systems Technician Seaman Brett Scott, of Baltimore.
"This is going to be my first visit, and I'm definitely excited to check it out for myself.
One of the great advantages of being in the forward-deployed Navy is the chance to see great ports like the ones we'll hit on this deployment.
It should be pretty cool."

Essex is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. ARG and serves as the flagship for CTF 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander.
Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan


June 10, 2009

Wahlen, Navy MoH recipient for Iwo Jima, dies

The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 10, 2009 5:47:04 EDT

ROY, Utah — George E. Wahlen, a Medal of Honor recipient wounded during the battle of Iwo Jima, has died at 84

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_navy_wahlen_moh_dies_060709/

TBS opening new student quarters in Aug.

By Amy McCullough - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jun 10, 2009 9:42:43 EDT

The first of eight new student quarters for the Corps’ newly commissioned officers is slated for completion this August as the next phase of construction at The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., is expected to ramp into full gear.

To continue reading:

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/marine_tbs_construction_061009w/

1,200 Quilts To Be Given To Troops

The Quilts of Valor organization is driving across the country to deliver 1,200 quilts to troops and some of them were on display at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's International Quilt Study Center Monday.

http://www.kolnkgin.com/home/headlines/47446712.html#
Please click on above link for a news video.

Lincoln, NE
Posted: 5:50 PM Jun 9, 2009
Last Updated: 9:46 AM Jun 10, 2009
Reporter: KOLNKGIN

The Nebraska stop is one in a cross-country mission to gather specially made quilts for members of the armed services. Quilts of Valor Across America is a journey to collect 1,200 quilts from across the country to be given to Marine and Navy corpsmen of 3/8 Battalion returning to Camp Lejeune, N.C., from Afghanistan.

Early this month a group left Valley Springs, California, with pick-up destinations in Utah, Colorado, Missouri and Tennessee, and Nebraska. It will reach Camp Lejeune June 12.

A volunteering veteran, Gail Belmont, QOV operations director, is driving the van and trailer from northern California and will be joined in caravan in Denver by the Quilts of Valor chairperson Catherine Roberts. They will be met in Lincoln by local American Legion Riders, a motorcycle group formed to show respect for service members and their families. The Riders escorted the caravan to the International Quilt Study Center and Museum and were greeted by local QOV volunteers and presented with 85 quilts from Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and South Dakota. Sara Kenny of Eagle, an Army and Air Force mother, and Julia Schroeder of Lincoln, have coordinated the regional collection of QOV quilts.

This is one of many projects coordinated by the Quilts of Valor Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to "cover our wounded soldiers, sailors and Marines one quilt at a time." Since its founding, about 23,000 donated quilts have been presented to service members.

June 9, 2009

Afghan surge changes game, commander says

By Chris Brummitt - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Jun 9, 2009 17:32:56 EDT

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Newly arrived U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan will target insurgents crossing into the country from Pakistan and be a “game changer” in a region long dominated by the Taliban, a top commander said Tuesday.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_afghanistan_surge_changes_060909/

Marines fan out across Afghan south

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Teams of builders worked through dust storms Monday to expand a base for a brigade of U.S. Marines now fanning out across southern Afghanistan to change the course of a war claiming American lives faster than ever before.

http://www.bradenton.com/world/story/1496325.html

Tuesday, Jun. 09, 2009

Some 10,000 Marines have poured into Afghanistan in the last six weeks, the military said Monday, transforming this once small base in the heart of the country’s most violent province, Helmand, into a desert fortress.

The statement to embedded journalists was the first confirmation that the military has fully deployed the first wave of 21,000 additional troops President Barack Obama ordered to Afghanistan this year to help stanch an increasingly violent Taliban insurgency.

The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, normally based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., will battle the Taliban as well as train and fight alongside Afghan security forces.

“This is where the fight is, in Afghanistan,” said 1st Sgt. Christopher Watson, who like many of the troops was most recently deployed in Iraq. “We are here to get the job done.”

8th Communications Battalion zeros in on combat marksmanship

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq —
United States Marines pride themselves on being America’s force-in-readiness. At any given time, Marines are prepared to deploy anywhere in the world to defend America and respond to crises. Even while deployed, they still find ways to continue their combat training in order to maintain their reputation of always being mission-ready.

http://www.usmc.mil/units/marforcom/iimef/iimef-fwd/Pages/8thCommunicationsBattalionzerosinoncombatmarksmanship.aspx

6/9/2009
By Cpl. Jo Jones,
Multi National Force - West

Recently, Marines and sailors with 8th Communications Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward), reviewed weapons fundamentals in order to maintain their combat skills. Members of the battalion sat through courses and later put their academics into practice by shooting at a live-fire range aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, June 2, 2009.

“The Marines shot their rifles to get an accurate battlesight zero setting so their weapons shoot accurately when they go outside the wire,” said Staff Sgt. Adam Nemethy, an assistant operations chief with 8th Comm. Bn., and the small arms range officer-in-charge. “If you don’t BZO your weapon, you might as well be shooting into the wind.”

Wearing full personal protective equipment, the Marines and sailors convoyed to a small arms range where they were issued ammunition and briefed on weapons conditions and weapons safety. Afterward, they shot their rifles at close-range targets so they could make adjustments to increase the accuracy of their weapons.

Many of the service members also had a chance to shoot the M9 pistol, a weapon junior Marines don’t normally have an opportunity to fire.

“Coming out here gives the Marines a chance to fire the M9, and to learn about the different shooting positions and weapons handling techniques,” said Nemethy. “The Marines will be better when they go to the pistol range because they have had experience with it.”

Lance Cpl. James Halsey, a field wireman with 8th Comm. Bn., said weapons fundamentals are crucial to mission accomplishment.

“As Marines, our basic job is to be riflemen so it’s a good reminder that we need to stay vigilant and not get complacent with our mindset or weapons handling,” said Halsey. “We always need to be ready to respond to hostile situations or other missions.”

Staff Sgt. John Isenhour, a range coach with 8th Comm. Bn., said the shoot was a confidence booster for the Marines, helps them become better shooters, and keeps them focused on their responsibility to remain combat-ready.

Building a FOB from the ground up

FORT A.P. HILL, Va —
A siren blast alerted the Marines who were sleeping at the forward operating base. They jumped up and put on their gear as they ran toward the source of the chaos. A suicide bomber hit one of the entry control points.

http://www.usmc.mil/units/marforcom/iimef/Pages/BuildingaFOBfromthegroundup.aspx

6/9/2009
By Cpl. Katie Densmore,
II MEF

Fortunately, this was only a drill at Exercise A.P. Hill, which took place May 18 through June 4, however, this training is designed to realistically prepare the Marines of Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, for such an attack.

The casualty drills were an important part of the company’s training, but from the moment the Marines stepped off for the exercise, their training had already begun.

The Marines went through the proper procedures of establishing a FOB, said 1st Lt. Trevor Krauss, the executive officer for H&S Company, and the guard officer in charge for the exercise.

“We went through all of the steps to establish the FOB,” Krauss said. “First we (did reconnaissance of) the area, then established security using gun trucks and made entry control points. After we had a secure area, we built the FOB from the ground up making sure to have sectors of fire that surround the base 360 degrees.”
With all of the hard work that went into the construction of the base, it was very important to ensure it could operate independently.

“We set up this FOB to be self sufficient,” Krauss said. “We have a (base aid station), (command operations center), (detention facility), fueling point and of course billeting. The FOB is also set up next to a field, which can act as a (landing zone) in case of a (casualty evacuation).”

With the base successfully constructed, the Marines focused on running drills to use the base and themselves to their fullest capabilities.

“The first step we went through to prepare the Marines for the drills was to sound the alarm and have everyone get on line,” he said. “The next drill involved a re-allocation of forces to a compromised (entry control point). The next drill (involved casualty evacuation). Finally, we (combined) casualties and re-allocation of security forces in the last drill.”

The evolution of the training paid off for the Marines and was represented by the increased efficiency of the drills.

“During the final drill, within three minutes the ECP got hit, the Marines got on line, brought the injured Marines to the docs in triage, and got the casualties out to the landing zone to be picked up by a bird,” Krauss said. “I time it every time. It just keeps getting better, because their gear is staged, they are ready to go and they know exactly what to do.”

The knowledge of how to set up a FOB and running drills is significant training; however, one of the most important aspects of the training was synchronizing the Marines in the battalion.

“The battalion has close to 400 new joins from privates all the way up to officers,” said Staff Sgt. George Cueva, administrative chief for H&S Company. “At least 40 percent of the battalion is new blood. This is the only chance we have to get together and prepare. It is so important because every deployment is so different. These exercises really focus on bringing the Marines together.”

With all of the Marines being trained to fight efficiently as a cohesive unit, the Marines focused on their next deployment. But, to be a successful fighting force Marines need to look ahead to future battles.

“We need to have the mentality that you can deploy anywhere,” Krauss said. “I think these skills are important for any Marine. Everybody gets caught up in the war we are in right now, but in history we’ve always done things like these. Some of these Marines haven’t dug a hole since (their basic Marine combat training), but (the basics of defending a fighting) hole will (apply to defending) a post. All those skills, like marksmanship, will be applied. It has its transition and it’s all applicable in country.”

June 8, 2009

US Marines fan out across dangerous Afghan south

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Teams of builders worked through dust storms Monday to expand a base for a brigade of U.S. Marines now fanning out across southern Afghanistan to change the course of a war claiming American lives faster than ever before

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090608/ap_on_re_as/as_afghan_surge

By CHRIS BRUMMITT, Associated Press Writer Chris Brummitt, Associated Press Writer – Mon Jun 8, 4:50 pm ET


Some 10,000 Marines have poured into Afghanistan in the last six weeks, the military said Monday, transforming this once small base in the heart of the country's most violent province, Helmand, into a desert fortress.

The statement to embedded journalists, including a team from The Associated Press, was the first confirmation that the military has fully deployed the first wave of 21,000 additional troops President Barack Obama ordered to Afghanistan this year to help stanch an increasingly violent Taliban insurgency.

The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, normally based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., will battle the Taliban as well as train and fight alongside Afghan security forces.

"This is where the fight is, in Afghanistan," said 1st Sgt. Christopher Watson, who like many of the troops was most recently deployed in Iraq.
"We are here to get the job done."

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 because the country's extremist Taliban leaders were sheltering Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, the Islamic terrorist group behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

The forces quickly defeated the Taliban, pushing the militants out of Kabul and their southern base in Kandahar.
But a guerrilla war, which turned dangerously violent in 2006, has bedeviled the international coalition and Afghan government.

While the insurgency is active across much of the country, its stronghold remains in Helmand. The province is home to the world's largest opium-poppy growing region and borders Pakistan, where commanders say the Taliban leadership supplies money and recruits.

The Taliban has become entrenched in Helmand because of a lack of international and Afghan troops.
Several thousand British forces have engaged in heavy fighting in Helmand for much of the past three years.
Last year, a much smaller U.S. Marine force joined them, helping to clear the town of Garmser of insurgents.

"We are not under the impression that is going to be easy," said Capt. Bill Pelletier, a Marine spokesman.
"They are an adaptive enemy."

A dust storm whipped across Camp Leatherneck early Monday but did little to stop the pace of construction.
Hard-hatted workers put up wooden structures to house command centers and dining facilities, while cranes dropped blast walls close to the rows of air-conditioned tents housing troops.

The Marines are slowly spreading out to smaller bases in an area of operations about 7,000 square miles, said Pelletier, adding there already have been several engagements with insurgents.
The military has yet to announce any losses in combat suffered by the brigade.

An Army brigade of some 7,000 troops will follow this summer along with 4,000 forces to train Afghan security forces.

The surge will bring American troop levels from about 55,000 now to more than 68,000 by the end of 2009 — about half of the nearly 140,000 troops currently in Iraq.

The buildup has led to comparisons with Iraq, where an influx of troops in 2007 is credited with helping to reduce violence.

But unlike Iraq, where the U.S. plans to phase out its role by 2012, the military envisions a long-term presence in Afghanistan.

Adding troops in a country with a history of resistance to foreign forces risks increasing Afghans' resentment, which in turn fuels the insurgency.

There are also fears that the surge will push the Taliban to other parts of the country — or even across the border to Pakistan, where they could further destabilize that nuclear-armed country.

The bulk of the Marines, about 7,300, remain at Leatherneck and are training for missions — or "sharpening the sword" as one young Marine put it.
Several said Marine commanders have drilled into them the need to respect the local culture and not barge into villages, kicking down doors and alienating residents whose support they need to win the war.

"They have told us to be more friendly with the locals," said Lance Cpl. John McCall, who was marching in full battle gear around the base with two buddies to get in shape
. "We are not to shoot first and ask questions later."

Commanders warn that U.S. deaths are likely to increase this summer, the traditional fighting season in Afghanistan.

At least 70 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year, according to an AP count, a 75 percent increase over the 40 U.S. troop deaths through the first week in June last year.
A record 151 American forces died in Afghanistan in 2008.

Joanna Nathan, an Afghanistan specialist at the International Crisis Group, said more troops were needed to improve security so that the task of building Afghan government structures and other infrastructure projects could happen more quickly.

"There needs to be a lot of work in the background," she said.
"You are never going to shoot the last insurgent and then leave.
The will in Western capitals to remain in Afghanistan will not last forever, so there is a need for urgency."

Corps to launch online encyclopedia

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 8, 2009 8:44:44 EDT

So long Wikipedia. Say hello to Corpspedia.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/marine_corpspedia_060809w/

2nd MEB Marines begin Afghanistan ops

7,000 Marines represent first wave of troops ordered Afghanistan by Obama

By Chris Brummitt - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jun 8, 2009 8:41:26 EDT

CAMP LEATHERHEAD, Afghanistan — Some 7,000 of the new U.S. troops ordered to Afghanistan are fanning out across the dangerous Afghan south on a mission to defeat the Taliban insurgency and to change the course of a war claiming American lives at a record pace.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_marines_afghanistan_surge_060809/

Marine in Iraq gets hitched over the Internet

By Clare Kennedy - Owatonna People’s Press via AP
Posted : Monday Jun 8, 2009 6:40:52 EDT

OWATONNA, Minn. — On the morning of her wedding day, Breana Michel stood next to her pastor Rev. Jay Grave. The groom was nowhere to be found in the small house on 15th Street Southeast.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_marine_wedding_iraq_060809/

June 7, 2009

Out of the office and onto the roads of Al Anbar: Security Company protects their own

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq — As the last rays of sunlight duck behind the security barriers aboard Camp Baharia, Iraq, a chorus can be heard. It is not the crickets emerging to greet the night —it’s the Marines of Security Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), gearing up to provide security for a convoy.

http://www.usmc.mil/units/marforcom/iimef/2ndmlg/hq/Pages/OutoftheofficeandontotheroadsofAlAnbarSecurityCompanyprotectstheirown.aspx

6/7/2009 By
Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Penzik,
Combat Logistics Battalion 4

The sounds of idling engines, radio chatter, and weapon function checks mix with the stale evening air as the 38-vehicle convoy, consisting of tactical vehicles, tractor trailers and four Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, prepare to exit the confines of Camp Baharia.

In a field environment, convoy security is typically handled by military police. However, the Marines with Security Co. are far from typical. While they have their fair share of military police within the company, the majority of the unit is comprised of Marines from several different military occupational specialties such as heavy equipment operation, motor transport, disbursing, supply and communications While operating outside of one’s MOS can be a daunting task, one Marine in particular has learned to put his skill set to use while conducting security operations.

Cpl. Joseph Muise, a motor transport mechanic, traded in his tool box for a Tactical Operations Center Intercommunications System headset to take on the critical position as a vehicle commander.

“My job has completely changed from a mechanic in a shop to a vehicle commander and armory custodian involved in [convoy] operations,” Muise said. “I believe my knowledge of mechanics is very much an asset. Knowing how to quickly troubleshoot a vehicle could make the difference between life or death for my Marines after leaving friendly lines.”

Outside of running the platoon’s armory and maintaining accountability of all of the platoon’s weapon systems, Muise also ensures that weekly and monthly preventative maintenance checks and services are performed on the platoon’s vehicles and mine-rollers.

“It’s tough, but staying busy makes the time fly by,” he said.

The company is responsible for conducting personnel security, explosive ordnance disposal, recovery and combat logistics patrol escorts throughout eastern Al Anbar province.

The security teams also have their fair share of sailors. Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Boudreau, a corpsman with the company, volunteered to leave 3rd Dental Battalion in order to join Security Company.

“I would say that being a corpsman for Security Co. is one of the more demanding positions for Navy personnel that I could be filing in Iraq,” he explained. “I’m proud to serve with these gentlemen because we all work as a team, regardless of what MOS or branch of service we’re in. I know that if anything goes down, inside or outside the wire that I can depend on them and they can depend on me to have each other’s back.”

The security team was sent to Camp Baharia to reinforce the Motor Transport Company and are considered CLB-4’s 'force-in-readiness'. They are prepared to carry out any mission within 15 minutes of receiving an order and have conducted 110 missions during March and April 2009.

June 6, 2009

Focus of Marine expeditionary units questioned

By Amy McCullough - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Jun 6, 2009 9:39:45 EDT

Marine expeditionary units have provided aid to a tsunami-ravaged southeast Asia, conducted exercises in Djibouti aimed at improving the Corps’ amphibious capabilities and captured insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/marine_meu_uses_060609/

June 5, 2009

Nagasaki A-bomb plane co-pilot, 88, dies

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Jun 5, 2009 8:31:47 EDT

ORLANDO, Fla. — Charles Donald Albury, co-pilot of the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, has died after years of congestive heart failure. He was 88.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_nagasaki_pilot_albury_060409/

Widow donates WWII shell, museum shuts down

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Jun 5, 2009 6:58:56 EDT

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A military museum near Columbus got more than it bargained for when the widow of a World War II vet tried to donate an artillery shell.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/ap_artillery_shell_donation_060509/

June 4, 2009

What color is the weather? Check the flag

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —
Area weather conditions are known to fluctuate in the spring. But summers are known to be hot, and maintaining safe training conditions is increasingly important.

http://www.usmc.mil/units/hqmc/quantico/Pages/WhatcoloristheweatherChecktheflag.aspx

6/4/2009 By Tiffiney Wertz, Marine Corps Base Quantico

During May 1 — Oct 31, heat conditions are measured in the environment and categorized into four conditions using the wet bulb globe temperature index, a device that calculates the outside air temperature, humidity, radiant heat and air movement.

Once tabulated, the weather conditions are indicated by colored flags: green, yellow, red or black. The flags are designed to signal the possibility of heat-related injuries or casualties.

Although the WGBTI is based on many variables, in general a green flag, being the least threatening, authorizes heavy exercise for individuals with supervision between 80 - 84.9 degrees. Next, the yellow flag, designated for 85 - 87.9 degrees, allows for strenuous exercise, however outdoor activities should be avoided. A red flag is issued once the WGBTI has reached 88 degrees and PT is cut for Marines who have not become acclimatized.

In the event the WBGTI reaches 90 degrees and above a black flag will be issued and all unit PT will be suspended. Per Marine Corps Base Order 6200.1A, “Essential outdoor physical activity will be conducted at a level that is commensurate with personnel acclimatization as determined by the unit's commanding officer in coordination with the unit's medical officer or medical personnel.

All efforts should be made to reschedule these activities during cooler periods.”

Heat flags not only concern Marines, but civilians as well. Civilians should also take the same precautions when serious issues arise such as a red or black flag. Civilian employers are also asked to adhere to heat flag regulations listed under The Base Master Agreement. For daily information on heat flags during work hours call 703-784-5502.

After hours call 703-784-5321 information is also posted at www.quantico.usmc.mil.

Heat flags are located throughout Marine Corps Base Quantico and TBS, including: Lejeune Hall, MCAF, OCS, SNCOA, AWS, HqSvcBN, TBS, WTBn, Camp Upshur and Range Control.

Marine vets want to put flags along busy road

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jun 4, 2009 21:57:18 EDT

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — It seems like a simple request: Plant 1,000 U.S. flags along a stretch of Interstate 5 aboard Camp Pendleton during Labor Day weekend in September.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/marine_flags_060409w/

First Timers From the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Awarded Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal

RED SEA – The global war on terrorism Expeditionary Medal was awarded to Marines serving with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit at a ceremony pier side in the Middle East, June 1, representing the entire MEU spread across the Middle Eastern region.

http://www.dvidshub.net/index.php?script=news/news_show.php&id=34515

Story by Cpl. Robert C. Medina
Date: 06.04.2009

Colonel David W. Coffman, commanding officer of the 13th MEU, presented the award to the Marines in a mass formation.

"Most of 13th MEU's Marines joined up after 9/11. They signed up knowing they would go in harm's way," said Coffman. "I am sure the Marines who earned their GWOTEM today see it as a fulfillment of the commitment they made when they volunteered to serve in the global war on terrorism."

The one-time award is given to those service members who served in a pre-designated specific geographical area, by the Department of Defense, for 30 consecutive or 60 nonconsecutive days in support of global war on terrorism Operations on or after September 11, 2001.

Coffman said, "13th MEU Marines and sailors earned this award as a sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force, forward deployed into the critical theater of operations for our time, United States Central Command. We are here as the theater reserve for the USCENTCOM Commander, which means we are ready, relevant, and responsive to his needs as he prosecutes the global war on terrorism across this region. We are always just a phone call away from moving immediately into decisive combat operations."

Coffman reminded the Marines and sailors that they are war fighters who came from afar to support operations against terrorism.

"I am tremendously proud of the work we have done so far and especially of the agility and adaptability of this MEU to a dynamic operating environment and unique mission sets, while still remaining true to our enduring focus as a sea-based MAGTF," he said.

The 13th MEU and Boxer Amphibious Ready Group are currently in the fifth month of their deployment in support of regional and Maritime Security Operations. The MEU is embarked on USS Boxer, USS Comstock, and USS New Orleans and consists of Battalion Landing Team 1/1, Combat Logistics Battalion 13, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced).

June 3, 2009

22nd MEU trains at Bulgarian base

Staff report
Posted : Wednesday Jun 3, 2009 16:52:22 EDT

Members of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit’s battalion landing team became the first Marines to train at a joint Bulgarian-American base.

To continue reading:

http://marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/06/marine_22meu_bulgaria_060309w/

June 2, 2009

Another Longest Day

It is January in Iraq, the evening temperature has dropped below freezing and we’re on another mission, rolling down the highway. I’ve geared up with layers of undergarments for warmth and outerwear for protection: fire-resistant Nomex to keep my skin from turning crispy in flames and body armor to keep the pointy stuff from poking holes in my body. Anyone who rides motorcycles, as I do, knows the value of good protective gear. But I don’t focus on it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/magazine/07lives-t.html?_r=2&ref=magazine

By JUSTIN NEWPORT
Published: June 2, 2009

This is my job: Standing behind a machine gun in an up-armored truck. The squad escorts trucks between bases, and then back again. It isn’t kicking in doors or training the Iraqi Army. We don’t charge into firefights to save someone’s bacon like cavalry in the Old West. We just drive down miles of road, waiting for someone to try to kill us.

My driver scans the road; the truck commander talks on the radio and tracks our progress. I stare out into space, looking for a muzzle flash, or the signature of a rocket. We have been doing this job for three months, but several of us have known one another for years. For some of us, me included, it’s our second trip over here. Last time, for an entire year, we patrolled the same 15-kilometer radius around our base. Now we travel farther, but it all tends to look the same.

The trip takes hours upon hours. I stand up, absorbing the movement of the truck with my legs until my back hurts too much. Then I sit down on the thin strap of a seat until my butt hurts too much.

Two years ago, during the Wild West days, we would have taken small-arms fire all the way down this road. Now there can be days between even desultory potshots; a week can pass without injuries from an I.E.D. But just because we get attacked less doesn’t mean we won’t get hit in the next few minutes.

Clipped reports flow over the radio. “Three southbound cars in the northbound lane,” says the southern drawl of my roommate in the last truck. Each vehicle commander repeats it as the three cars approach. In between reports, we discuss women, music and weapons. The only verboten subject is booze.

We finally pull into the bigger base with all 40 of our charges and go to midnight chow. There is only one hour during the day when a meal is not being served in this massive place. You can spot us from across the room: fire-resistant uniforms and a blurry look in the eyes. We sit at the same table, like a giant family dinner, and we leave together when we’re done.

Now it has been 14 hours since we started our day. Caffeine and nicotine have their limits, and the trucks we’re escorting are delayed; we have to wait. One hour stretches to two. I try to catch a nap on top of some ammo boxes.

At 0440 our charges are finally ready. Rolling home, we consume canned coffee drinks, energy drinks and sodas. Stay alert, scan your sector. Occasionally I catch myself dipping into thoughts of home; I think about hopping on the bike and screaming up into the hills. But daydreams lead to sleep, and there is no greater sin than to let your friends down.

The country begins to wake up. More cars on the road mean more threats. By the time the sun is fully over the horizon, conversation has dropped off, each soldier fighting his own battle with sleep or caffeine jitters. I really want all of this crap to have meant something, to leave behind a place that is better than when I got here. To leave and then see all the hours of boredom, fear, sweat and pain disintegrate into chaos might just drive a man crazy. But staying would probably do the same. Most days I try not to think about it.

“I.E.D., I.E.D., I.E.D.!” comes over the radio. Then I hear an explosion. I swivel to see a black cloud hanging over where the front of the convoy should be, about three or four kilometers ahead. The radio comes alive. Our lead truck doesn’t report. The convoy commander calls him. The second truck reports that they are still driving; the driver at least can keep the gas pedal down. Then there’s silence that seems to last forever.

“This is Truck 1, we’re all O.K.” A short pause. “Just another day at the office.” My driver lets out an audible sigh. He has known that crew for years. I release a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Then we get back to work because we still have about an hour left on the road.

“O.K.” turns out to be an overstatement; there are concussions and blast damage. But they’re right: all in all it is just another day at the office, and tomorrow will be another one, and after that still more. Someday this unit will go home; someday all of us will leave. But you can’t focus on that. You can only focus on today.

Justin Newport is serving his second tour of duty in Iraq with his California National Guard unit.

June 1, 2009

For Marine, marathon on the Great Wall of China was grueling but rewarding

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, June 1, 2009

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Visiting the Great Wall of China is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most.

To continue reading:

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=63019

Photos:
http://www.stripes.com/articlephoto.asp?section=104&article=63019&photo=1&count=2

Isle Marines join Afghan force

More than 1,000 Kaneohe Marines became part last week of the 10,000-member Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, which will beef up counterinsurgency operations with Afghan forces in the southwestern part of the country. They will also train local army and police officers.

http://www.starbulletin.com/news/20090601_isle_marines_join_afghan_force.html

By Gregg K. Kakesako
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 01, 2009

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general of the expeditionary brigade, assumed authority of Marine forces in Helmand province Friday from Col. Duffy White, commanding officer of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Afghanistan. The brigade, also known as Task Force Leatherneck, is responsible for the districts of Now Zad, Washir, Golestan, Delaram and Bakwa.

They are part of the additional 21,000 U.S. troops President Barack Obama is sending to the country this summer to bolster the roughly 40,000 already there as part of the strategy to combat insurgents, train Afghan forces and provide security for the Afghan national elections, scheduled for Aug. 20.

White, who is commander of the Kaneohe-based 3rd Marine Regiment, took more than 250 Marines and sailors from his Windward Oahu command in October to run the task force.

In his new role, White will now serve as commander of the 5,500-member ground force in the expeditionary brigade. White's new command includes three Marine Corps rifle battalions from Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and Kaneohe.

Nearly 1,000 Kaneohe Marines and sailors from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, left Hawaii last month and will spend the next seven months under White's command, known as Regimental Combat Team 3. The 2nd Battalion is commanded by Lt. Col. Patrick Cashman.

The Marine Expeditionary Brigade also consists of an aviation element, known as Marine Aircraft Group 40. CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362, nicknamed the "Ugly Angels," at Kaneohe Bay are part of Group 40.

The Kaneohe helicopter squadron originally deployed to Iraq on Jan. 23 to conduct assault support, logistics and movement of personnel missions. It was given a new mission shortly after arriving in Iraq and sent to Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is where the fight is now," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey A. Hagan, HMH-362's commander, in a Marine Corps news release. "There was a planned drawdown in Iraq and an increasing need for medium lift capabilities in Afghanistan. So we begin making arrangements to move from Al Asad to Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan."

The brigade also has a service and logistics group that includes Kaneohe Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 3.

White, in a Pentagon news release, said his task force was sent to Afghanistan in late 2008 as "a bridging force," to maintain a strong Marine Corps presence in southern Afghanistan.

"My deployment is halfway done," White said, "and as I see it, the best part is about to come. It will be a game changer for this part of the country."

The highest-ranking noncommissioned officer in the new expeditionary brigade is Sgt. Maj. Ernest Hoopii, who is from Maui.

Another 1,000 Marines from Kaneohe's 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, have been deployed to Al Asad in western Iraq since April. They replaced 900 Marines and sailors from 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, which served on Task Force Military Police providing security operations throughout the region. The recent deployment was the unit's second as a full battalion.


Matthew Gregory Reza

Lance Corporal Matthew Gregory Reza Lance Corporal Matthew Gregory Reza, age 27, died Sunday, May 31, 2009, near Khandahar province, Afghanistan, while serving his country as a member of the United States Marine Corps.

http://www.legacy.com/statesman/Obituaries.asp?Page=Lifestory&PersonId=128057805

To View/Sign Guest Book:
http://www.legacy.com/gb2/default.aspx?bookid=3625080455629

Matthew was born on September 23, 1981, in Austin, Texas, to Richard and Sharon Reza. He attended AISD schools and Austin Community College before enlisting in the Marines in 2007. Prior to joining the Marines, Matthew had a rewarding experience working at Hope House, a residential facility for children with special needs, and often spoke about advancing his education and career in social work after his tour of duty. After meeting in San Diego, Matthew wed Sarah Benway on February 16, 2008. The newlyweds led an active life in California, North Carolina, and South Carolina until Matthew's deployment in March 2009. Matthew will be readily remembered for his engaging personality, singular independence, exceptional sense of humor, and kind heart. To many he was a loyal friend and capable mentor, proficient at handling difficult situations with either his resourceful mind or engaging smile. To older family members, Matthew was the first grandchild, an "old soul" of exceptional intelligence who often discussed topics beyond his years. His younger sister and best friend, Stephanie Peek, to whom he was fiercely devoted, especially loved him. Stephanie's "hero" was a genuinely loving person who often put her needs, and those of many others, before his. Matthew is survived by his wife, Sarah Reza of Beaufort, South Carolina; mother, Sharon Reza; sister and brother-in-law, Stephanie and Joshua Peek of Austin, Texas; father, Richard; brother, Richard (Ricky); and sister, Emily Reza of Lansing, Michigan; and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins of Austin, Texas. The family will receive friends from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, 2009, at Cook- Walden/Forest Oaks Funeral Home located at 6300 West William Cannon Drive, Austin, Texas, 78749. Funeral Services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, 2009, in the Chapel of Cook-Walden/ Forest Oaks. The family has established a memorial website at www.MeM. com Please visit Matthew's site to view photos, tributes, sign the online guestbook and leave voice greetings.