Saturday, July 11, 2009

Combat Camera: 2/8 Marines, Afghan Soldiers Continue Operation Khanjar

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U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), conduct a security halt during an operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, July 5. The Marines, who are part of a ground combat element of Regiment Combat Team 3, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, are deployed to the area to prevent insurgent activities. (Courtesy Photo, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Pettit, left, and Cpl. Matthew Miller, both with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), fire their service rifles during an operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, July 3. The Marines, who are part of a ground combat element of Regiment Combat Team 3, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, are deployed to the area to prevent insurgent activities. (Courtesy Photo, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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U.S. Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment and Afghani soldiers maintain security during an operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, July 5. The 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment's presence restricts enemy groups? freedom of movement and helps to restore peace and prosperity to the local populace. The 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment is part of the ground combat element of Regiment Combat Team 3, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. (Courtesy Photo, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Adam King, a squad leader with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, maintains security in a field during an operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, July 3. The Marines presence prevents freedom of movement for the enemies of Afghanistan, returning peace and prosperity to the local populace. The Marines are part of the ground combat element of Regimental Combat Team 3, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. (Courtesy Photo, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

Dispatches from the Front:

HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, July 11, 2009 -- More than 180 Marines with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Company G performed route clearance over a 12-kilometer area near the Helmand River from, July 2 through July 5.

Their mission was a part of Operation Khanjar, which involves more than 600 members of the Afghan national army and nearly 4,000 Marines and sailors from Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan working to secure population centers along the Helmand River valley from the threat of Taliban and other insurgent intimidation and violence.

The company's main objective was to link up with the Afghan national army at another location and help them provide security for the people in the southern region of Helmand province.

The Marines completed this grueling foot patrol weighed down with an average of 65 to 80 pounds of protective gear, ammunition and water. Over the course of the three-day movement, the Marines encountered several improvised explosive devices, came under small arms fire and detained several insurgent fighters.

"The company's overall performance was outstanding," said Capt. Matthew J. Martin, Co. G. commanding officer. "It was a very well-planned and executed operation."

Despite the sporadic fighting the Marines encountered during the three-day push, they suffered no casualties while completing their mission of clearing the area south of Hasanabad in the Garmsir district, deep into southern Helmand province.

"The Marines handled themselves well out there, and they all made it to the objective safe and sound – which is good," said Sgt. Liam Anthony Flynn, a squad leader with Co. G.

With the objective reached, one platoon pushed further south to meet up with a sister company from the battalion. Another platoon stayed at the objective to build a patrol base and start working with the ANA to develop relationships with the locals, according to 1st Sgt. Robert W. Pullen, Co. G first sergeant.

"It's amazing what the Marines did," Pullen said. "With a full combat load, they made it through this push with all of the firefights and IED's they encountered – as well as dealing with the heat – and did a phenomenal job."

The Marines involved in Operation Khanjar have seen temperatures soar well above 100-degrees Fahrenheit – heat that is compounded by the body armor and gear that is worn close to the body.

Pullen attributes the success of the Marines here to the intense training they went through prior to their deployment, which brought the Marines together as a team and allowed them to accomplish even the most challenging of missions.

2/8, along with the other battalions under Regimental Combat Team 3, continue to reinforce the authority of the Afghan government and support the Afghan national security forces in this volatile part of the country. The Marines' primary focus remains conducting counter-insurgency operations in southern Afghanistan alongside the ANSF in order to allow the legitimate government to extend its ability to provide security for the Afghan people here.

(Report by by Lance Cpl. Daniel Flynn, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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Search Ends for Missing USS Shiloh Sailor

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News from the U.S. Navy.

News in Balance:

YOKOSUKA, Japan, July 11, 2009 -- The U.S. Navy announced July 11 that it has ended the search for the missing crew member from USS Shiloh (CG 67) who fell overboard as the ship entered Tokyo Bay on July 8.

Electrician's Mate 1st Class Christopher Geathers, 30, was conducting routine operations to rig shore power cables in preparation for the ship's return to port when witnesses reported that he fell from the fantail.

The incident occurred shortly after 1 p.m. local time on July 8 as USS Shiloh was returning to Yokosuka following a Midshipmen training cruise to Kure, Japan.

Ships and aircraft from the U.S. Navy, working closely with vessels and aircraft from the Japan Coast Guard, conducted an extensive search of Tokyo Bay and its coastline for two and a half days but were unable to locate Geathers.

After a thorough review of search and rescue data collected during this period, Navy officials determined that every reasonable effort had been expended, and expectations for recovery no longer existed. Search operations concluded at 6 p.m. on July 10.

The search operations included USS Shiloh and another U.S. Navy destroyer, three Japan Coast Guard cutters, tugboats and other small craft. A dedicated bilingual liaison officer was assigned to the Japan Coast Guard operations center to assist in coordinating the search efforts. Additionally, U.S. Navy and Japan Coast Guard helicopters flew a significant number of dedicated missions including through the night with night vision goggles and forward-looking infrared equipment.

Geathers' home of record is Greenpond, S.C. He enlisted in the Navy in 1997. His previous duty stations include Southeast Regional Maintenance Center, Mayport, Fla.; USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), Yokosuka, Japan; USS Cowpens (CG 63), Yokosuka, Japan; and USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), San Diego, Calif. His awards and decorations include three awards of the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

The incident is under investigation.

(Report from a U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs news release.)

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Pentagon Identifies Marine Casualties (OEF)

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying casualties:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two Marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Roger G. Hager, 20, of Gibsonville, N.C., and Master Sgt. John E. Hayes, 36, of Middleburg, Fla., died July 8 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. They were assigned to 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OEF Summary, July 10, 2009: Troops in Afghanistan Nab Militants, Seize Weapons

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2009 -- Afghan and coalition forces detained several suspected militants yesterday during operations to disrupt Haqqani terrorist network activity in Afghanistan, military officials reported.

Afghan and coalition forces searched two compounds last night in Khowst province in an effort to disrupt the flow of weapons, suicide bombers and foreign fighters into the region.

The force detained six suspected militants, including two suspected Haqqani commanders. One of the commanders is believed to be involved with rocket attacks against the Kuchi tribe and the smuggling of weapons, suicide bombers and foreign fighters into Afghanistan.

The force also confiscated two AKM rifles, two shotguns, a rifle with optic device, a pistol, multiple chest racks, a camera, multimedia devices, blasting caps and fragmentation material.

Elsewhere, Afghan and coalition forces conducted an operation in Ghazni province’s Giro district to disrupt the Taliban network's operational and logistical support lines of ambush units in the region.

The force encountered hostile fire from one of the compounds and engaged the militants, resulting in several killed and one wounded. Forces also pursued and killed several armed militants who fled the compound. The force detained four suspected militants during the operation.

The force also confiscated 21 grenades, nine rocket-propelled grenades, three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, a loaded automatic weapon, seven chest racks, more than a thousand rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition and a roadside bomb with command wire, five blasting caps, multimeter and circuit boards.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

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Keel to be Laid for US Navy's Third Littoral Combat Ship

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Pictured here in this file photo is USS Freedom (LCS 1), the first ship in the Navy's new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class. LCS is a fast, agile, focused-mission ship designed to defeat threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The keel for the third ship in the class will be laid July 11, 2009. (Photo: Navy Visual News Service.)

Focus On Defense:

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2009 -- The keel for the future littoral combat ship, USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), will be laid July 11 during a ceremony at Marinette Marine Shipyard in Marinette, Wisc.

Keel-laying has traditionally been the first step in ship construction, when shipbuilders laid down the lengthwise timber that would become the ship's backbone.

During the scheduled event, a shipyard welder will attach the future ship's plaque to the keel, and U.S. Rep. Kay Granger will confirm that the keel was laid "straight and true."

"Starting construction on the third ship is an exciting milestone to reach," said Capt. Jim Murdoch, LCS program manager within the Navy's Program Executive Office, Ships.

"Reaching the Navy's goal of a 55-ship class depends on getting LCS into serial production, which will lead to high quality ships being delivered to the fleet on cost and on schedule."

LCS is a new breed of U.S. Navy warship, capable of open-ocean operation but optimized for littoral or coastal missions. Operational experience and analyses indicate that potential adversaries will employ asymmetric means to deny U.S. and allied forces access into critical coastal regions, such as strategic chokepoints and vital economic sea lanes. LCS is specifically designed to defeat such "anti-access" threats, which include fast surface craft, quiet diesel submarines and various types of mines.

Fort Worth is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2012, when she will join sister ships USS Freedom (LCS 1) and USS Independence (LCS 2). Freedom was commissioned by the Navy in November 2008. Independence is currently undergoing builder's sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico and is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy later this year. A contract was awarded to General Dynamics-Bath Iron Works in May for the construction of LCS 4, the future USS Coronado.

The future USS Fort Worth, named in honor of the Texas city, will be 378 feet in length, have a waterline beam of 57 feet, displace approximately 3,000 tons and will make speed in excess of 40 knots.

PEO Ships is responsible for the development and acquisition of U.S. Navy surface ships and is currently managing the design and construction of a wide range of ship classes and small boats and craft. These platforms range from major warships such as frontline surface combatants and amphibious assault ships to air-cushioned landing craft, oceanographic research ships and special warfare craft. PEO Ships has delivered 31 major warships and hundreds of small boats and craft from more than 30 shipyards and boat builders across the United States.

(Report from a U.S. Navy news release.)

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US Military Meets, Exceeds Most Recruiting Goals for June 2009

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2009 -- All active-duty military components met or exceeded their recruiting goals in June, with the Marine Corps adding the highest percentage of its target to its ranks, Defense Department officials announced today.

Military reserve components, with the exception of the Army National Guard, also met or exceeded their goals.

Data published on the Defense Department Web site shows that the Marine Corps goal was to add 3,655 new Marines, which it exceeded by 14 percent, recruiting a total of 4,155. The Marine Corps Reserve more than doubled its goal of 565, adding more than 1,200 Marines.

The Army National Guard fell short of its mark, recruiting 84 percent of its goal to add 3,209 soldiers.

Here is the breakdown of the other components:
  • Active-duty Army: 6,207 accessions with a goal of 6,025, for 103 percent;

  • Active-duty Navy: 3,428 accessions with a goal of 3,428, for 100 percent;

  • Active-duty Air Force: 2,846 accessions with a goal of 2,835, for 100 percent;

  • Army Reserve: 4,091 accessions with a goal of 3,488, for 117 percent;

  • Navy Reserve: 726 accessions with a goal of 726, for 100 percent;

  • Air National Guard: 867 accessions with a goal of 810, for 107 percent; and

  • Air Force Reserve: 836 accessions with a goal of 836 for 100 percent.

(Report by John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service.)

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Combat Camera Video: US Marines Occupy Khan Nechion Castle in Helmand

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of U.S. Marines and the Afghan national army occupying the Khan Nechion castle in south Helmand Province. Scenes include a firefight between Marine and Afghan army soldiers against insurgents, various views of the castle, a Marine Corps bulldozer that hit an improvised explosive device (IED) and interviews with Marines discussing entering the Khan Nechion castle and surviving a IED explosion. (Courtesy Video, International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs. Length: 00:05:23.)

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Pentagon: More Mine-Resistant MRAP Vehicles Heading to Afghanistan

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News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2009 -- Because improvised explosive devices pose the biggest threat to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the nation’s top military officer said Wednesday, the military is flowing thousands of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles there until new versions built specifically for the Afghan terrain are ready for shipment.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told a National Press Club audience that IEDs have become “more and more sophisticated over time.” Combined with increasingly sophisticated Taliban attacks, they pose an increasing threat to deployed troops, he said.

Mullen offered his comments just before traveling to Dover Air Force Base, Del., as the remains of seven servicemembers -- six of them killed by the deadly roadside bombs -- were returned home from Afghanistan.

While predicting that casualties will continue to spike during tough fighting in the months ahead, Mullen said the Defense Department is flowing thousands of MRAPs, as the mine-resistant vehicles are known, into Afghanistan to protect forces deployed there.

So far, 3,020 MRAPs have been shipped to Afghanistan, reported Cynthia Bauer, a U.S. Transportation Command spokeswoman. That brings to more than 15,000 the number of MRAPs that Transcom has delivered to the theater, she said.

About half of the Afghanistan deliveries were by airlift and half by “multi-modal” delivery, a combination of airlift and sealift.

“From an equipment standpoint, there’s no higher priority than to get these vehicles in theater as rapidly as we can,” Mullen said yesterday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command awarded a contract June 30 for 2,244 MRAP all-terrain vehicles configured specifically for Afghanistan. Like MRAPs already in use in Iraq and Afghanistan, the so-called M-ATVs will have a V-shaped hull designed to deflect underbody blasts. However, the successors will be lighter and more maneuverable, with an independent suspension system that’s better suited to off-road operations in Afghanistan’s harsh terrain.

The M-ATVs are expected to be fielded later this year, with all deliveries completed by spring.

“We’re working hard to get the right vehicle in the right place at the right time,” Mullen said. “But in the meantime, we’re flowing thousands … to Afghanistan to meet the needs that are there right now,” he said.

Oshkosh Corp., winner of the $1.06 billion contract, has moved into overdrive to meet the accelerated delivery schedule, company officials said. The first vehicles are expected to be delivered this month. Meanwhile, Transcom is gearing up work with the MRAP Joint Program Office and U.S. Central Command to get the M-ATVs to Afghanistan as quickly as it got MRAPs to Iraq.

"We will build on that success to field additional life-saving MRAPs as they come on line," said Air Force Col. Greg Schwartz, chief of the east division at Transcom's Deployment Operations Center.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said after visiting Afghanistan in early May that he was impressed to hear firsthand “the real impact” that MRAPs are having in Afghanistan.

“It really was brought home to me when they showed me an MRAP that had been attacked,” Gates told reporters traveling with him. “Two of the soldiers that had been inside of it were standing beside the MRAP, completely unscathed,” he said. The other two soldiers had non-life-threatening injuries.

Gates was the power behind the effort to move more MRAPs into Iraq to protect troops against underbelly explosions. As security conditions began heating up in Afghanistan, he ordered more there, too.

(Report by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OIF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying a casualty:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pvt. Lucas M. Bregg, 19, of Wright City, Mo., died July 8 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying a casualty:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Spc. Gregory J. Missman, 36, of Batavia, Ohio, died July 8 at Bagram, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained elsewhere in Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Missing USS Shiloh Sailor Identified, Search Continues

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News from the U.S. Navy.

News in Balance:

YOKOSUKA, Japan, July 10, 2009 -- The U.S. Navy identified July 10 the missing sailor from USS Shiloh (CG 67) who fell overboard while the ship was transiting into Tokyo Bay.

Electrician's Mate 1st Class Christopher Geathers, 30, was conducting routine evolutions to rig shore power cables in preparation for the ship's return to port when witnesses reported that he fell from the fantail shortly after 1 p.m. local time July 8.

Geathers' home of record is Greenpond, S.C. He enlisted in the Navy in 1997. His previous duty stations include Southeast Regional Maintenance Center, Mayport, Fla.; USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), Yokosuka, Japan; USS Cowpens (CG 63), Yokosuka, Japan; and USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), San Diego, Calif. His awards and decorations include three awards of the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

The incident occurred as USS Shiloh was returning to Yokosuka following a midshipman training cruise to Kure, Japan. The exact cause of the accident has yet to be determined, and a thorough investigation will be conducted.

The search for Geathers is continuing. USS Shiloh, as well as other units from the Japan Coast Guard and U.S. Navy, have been conducting a coordinated and extensive search mission since July 8.

(Report from a U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs news release.)

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wire: Worst Violence Since US Pullback Hits Iraq

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that bombs killed more than 50 people in Iraq on Thursday in the worst violence since U.S. combat troops withdrew from urban areas last week, and American forces released five Iranian officials suspected of aiding Shiite insurgents.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. officials said they believe the Iranians, detained in northern Iraq in January 2007, had facilitated attacks on American-led forces but handed them over to the Iraqi government at its request because they were obliged to do so under a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.

The carnage within Iraqi borders Thursday was a sign that insurgents remain intent on destabilizing Iraq as the United States shifts its focus to the war in Afghanistan. Attacks are down sharply from past years of war and militants have been driven from many strongholds, but they routinely inflict casualties in Baghdad and northern Iraq, a cauldron of ethnic and sectarian tension, AP said.

The most lethal attack Thursday was in the northern city of Tal Afar.

Insurgents also struck Baghdad on Thursday morning, detonating roadside bombs that killed 13 people and injured dozens. Eight of them died and 30 were injured in coordinated blasts near an outdoor market in the Shiite district of Sadr City, said Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Mousawi, spokesman for the city's operations command center.

Yesterday, car bombs in two Shiite villages near Mosul, another northern Iraqi city, killed 16 civilians and injured more than two dozen.

Also Thursday, the U.S. military said it was investigating the death of a U.S. soldier who had been found "unresponsive" on a military base.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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OIF Update, July 9, 2009: US Soldier Dies in Baghdad

Dispatches from the Front
News from Multi-National Force - Iraq.

Dispatches from the Front:

BAGHDAD, July 9, 2009 -- A Multi-National Division–Baghdad soldier died July 8 after being found unresponsive at a Coalition forces facility. The soldier’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

The names of deceased service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/ . The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member’s primary next of kin.

MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD.

The incident and cause of death are currently under investigation.

(From a Multi-National Force - Iraq news release.)

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Pentagon Identifies Marine Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying a casualty:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. Michael C. Roy, 25, of North Fort Myers, Fla., died July 8 while supporting combat operations in Nimroz province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 3d Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Special Operations Advisor Group, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon: Combat Camera Teams Document Military at War

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2009 -- From the use of newspapers and pamphlets to stoke the American Revolution to embedded journalists in the War in Iraq, the media has played a major role in every American conflict.

A story often lost in the mix is that of military journalists -- men and women in uniform whose weapon of choice isn’t an M4 carbine with a laser sight, but a D3 with a 17-to-200mm lens.

Members of the Air Force’s Combat Camera team spoke in a July 7 “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable about their role in documenting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By shooting photographs, recording video and writing news articles, Combat Camera airmen provide a unique view inside the military during wartime.

Air Force Capt. Phil Ventura, officer in charge of an Air Force Combat Camera team; Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller, a photojournalist; Staff Sgt. Stacia Zachary, the team’s print journalist; and Senior Airman Brian Economides, the team’s videographer, spoke about their work and training.

“Our job is to document, but our job is also to tell a story and to tell a compelling story,” Weismiller said. “And throughout my career in the military, I've been taught, as well as rest of the photographers in the military, that our job is to tell a story and to tell it with emotion and to tell it in the best light possible -- not to just strictly look through the viewfinder and click the shutter. Every time we take a picture, there's a purpose and there's a direction.”

A Combat Camera team can be attached to one of many kinds of units, from combat engineers in the mountains of Afghanistan to infantrymen in Baghdad, so the members have to be ready to act as wartime airmen to defend themselves at any time.

“As far as what kind of equipment we take for protection, you need your helmet. You need your body armor. You need to be able to carry a combat load, which [consists of] seven M4 magazines and two M9s,” Zachary said. “And then you also carry your sidearm. So at any given point -- I weigh 110 pounds -- I'm carrying 150 pounds on me. So we travel with a lot of gear.”

Ventura said his team’s look and training when they go into a mission help them to be accepted by the unit they’re covering.

“We focus very much on being an asset and not a liability to those that we work with, and our gear lends ourselves to that, as does the training we show up with,” he said. “So that is a huge enabler to our mission.”

Zachary said his team’s recent missions include a humanitarian airlift to Pakistan's Swat Valley, operational missions with the search and rescue teams embedded with provincial reconstruction teams and patrolling a Baghdad neighborhood with security forces airmen.

Sometimes, those missions hamper what they can do with their equipment, so the team members have to improvise to get the shot they need. Weismiller said he’s come to prefer using natural light, due in no small part to the fact that using a flash during night missions can affect night-vision equipment users and give away a group’s position.

Economides said until he got a special lens called an Astroscope to get night video, he had to make do with what he had.

“There have been instances where I simply took night-vision lenses that you use to see, and I have rigged it to the front of my lens and taken pictures that way,” he said.

For airmen with training in reporting, photography or videography, one of the most gratifying experiences is seeing their work distributed globally alongside that of veteran journalists working for major news outlets, as well as within the military for mission-related purposes, they said.

“It's humbling to see how many outlets use our products, not just for news media,” Zachary said. “Operational commanders and leaders throughout the Department of Defense rely on it to make informed decisions. Our pictures, videos and stories can often be used for intelligence, reconnaissance, engineering, legal and other operations involving the military services.”

The team’s imagery and stories appear internally on department Web sites such as af.mil, defenselink.mil and defenseimagery.mil, and externally on blogs, international newspapers and television news programs.

(Report by Ian Graham, Special to American Forces Press Service.)

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Pentagon Identifies Navy Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying a casualty:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Darren Ethan Tate, 21, of Canyon, Texas died of non-hostile causes July 8 at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the USS Iwo Jima, and deployed as an Individual Augmentee to Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OIF Summary, July 9, 2009: Troops in Iraq Nab Suspected Terrorists

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2009 -- Iraqi forces, aided by coalition advisors, arrested suspected terrorists, including an insurgent cell leader, in operations in Iraq yesterday, military officials reported.

Members of an Iraqi Emergency Response Brigade, along with coalition advisors, arrested a suspected key leader of an insurgent cell in Ladafiyah. The suspect is believed to be tied to terrorist activities against coalition and Iraqi security forces in the area.

Elsewhere, the Iraqi National Police Justice Battalion, with coalition advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist in Salahuddin province. The suspect is believed to have emplaced roadside bombs and supplied terrorists in the province with grenades used against the Iraqi people and security forces.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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US Air Force Combat Camera Team Discusses Role of Media in Military

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Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall, shown here documenting events in Iraq in 2006, is an aerial combat photojournalist assigned to the 1st Combat Camera Squadron from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo.)

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2009 -- The media has played a major role in every American military conflict, from the use of newspapers and pamphlets to stoke the American Revolution to embedded journalists in the Middle East.

But a story often lost in the mix is that of the military journalists; those men and women in uniform whose weapon of choice isn't an M4 carbine with a laser sight, but a D3 camera with a 17 to 200 mm lens.

Members of the Air Force's combat camera team spoke with bloggers July 7 about their role in documenting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By shooting photographs, recording video and writing news articles, the Airmen of the combat camera team provide a unique view inside the world of the military during wartime.

Capt. Phil Ventura, combat camera officer in charge; Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller, a photojournalist; Staff Sgt. Stacia Zachary, the team's print journalist; and Senior Airman Brian Economides, the team's videographer; spoke about their work and training.

"Our job is to document, but our job is also to tell a story and to tell a compelling story," Sergeant Weismiller said. "And throughout my career in the military, we've -- or I've been taught, as well as rest of the photographers in the military -- that our job is to tell a story and to tell it with emotion and to tell it in the best light as possible, not to just strictly look through the viewfinder and click the shutter. Every time we take a picture, there's a purpose and there's a direction."

The combat camera team can be attached to one of many units, from combat engineers in the mountains of Afghanistan to infantrymen in Baghdad, so the members have to be ready to act as wartime Airmen to defend themselves at any time.

"As far as what kind of equipment we take for protection, you need your helmet. You need your body armor. You need to be able to carry a combat load, which [consists of] seven M4 magazines and two M9s. And then you also carry your sidearm," Sergeant Zachary said. "So at any given point, I weigh 110 pounds; I'm carrying 150 pounds on me. So we travel with a lot of gear."

Captain Ventura said the look and training his team has when they go into a mission will help them be accepted by the unit they're covering.

"But we focus very much on being an asset and not a liability to those that we work with, and our gear lends ourselves to that, as does the training we show up with," he said. "So that is a huge enabler to our mission."

Sergeant Zachary said some of the missions the team has recently participated in are: a humanitarian airlift where relief supplies were delivered to Pakistan's Swat Valley, operational missions with the combat, search and rescue teams embedded with Provincial Reconstruction Teams and patrolling a local mullah in Baghdad with security forces Airmen.

Sometimes, those missions hamper what the cameramen can do with their equipment, so they have to improvise to get the shot they need. Sergeant Weismiller said he's come to prefer using natural light, in no small part because using a flash during night missions can affect night-vision users as well as give away a group's position.

Airman Economides said he uses a special lens called an Astroscope to get night-time video, but before getting it, he had to make due with what he had.

"There have been instances where I simply took night-vision lenses that you use to see and I have rigged it to the front of my lens and taken pictures that way," he said.

For Airmen with basic training in reporting, photography or videography, one of the most gratifying experiences is seeing their work distributed globally alongside veteran journalists working for major news outlets, as well as within the military for mission-related purposes, they said.

"It's humbling to see how many outlets use our products; not just for news media," Sergeant Zachary said. "Operational commanders and leaders throughout the Department of Defense rely on it to make informed decisions. Our pictures, videos and stories can often be used for intelligence, reconnaissance, engineering, legal and other operations involving the military services."

The team's imagery and stories have appeared internally on Department of Defense web sites such as af.mil, defenselink.mil, defenseimagery.mil. Their work has also appeared on blogs, in international newspapers and on television news programs.

(Report by Ian Graham, Emerging Media Directorate of Defense Media Activity.)

COMBAT CAMERA Recent Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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