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June 21, 2008

Improved security situation spurs reconstruction

Filed under: ag, CentCom, econ, humanitarian, ME, MNF-I, recon, security — Rosemary Welch @ 12:20 am

by Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD (June 15, 2008) — Improvements in overall security incidents and Iraqi forces continued to rise during the past week, enabling the central government and Coalition forces to begin progress in other areas vital to Iraq’s growth and sovereignty, a senior U.S. military official in Iraq said June 11. The country began to see a reduction in security incidents four weeks ago, marking the lowest levels since March 2004, Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multi-National Force – Iraq spokesman, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. The Iraqi government is undertaking broader efforts to provide services that were not possible a year ago, such as reconstruction in Sadr City and the Shola neighborhoods as well as agricultural initiatives across the country, he said.

Electricity, water, cleaning, infrastructure restoration, and humanitarian aid projects are under way in Sadr City, said Tahseen al-Sheikhly, a civilian spokesman for Operation Fardh al-Qanoon, also known as the Baghdad Security Plan. These projects will help eliminate unemployment for Baghdad citizens, which is the cause of much of the violence in the city, Sheikhly said. [Possibly. Another cause may be that they HATE us? Hmm.] Now that security has been achieved, he added, the challenge is to provide the best services to the citizens, thereby raising the living and economic standards and infrastructure.

The Ministry of Electricity already has replaced light poles and restored power to the Sadr City hospital, he said. Officials also are establishing a solar power system in an effort to minimize future outages and continue growing employment opportunities. Agriculture also is benefiting from the low security-incident levels, Bergner said. The government’s date palm spraying campaign raised more than 33 percent from the previous year, covering more than 170,000 acres in Babil, Baghdad, Diyala, Karbala, Wasit provinces. Iraqi pilots flew 336 spraying sorties under difficult time constraints and challenging weather conditions using two government Mi-2 helicopters, Bergner continued. Baghdad and Diyala provinces were sprayed for the first time in six years, as security conditions since the war began hadn’t permitted spraying until now.

“Iraqi planning for the 2009 spraying campaign is already under way,” he added, noting the Ministry of Agriculture has appropriated some $20 million for helicopters and spare parts. “Progress in the agriculture sector and other improvements are a direct result of the security gains around Iraq and the growing capacity of Iraqi forces,” Bergner said. “The increasing support of Iraq’s citizens for the rule of law has been a key factor in reducing the levels of violence.”

Since the beginning of Operation Sawlat al-Fursan on March 25 in Basra and Operation A`Salaam on May 20 in Sadr City, Iraqi security forces have uncovered more than 500 weapons caches and stockpiles378 in Basra and 124 in Sadr City, Bergner said. More than 3,500 mortars, 1,600 rocket-propelled grenades, 600 improvised explosive devices, and 75 armor-piercing explosively formed projectiles were confiscated. “As Iraqi forces and Iraqi citizens cooperate to remove weapons from the hands of extremists before they can be used, their government is increasingly capable of being able to provide the services that Dr. Sheikhly talked about to the Iraqi people,” he said.

The increased security will “allow businesses to reopen, allow children to go back to school, revitalize the agriculture sector as they are in the process of doing, and allow Iraqis to rebuild their lives,” he said. “There is still much tough work ahead, but the steady progress in Basra, in Baghdad, and in Mosul is now providing better opportunities for the citizens of Iraq,” the general said.

Lance Cpl. Israel H. Aguirre pounds fists with an Iraqi child near Hit, Iraq. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Seth Maggard).

Source: CENTCOM.


Public works substation opens in Yarmouk

Filed under: CentCom, equip, ME, MNF-I, recon, security — Rosemary Welch @ 12:15 am

by Sgt. Paul Monroe
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division

BAGHDAD (June 15, 2008) – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, opened a public works substation in Yarmouk, a neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, June 14. The Yarmouk substation will serve the southeast Mansour District and provides workers a place to store equipment used for basic services, such as trash removal and sewage maintenance. “All of this was built from scratch” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Anderson, a civil military operations officer with the 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, operationally attached to the 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div.

Soldiers picked up where the Soldiers they replaced from 2nd “Patriot” Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st infantry Division, left off, who worked during their 15-month deployment to improve security and get essential services going. The unit went as far as hiring 50 workers to pickup trash in the Yarmouk area while funding for the substation was on hold. The Soldiers are working just as hard to take advantage of improved security and are striving to work on finishing the essential service projects the Patriot Battalion started. At the substation, they worked closely with local officials to build a permanent building with two offices. They also worked with contractors to install two trailers to provide workers with showers, a change room and a break room.

Iraqi army and MND-B Soldiers, along with members of the Yarmouk community and the assistant zone director who oversees the operation of the substation, attended the grand opening together, where a red ribbon was cut and attendees enjoyed Iraqi hamburgers afterward. The ceremony, however, did not mark the end of work for the substations, said Anderson, adding that the substation currently employs 53 Yarmouk residents with proposals to eventually increase that number to 100. “The equipment we have right now is under a rental agreement,” He added. “Coalition forces have rented those vehicles; we are expecting that (local officials) will take that over.”

The proposal stems from an agreement reached between coalition forces and local officials in September, he added. “We construct the site; we hire all the workers; we provide equipment for them” said Col. Louis Fazekas the Baghdad-6 governance team leader part of the embedded Provincial Reconciliation Team supporting the 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div., who explained it was part of the agreement. He said there is an expectation that local officials will hire the workers and purchase the equipment after one year.

Fazekas, a reservist from Mechanicsburg, Pa., deployed to Iraq in April 2007, has been in Iraq for 14 months. During that time, he has met with government officials to hash out the details of agreements such as this one. “I extended another year to try and see (the PWSS’) through,” said Fazekas. “It’s taking a little longer than we expected because the funding got delayed, but the funding is back on and things are moving ahead.” Originally, Strike brigade Soldiers planned to open four substations in Northwest Baghdad. The success of PWSS sites in the Adil and Ghazaliyah neighborhoods in northwest Baghdad has opened the possibility of opening additional substations.

No matter how long it takes to get the new substations built, Fazekas said he doesn’t plan to extend once he reaches the end of this tour. “Certainly, you fill some ownership and you want to stay involved,” he added, but also noted that he has full confidence in the ability of Soldiers – whether they are from the Strike Brigade or a follow-on unit – to continue progress. “The plan is there; it’s like a McDonalds franchise,” he said. “Now, it’s just a matter of picking sites and implementing what we’ve done at the others.”

Brig. Gen. Ghassan, commanding officer of the 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, talks with a local television network to get the word out to the local populace about the establishment of the public works substation, June 14, in Yarmouk, a neighborhood in northwest Baghdad.

Source: CENTCOM.

General: Iraqi Air Force making great strides

Filed under: aircraft/drops/flights, CentCom, ME — Rosemary Welch @ 12:11 am

by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (June 18, 2008) – The Iraqi air force is making great strides as it continues to train and begins supporting Iraqi army and police forces, the U.S. adviser to the force said today. During a news conference in Baghdad, Air Force Brig. Gen. Brooks L. Bash said the security situation in Iraq is improving each day, thanks to the investments the citizens have made in their country’s future and to coalition training efforts. Bash, commander of the Coalition Air Force Transition Team in Iraq, said the Iraqi air force, though small and still developing, is providing important capabilities to the Iraqi military and police.

“The Iraqi air force is growing in personnel and aircraft, leading to important capabilities in three missions: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; battlefield mobility; and, soon, ground-attack operations,” Bash said. The ISR capability is farthest along, the general said. The Iraqi air force provides intelligence that ground forces can act upon. The air force has 11 surveillance aircraft, with five more coming this year. The aircraft are capable of flying photo reconnaissance missions and video surveillance, day and night. The video can be transmitted live, and the Iraqis have used it against specific targets as well as for battle space surveillance in Sadr City and Mosul, Bash said. The aircrafts also support to the Oil and Electricity ministries, using the surveillance capability to monitor power lines and oil pipelines.

The Iraqi air force also has demonstrated its battlefield mobility capabilities during operations. The air force has 15 Mi-17 helicopters, 16 UH-2 helicopters and three C-130E aircraft to transport and resupply Iraqi ground and police forces, Bash said. That mobility was crucial to successes in recent operations. In Basra, the Iraqi air force transported more than 3,400 soldiers to the fight, evacuated 111 wounded personnel and delivered food and supplies to the forces, Bash said.

In Mosul, Iraqi choppers conducted the first all-Iraqi air assault mission to insert security forces into a suspected terrorist enclave, Bash said. It will be a couple of years before the Iraqi air force perfects its close-air support mission, but helicopter and fixed-wing pilots are working to learn the skills necessary to support ground forces in close contact with the enemy, Bash said. While the force is making progress, problems remain in supply, maintenance, logistics, procurement and personnel, Bash acknowledged. The Iraqi government plan calls for a total of 376 aircraft by 2020, he said.

Source: CENTCOM.

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June 20, 2008

Tarmiyah meeting builds relationships

Filed under: CentCom, ME — Rosemary Welch @ 11:23 pm

2nd Stryker Brigade

CAMP TAJI, Iraq (June 18, 2008) – Hussein al-Tahan, governor of Baghdad, visited the areas of Mushada and Tarmiyah, northwest of Baghdad, June 13 and attended the first Joint Rural Planning Committee at Bukhari Hall in Tarmiyah. The meeting brought together leaders from the Tarmiyah Qada, members of the Provincial Council and a special visit from al-Tahan. It served as a forum for local leaders in the area to discuss specific issues and get feedback directly from the decision makers in Baghdad.

“This (meeting) was very successful,” said Maj. Todd Woodruff, a native of Bollingbrook, Ill. Woodruff, the executive officer for 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, “Warrior,” 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad said this meeting was mostly about relationship building, mentioning that the Qada council members have met with Baghdad officials in Baghdad, but this meeting was the first time those officials were invited to Tarmiyah to meet.

“This was an opportunity to show them that Tarmiyah is safe and secure and the markets are open for business,” he said. “It also shows that the area is ready to receive funding from the Baghdad province and the government of Iraq and they are ready to start moving forward on large scale projects.” The officials discussed many projects to include improvements to the healthcare system, education system, agriculture, roads and electricity.

“These are things that in the past, due to poor security, probably would not have succeeded,” Woodruff said. With security gains in Tarmiyah taking center stage, al-Tahan further encouraged partnership between councils in the area and coalition forces. While al-Tahan praised the efforts by American forces, he emphasized that only Iraqis truly know what they need and should have more input on the projects chosen and the leaders in the area should take charge.

Woodruff described the meeting as mostly ceremonial, but a good forum to “air initial thoughts” and attributes talking between the small groups to get the job done in the future. “It means that the projects that are currently Iraqi funded and coalition force lead and coordinated will start shifting,” he said. “It will turn so that Iraqi money will be allocated and coordinated by Iraqis, and these projects will become Iraqi spearheaded. This meeting demonstrated that they are more than capable of doing that.”

Hussein al-Tahan, governor of Baghdad province, walks with Sheik Sa’ed Jasim, the head sheik in Tarmiyah, to the first Joint Rural Planning Committee meeting in Tarmiyah June 13, 2008.

Source: CENTCOM.

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Security, funding send children back to school

Filed under: CentCom, ME, recon, school, Women — Rosemary Welch @ 10:51 pm

by Sgt. David Turner
American Forces Press Service

FOB KALSU (June 18, 2008) — For school children in the southern Baghdad area, getting an education has become a difficult and even dangerous prospect in recent years. In some cases, supplies were short and facilities were in disrepair. Sometimes the teachers weren’t there. In a few cases, the schools themselves were all but gone. The area where the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team arrived in June 2007 had long been an insurgent stronghold, with many villages controlled by al-Qaida terrorists who kept children, especially girls, from attending school. With no coalition or Iraqi security forces presence, local schools suffered the same fate as many farms and businesses in the area. They were looted and damaged, and even became battlegrounds.

“About two years ago, the Ministry of Education ordered all of the teachers out of the rural areas because the security situation was so bad,” said Army Capt. Trista Mustaine, education advisor to the Baghdad 7 embedded provincial reconstruction team, which works with 2nd BCT soldiers to rebuild the local infrastructure and economy. The area is now more secure than it has been in years, with Iraqi soldiers and police establishing a presence and preparing to hold gains made by 2nd BCT, which is scheduled to redeploy in July.

In addition to repairing critical infrastructure and breathing new life into the damaged economy, the 2nd BCT and Baghdad 7 embedded PRT have spent millions to keep schools open and make it possible for children to pursue an education. With the school year now over for children in the area, it’s a chance for workers to complete renovations and building projects throughout the 2nd BCT’s area of operation. Although reconstruction costs largely have been provided by coalition forces up to now, the Iraqi government is taking up the task and helping get local schools repaired and reopened before the next school year begins.

As he and his soldiers near redeployment in July, Army Capt. Richard Aaron, commander of Battery B, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, feels good about the work they have done. “We’ve made a huge impact on the community with the school, and with other projects we’ve done,” he said.

Now that the area is safe again and schools are getting the attention they need, the Iraqi government is ready to re-invest in a more significant way.”As of about a month ago, the Ministry of Education has ordered the teachers to return to their rural schools,” Mustaine said. Thanks to gains made by 2nd Brigade Combat Team, she said, government officials can work freely in the area to make sure their schools have what they need to teach the children. “Our goal is to provide accessible education for everyone. We have started the ball rolling, and the [Iraqi government] will keep it going in the future,” she said.

Children at Menahay Primary School in southern Baghdad pose for a photo. When al-Qaida operatives destroyed their school, students took classes in a nearby five-room private home until their school could be rebuilt. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luis Delgadillo).

Source: CENTCOM.

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GAO Faults Air Force in Award of Tanker Contract

Filed under: aircraft/drops/flights, NGAUS, otb — Rosemary Welch @ 9:02 pm

Some day the Air Force will add a new tanker aircraft to its fleet, but that day may have been pushed back again this week when a government audit found flaws with the service’s decision in February to give a $35 billion contract to Northrop Grumman and the parent company of Airbus. The Government Accountability Office upheld a protest by Boeing, which lost out on the contract, that the Air Force unfairly evaluated the merits and overall cost of the Boeing bid to replace 179 aircraft in the aging KC-135 fleet. The GAO investigation found “a number of significant errors” on the part of the Air Force that could have affected the outcome of the close competition. The Air Force has 60 days to respond to the GAO report released Wednesday.

Analysts now figure the earliest a new tanker can be added to the Air Force arsenal is 2014. The controversy became a political issue because Northrop Grumman and Airbus would have built most of the tanker overseas. The parent company of Airbus, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), is a French company. However, Northrop Grumman did plan to build a portion of the aircraft at new facilities in Mobile, Ala. On Thursday, the company postponed groundbreaking plans for those facilities. Overall, the contract could be worth as much as $100 billion over 30 years as the Air Force tries to acquire about 400 new tankers.

In 2003, the Air Force planned to lease tankers from Boeing for $20 billion, but a scandal involving an Air Force official and a Boeing executive scuttled that plan.

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Visitors Like What They See: Open House for NG Memorial Museum

Filed under: NGAUS — Rosemary Welch @ 8:43 pm

Tour guides and Capitol Hill staffers accepted an invitation this week to visit the National Guard Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and liked what they saw. “This shouldn’t be such a secret,” said Frank Fitch, a guide with Capitol Tours, after wandering through the museum Wednesday afternoon. “I’m impressed. It’s an impressive story,” said Alan Weinstein, a self-employed tour guide in the city. “You’ve got a good story to tell.”

Staffers for several well-known lawmakers, such as U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Ct., U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., were equally taken with the museum on the lower level of the NGAUS headquarters building. One even promised to return with her children. Fitch said he would try to change a tour schedule next week to include a stop at the building he said he has passed hundreds of times without knowing the museum was inside. That, of course, was a major purpose for the two-hour open house. Jonathan Bernstein, director of the National Guard Educational Foundation, said the outreach of the event was to tour guides, hotels and Capitol Hill staff to raise the profile of the museum that tells the history of the National Guard. “Everybody that came in said, ‘I had no idea this was here,’” Bernstein said. But everyone also said they were impressed and promised to return.

Bernstein said Hazell Booker, industry and association liaison at NGAUS, was the driving force behind the event. Plans began only two months ago. He said the event will probably become an annual event held earlier in the year before tour schedules are finalized.

Top NG Airmen Receive Honors, Tour of Washington Sites

Filed under: aircraft/drops/flights, NGAUS — Rosemary Welch @ 8:37 pm

Six Air National Guard airmen were given a grand tour of Washington, D.C., this week after arriving in the city to receive Airmen of the Year awards from the service. They toured the Capitol, the Pentagon, Senate office buildings, Arlington National Cemetery and more during their five-day stay. They also met senior leadership, which was quick to praise the men and women. “When you think about what makes our units, it’s these great people,” Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, Air Guard director, said during a welcoming ceremony Sunday at Bolling Air Force Base. “You are the best of the best.”

The honored airmen and their awards are: Senior Airman Charity Orriss, 168th Air Refueling Wing, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Airman of the Year; Staff Sgt. Scott Geisser, 125th Special Tactics Squadron, Portland, Ore., NCO of the Year; Senior Master Sgt. Donna Goodno, 147th Combat Communications Squadron, San Diego, Calif., Senior NCO of the Year; Master Sgt. Daniel Mitchell Jr., 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey, First Sergeant of the Year; Senior Master Sgt. Rolando Garza, 110th Civil Engineering Squadron, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, Mich., Honor Guard Member of the Year; and Tech Sgt. Raquel Soto, 105th Services Flight, Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York, Honor Guard Program Manager of the Year.

The honored airmen were chosen through a process of unit, state and national selection panels and included the ranks of senior airman through senior master sergeant. The Army National Guard will announce its soldier and NCO of the year winners in August.

Army Guard Recruiting Efforts Address Chaplain Shortage

Filed under: Chaplains, NGAUS, recruits — Rosemary Welch @ 8:32 pm

Part of the success story for recruiting within the National Guard has been the ability to bring more chaplains into the Army Guard. In 2005, the service was short 450 chaplains. New recruiting strategies have cut that shortage in half and officials expect to close it completely within two years. “The last three years have set records,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Timothy Baer, chief of specialty branch recruiting at the National Guard Bureau. “We’re just taking off.” He said the effort faced a significant hurdle from the outset. “We’ve had a lot of mandatory retirements because of age,” he said. “In the midst of these losses, we still were able to excel at our mission.”

Baer said the reason for the successful recruiting of chaplains is a series of efforts put in place to address the problem head-on. For one, he said, the service used chaplains to recruit chaplains, rather than leave the task solely to general recruiters, a first for the Guard. Also, incentives were improved, to include a $10,000 chaplain bonus and a $30,000 critical skills retention bonus. Plus, Baer said, the recruiters are telling the story better. “The chaplains are an emissary of grace in this atmosphere of war,” he said. “Many people didn’t realize what a chaplain does. It’s taking care of soldiers and that resonates with people.”

Meanwhile, the National Guard reversed a 10-year decline in the recruitment of doctors, dentists and physician assistants in 2007 with a 20 percent increase in those specialties. Recruiters expect a 60 percent increase for 2008.

NGAUS History 6.19.08

Filed under: History, NGAUS — Rosemary Welch @ 8:29 pm

NGAUS officers visited President Kennedy in the White House Oct. 23, 1963. It was the first time the association’s officers had paid a formal call on the president since before World War II.

But this was not simply a cordial event. The president was familiar with some of the problems confronting the organization at the time. He expressed the hope that it would be possible to increase the Guard equipment level.

Secretary of the Army Cyrus R. Vance told the president that the Army was working toward an improvement in equipment and material areas. President Kennedy also commended the Guard for its service in recent national emergencies.

Maj. Gen. James F. Cantwell, NGAUS president, led the NGAUS contingent.

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