Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OIF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday 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.

Spc. Joseph L. Gallegos, 39, of Questa, N.M., died Oct. 28 in Tallil, Iraq, in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 720th Transportation Company, New Mexico Army National Guard, in Las Vegas, N.M.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OEF Update, Oct. 31, 2009: Forces in Afghanistan Nab Militants; ISAF Casualty

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2009 -- A Joint Afghan and international security force detained two suspected militants in Wardak Province after searching compounds known to be used by a Taliban enabler responsible for kidnappings and executions of Afghan civilians and a Taliban commander with numerous foreign fighter contacts in the area.

The joint security force targeted compounds near the village of Kuz Jangjay in the Sayed Abad District after intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force searched the compounds without incident. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

The Taliban's intentional attacks at bazaars, mosques, and schools within Afghanistan are well documented. Afghan and international security forces constantly partner in operations to ensure the safety and protection of Afghan people.

ISAF Casualty:

One International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) servicemember was killed in an IED strike in southern Afghanistan Oct. 30.

It is ISAF policy to defer identification procedures for casualties to the relevant national authorities.

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday 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. Robert K. Charlton, 22, of Malden, Mo., died Oct. 27 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident Oct. 23 in Wardak, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

The circumstances surrounding the non-combat related incident are under investigation.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OIF Summary, Oct. 30, 2009: Forces Arrest Terrorism Suspects in Iraq

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2009 -- Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. forces advisors, detained several terrorism suspects in Iraq in recent days, including one believed responsible for the Oct. 11 bombing in Ramadi, military officials reported.

Special weapons and tactics personnel and U.S. forces advisors, under the direction of the Iraqi military and the Anbar Operations Center, detained a suspect Oct. 25 in Hit, northwest of Ramadi. The man is suspected in the planning and coordination of the Oct. 11 attacks on the Ramadi provincial government center and hospital.

The suspect is believed to be coordinate vehicle-borne explosives for an al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist cell and is believed to have coordinated the movement of materials and personnel used in the attacks.

Meanwhile, the Ramadi counter-terrorism unit, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq operative Oct. 26 near Ramadi.

The man is charged in a warrant with being involved in insurgent activity. The Iraqi unit arrested two other suspects for questioning due to their links to the suspect.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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Pentagon: Survivors Unlikely in Midair Crash

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2009 -- Search efforts continue after two military aircraft collided off the California coast yesterday, but a Defense Department official said it’s unlikely there are survivors among the nine people aboard.

The crash occurred about 7 p.m. local time last night some 15 miles east of San Clemente Island, Calif., when a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft with seven people aboard collided with an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter containing two pilots, according to the U.S. Coast Guard Web site.

“The search is still on, but it’s likely taken the lives of nine individuals,” said Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman, calling the collision a “tragic event.”

The Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps are involved in the search, with Coast Guard assets including two MH-60J Jayhawk helicopters, the Cutters Edisto and Petrel, from San Diego, and the Cutter Blackfin from Santa Barbara, Calif.

The Coast Guard aircraft from Air Station Sacramento was engaged in a search and rescue mission and the Marine helicopter from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing stationed at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton was conducting a routine training mission at the time of the crash. The Navy reported to the Coast Guard that they observed what appeared to be a midair collision, according to the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard and Navy crews searched through the night amid conditions offering unlimited visibility and “ideal search conditions,” the Coast Guard reported.

Efforts are focused on the search for survivors, and the Coast Guard is investigating to determine the cause of the accident.

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

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Pentagon: Servicemembers, Dependents Will Have Enough H1N1 (Swine Flu) Vaccine

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2009 -- As shipments of some 3.7 million doses of H1N1 vaccine ordered by the Defense Department continue to arrive from the manufacturer, more than enough will be available for all military personnel and their beneficiaries, military medical experts say.

Navy Cmdr. Danny Shiau, division chief for the Bureau of Navy Medicine and Surgery’s force health protection, and Dr. Robert Morrow, the bureau’s preventive medicine programs and policy officer, took questions about the military’s seasonal flu and H1N1 preparedness efforts during an Oct. 29 “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable.

Morrow explained why it has taken the primary manufacturer, Novartis, longer than expected to produce the vaccine.

“This is a tough little virus to grow,” he said. “It’s pretty nasty when it gets in the eggs, so they haven’t been able to grow it quite as fast as they had hoped, and everybody’s supplies are linked to each other since we’re are all getting it from the same manufacturer.”

Immunization for both seasonal flu and H1N1 is mandatory for all military personnel and it is highly recommended for beneficiaries. When the first cases of H1N1 were diagnosed in April, Morrow said, the department bought 2.7 million doses of the vaccine for mission assurance purposes.

At the time, it was unclear how many doses, per person, would be needed. But a single dose has been determined to be effective, Morrow said. The Health and Human Services Department donated 1 million doses of the vaccine, Sanofi Pasteur, to the department, “so that’s a total of 3.7 million individuals for [Defense Department] active duty, reservists, civilians and essential contractors,” he said.

First priority for the vaccine will go to deployed forces, Shiau said, first in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, then to ships, trainees and health care workers based on prioritizations.

Priorities for beneficiaries in the United States will follow federal and state guidelines, whether beneficiaries opt to get the H1N1 vaccine at military treatment facilities or at non-military clinics, Shiau said. In either case, since the vaccine is free, and there will be plenty of it, it will not matter whether they get their shot from the military or civilian supply.

Overseas, civilian defense workers and beneficiaries will be able to get the H1N1 vaccine at military treatment facilities.

Shiau added that so far, the general severity of cases seen has been mild to moderate and there’s been no operational effect on defense. But, he said, those with symptoms should contact their doctor or treatment facility before heading to an emergency room, because some facilities have special procedures. “The bottom line is, you don’t want to spread it in the ER,” he said.

The extra care being taken may be because “this is the first time that we’ve had two different kinds of influenza going around at the same time and two different kinds of influenza shots going around at the same time, and it’s very confusing, even to those who do this day in and day out,” Morrow said.

His best advice is that when you have questions, “ask and clarify.” Shiau added that to help prevent spreading seasonal and H1N1 flu, people should wash their hands thoroughly, cover their mouths when coughing and, when possible, do not go to work sick.

(Report by Judith Snyderman, Special to American Forces Press Service.)

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OEF Update, Oct. 30, 2009: Forces in Afghanistan Detain Militants

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2009 -- An Afghan-international security force detained a group of suspected militants in Paktya province after searching a number of buildings known to be used by a Haqqani facilitator responsible for the financing and supply of terrorist camps in the Khowst-Gardez Pass area.

The partnered security force targeted the buildings near the village of Kandaw Kalay after intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force detained the suspected militants after searching the compound without incident. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

The Haqqani Network has developed an extensive system of supply routes in eastern Afghanistan used to arm, man and equip its militant elements and training camps within the country. Afghan and international security forces are partnering to block these routes and ensure the safety and well being of the Afghan people.

ISAF Casualties

There were no ISAF casualties in the past 24 hours.

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Wire: Rendezvous With Indecision, Obama Holds Another White House Meeting on Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that President Barack Obama is consulting with top military officials yet again on Friday as he considers whether to send additional forces to Afghanistan.

Obama will meet at the White House with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This will be the seventh reported high level meeting the president has held on his Afghan strategy, the first including the Joint Chiefs.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the meeting comes as the president reaches the "end stage" of his decision-making process, according to a report from VOA News.

Obama has spent two months reviewing strategy options for the war in Afghanistan, including a request from the top U.S. commander in the country, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for additional troops.

The White House has said Obama will likely wait until after the November 7 Afghan presidential run-off election before announcing a decision.

In Afghanistan Friday, officials say at least eight civilians were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

October has been the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001, Pentagon officials said.

At least 56 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan in October, topping the previous high of 51 deaths in August, officials said.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Pentagon Identifies 7 Army Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying casualties:
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of seven soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Oct. 26 of wounds suffered when the MH-47 helicopter they were aboard crashed in Darreh-ye Bum, Afghanistan.

Killed were five soldiers assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.:
  • Chief Warrant Officer Michael P. Montgomery, 36, of Savannah, Ga.

  • Chief Warrant Officer Niall Lyons, 40, of Spokane, Wash.

  • Staff Sgt. Shawn H. McNabb, 24, of Terrell, Texas.

  • Sgt. Josue E. Hernandez Chavez, 23, of Reno, Nev.

  • Sgt. Nikolas A. Mueller, 26, of Little Chute, Wisc.

Also killed were two soldiers assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.:
  • Sgt. 1st Class David E. Metzger, 32, of San Diego.

  • Staff Sgt. Keith R. Bishop, 28, of Medford, N.Y.

(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Wire: Coast Guard Plane Collides With Marine Chopper Off Calif. Coast

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that as many as nine people were believed to be missing after a Coast Guard plane collided with a military helicopter off the Southern California coast Thursday, officials said.

The crash was reported at 7:10 p.m., about 15 miles east off San Clemente Island, Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Allyson Conroy said.

The Associated Press reported that a pilot reported seeing a fireball in the vicinity of the suspected crash site, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Gregor said preliminary information indicated the crash was between a Marine Corps AH-1 Cobra and a Coast Guard C-130 transport plane.

There were seven people on board the C-130 and two on the chopper, Gregor said.

Marine Corps spokesman Cpl. Michael Stevens confirmed an AH-1 Cobra had crashed. He had no additional details.

A search and rescue mission was underway.

San Clemente Island, the southernmost of the eight Channel Islands, is 68 miles west of San Diego.
(Report from newswire sources.)

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pentagon: US Seeks to Counter Enemy's 'Weapon of Choice'

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2009 -- The Defense Department expects U.S. forces in Afghanistan to continue to be targeted by improvised explosive devices -- which have claimed more lives there than any other weapon -- while it seeks ways to counter the threat, officials said.

As President Barack Obama and his advisors weigh decisions on the next phase of the Afghan war, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is working to protect against and defeat the growing threat from IEDs, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today, noting that October has been the deadliest month for U.S. forces in the eight-year war.

“Secretary Gates is working to ensure that this department continues to do everything possible to provide our men and women in uniform with the very best protection and capabilities to defeat the growing IED threat,” Morrell said in a news conference at the Pentagon.

More intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, including the most advanced drones and other equipment, are among the supplies the department is working to field to troops in Afghanistan, where one defense official today said the IED has emerged as the enemy’s preferred means of attack.

Gates last month ordered nearly 3,000 extra route clearance and explosive ordnance disposal teams and other key personnel downrange, in addition to a parcel of the more than 6,600 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles designed specifically for Afghanistan's rugged terrain that the department plans to field.

Morrell has said previously the department would like the M-ATVs, as the vehicles are known, to have an effect in Afghanistan similar to the one that the original MRAP vehicles had when they were delivered en masse to Iraq, leading to a reduction in casualties resulting from roadside bombs.

“Even with all these additional counter-IED resources, there will no doubt be many difficult and dangerous days ahead for our forces,” Morrell cautioned.

A Defense Department component dedicated to countering the IED threat, meanwhile, indicated that use of the makeshift bombs has gained widespread appeal among insurgents in Afghanistan.

“Although initially slower to develop in Afghanistan [than in Iraq], the IED has now replaced direct-fire weapons as the enemy’s weapon of choice,” Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, director of the department’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, said today.

“Furthermore, Afghanistan’s local insurgents, tribal factions and the Taliban enjoy a greater freedom of action to emplace large numbers of IEDs in movement corridors, such as the ring road, which are so vital to our success,” Metz told the House Armed Services Committee.

The organization, known as JIEDDO, formed as a means to aid combatant commands in addressing IED attacks. Metz said he is pleased with the organization’s efforts in Iraq, and that it will remain focused on the country as U.S. forces draw down in accordance with an agreement between Washington and Baghdad.

But lessons gleaned in Iraq are not always applicable to Afghanistan, Metz added.

“In addition, while we have an enormous amount from our experience in Iraq, not all of these efforts translate to our efforts in Afghanistan,” he said. “The environment and the enemy in Afghanistan pose many different and difficult challenges.”

Though it’s impossible to chase IEDs off the battlefield, Metz said, the United States must continue to eliminate their ability to affect its forces strategically.

“We must be willing to invest the money, the time, the energy, and the talent to make sure we win,” he said. “This is not an easy task, but I believe that it is necessary.”

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

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Pentagon Identifies Marine Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 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.

Lance Cpl. Cody R. Stanley, 21, of Rosanky, Texas, died Oct. 28 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon Identifies 7 Army Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying casualties:
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of seven soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Oct. 27 in Arghandab Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

Killed were:
  • Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, 27, of South Ozone Park, N.Y.

  • Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, 24, of Alamo, Texas.

  • Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, Ind.

  • Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, 27, of Plattsburg, Mo.

  • Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson, 24, of Broussard, La.

  • Spc. Jared D. Stanker, 22, of Evergreen Park, Ill.

  • Pfc. Christopher I. Walz, 25, of Vancouver, Wash.

(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon Taking Steps to Reduce Casualties

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2009 -- Defense Department officials have taken steps to stem mounting casualties in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said here today.

October has become the deadliest month for American servicemembers in Afghanistan, with 56 killed, and Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has no higher mission than ensuring troops have everything they need to protect themselves from improvised explosive devices and other threats.

Some assets already are moving to Afghanistan, he noted, including additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The theater also is receiving the most advanced drones and new platforms such as the MC-12.

"Last month, … Secretary Gates ordered nearly 3,000 enablers, including additional route clearance and explosive ordnance disposal teams, into Afghanistan," Morrell said. The teams comb routes to locate and defuse roadside bombs before they go off.

The department also is sending new mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as M-ATVs, to the country. The all-terrain vehicles are designed to operate in the Afghan country and towns and are smaller and more maneuverable than the large vehicles that were successful in Iraq.

"The M-ATVs are being delivered by air as fast as we can get them off the factory floor, with hundreds due to be fielded to our warfighters by year's end," Morrell said.

American forces are not the only ones making sacrifices, Morrell noted, as NATO allies, Afghan forces, United Nations aid workers and the Afghan people have suffered from the terrorist strikes in the country.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen and also with their comrades in arms, who continue to press ahead courageously in the face of danger," he said.

And the casualties will continue, because the enemy believes they have an advantage, Morrell said. The 68,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan are the most ever, and enemy fighters have stepped up their use of roadside bombs to target them.

"We expect our troops will continue to be targeted by improvised explosive devices, the No. 1 killer in Afghanistan," he said.

(Report by Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 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. Brandon K. Steffey, 23, of Sault Sainte Marie, Mich., died Oct. 25 in Laghman province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 178th Military Police Detachment, 89th Military Police Brigade, III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Combat Camera Video: Joint Cache Search in Al Busayfi, Iraq


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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of U.S. soldiers from the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 113th Field Artillery Battalion, Bravo Battery performing a joint cache search with the local Iraqi army detachment in Al Busayfi. (Produced by Senior Airman Michael Wykes, Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq. Length: 00:03:48.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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OIF Summary, Oct. 29, 2009: Forces Arrest Terrorism Suspects in Iraq

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2009 -- Iraqi forces, with U.S. advisors, arrested several terrorism suspects in Iraq in recent days, military officials reported.

In Samarra today, Iraqi police with a warrant searched for a man suspected of having close ties with the Islamic State of Iraq terrorist group. Although the suspect was not captured, another was arrested based on evidence found at the scene.

In western Baghdad yesterday, Iraqi soldiers, with U.S. advisors, searched several buildings for terrorists believed to be responsible for deadly Aug. 19 and Oct. 25 bombings in Baghdad. Although the targeted men were not captured, a suspected accomplice was arrested without incident.

In eastern Mosul yesterday, Iraqi soldiers and U.S. advisors searched several buildings with an arrest warrant for a man suspected of having close ties to key figures in the Islamic State of Iraq-sponsored Mosul extortion network. A suspected accomplice of the man was arrested without incident.

In Kirkuk on Oct. 26, a combined team of Iraqi police and soldiers and U.S. soldiers detained six people wanted on warrants for attacking security forces and private citizens in Tal al Raba in Kirkuk province. The team also discovered a weapons cache consisting of a 57 mm projectile, blasting caps and mortar charges.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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OEF Update, Oct. 29, 2009: Militants Detained; US Casualty

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 29, 2009 -- An Afghan and international security force detained a few suspected militants today in Lashkar Gah district, Helmand province, during a compound search operation.

The compound is known to be used by a senior Taliban commander with numerous connections to other Taliban commanders and leaders of the Taliban shadow government in the region.

The security force searched the compound near the village of Barang after intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force searched the compound without incident and detained the suspected militants. No shots were fired, and no one was injured.

ISAF Casualties

Two International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) servicemembers were killed in two separate IED strikes in southern Afghanistan October 28.

"We are deeply saddened and offer our condolences to the friends and families of those killed," said Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, IJC spokesperson. "Our mission to help protect Afghans is challenging, and despite this loss of life we remain focused on achieving our security objectives along with helping Afghans improve governance and development."

It is ISAF policy to defer identification procedures of casualties to the relevant national authorities. Capt. Campbell confirmed one of the servicemembers killed was from the United States.

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wire: Obama Signs Defense Spending Bill With Hate Crimes Rider

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

Lawmaker says Pentagon should prep for "painful" cuts.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a defense bill that kills some weapons projects and expands war efforts. Lawmakers also attached major civil rights legislation to the bill that makes it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation.

The $680 billion spending bill doesn't provide any actual funding. Rather, it sets guidance that is typically followed by congressional committees that decide appropriations. Obama hailed it as a step toward ending "needless military spending."

Still, the president said he was putting his name to a bill that had waste.

The Hill Web site reported that Sen. Jack Reed (Democrat, R.I.), a senior defense authorizer, on Wednesday said that the Pentagon will have to face “painful adjustments” in its budget.
"There is going to be significant pressure on the defense budget going forward. […] I do not think there is going to be much relief on the personnel front … so the likely path is to push and delay platforms that you do not think are absolutely essential," he said. Additionally, he said, weapons programs that continue likely will have to be reduced and bought in smaller numbers, in what will be "painful adjustments" for the Department of Defense.
The defense bill also expands current hate crimes law to include violence based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The Associated Press noted that in order to assure its passage after years of frustrated efforts, Democrats attached the measure to the must-pass defense bill over the steep objections of many Republicans.

The legislation also approves Obama's $130 billion request as the latest installment of money toward the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bill also prohibits the Obama administration from transferring any detainee being held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba to the U.S. for trial until 45 days after it has given notice to Congress. Guantanamo prisoners could not be released into the U.S.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Combat Camera Video: Javelin Firing, Exercise Yudh Abhyas 2009


NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of two different iterations of Javelin Missile fires that are part of the training in Exercise Yudh Abhyas 09. The second iteration was notable by being the first Javelin missile ever fired by an Indian soldier. (Produced by Master Sgt. Christina Bhatti, U.S. Army, Pacific, Public Affairs Office. Length: 00:01:01.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OIF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 2009 -- The following news release made available Wednesday 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.

Maj. David L. Audo, 35, of Saint Joseph, Ill., died Oct. 27 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 22nd Military Police Battalion, 6th Military Police Group, Fort Lewis, Wash.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon: Postal Service Announces Holiday Mailing Guidelines

News in Balance

News in Balance:

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2009 -- U.S. Postal Service officials have announced recommended mailing dates for delivery by Christmas to U.S. servicemembers serving in Afghanistan and other overseas locations.

First-class and priority mail for servicemembers stationed in Afghanistan should be sent by Dec. 4 for arrival by Christmas. The deadline for parcel airlift mail is Dec. 1, and space-available mail bound for Afghanistan should be sent by Nov. 21.

Officials recommend that parcel post mail to all military overseas locations should be sent by Nov. 13.

A chart with recommended mailing deadlines for all types of mail to various APO and FPO addresses is available at the Postal Service’s Web site.

Express mail cannot be used to mail packages to Afghanistan; however priority mail is available.

Priority mail packaging products, including priority mail flat-rate boxes, can be obtained free at any post office, or online at http://shop.usps.com. The priority mail large flat-rate box can be used to mail to any overseas military address, no matter the weight of the box, for $11.95.

The Postal Service offers free military care kits, designed for military families sending packages overseas. To order by phone, call 800-610-8734 and ask for the military care kit. Each kit includes two "America Supports You" large priority mail flat-rate boxes, four medium-sized priority mail flat-rate boxes, six priority mail labels, a roll of priority mail tape and six customs forms with envelopes.

"All packages and mail must be addressed to the individual servicemember by name, without rank, in accordance with Department of Defense regulations," said Air Force Master Sgt. Deb LaGrandQuintana, the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron official mail manager here.

Military overseas units are assigned an APO or FPO ZIP code, and in many cases, that ZIP code travels with the unit wherever it goes, LaGrandQuintana added.

The Postal Service places APO and FPO mail to overseas military servicemembers on special transportation destined to be delivered as soon as possible.

Mail sent APO and FPO addresses may require customs forms. All mail addressed to military post offices overseas is subject to certain conditions or restrictions regarding content, preparation and handling. For general guidelines on sending mail to servicemembers overseas, visit http://www.usps.com/supportingourtroops/.

Postal Service officials recommend taking the following measures when sending packages:
  • If you use a regular box, use one strong enough to protect the contents with no writing on the outside.

  • Cushion contents with newspaper, bubble wrap, or Styrofoam. Pack tightly to avoid shifting.

  • Package food items like cookies, fudge, candies, etc. securely in leak-proof containers.

  • Use pressure-sensitive or nylon-reinforced packing tape.

  • Do not use wrapping paper, string, masking tape, or cellophane tape outside the package.

  • Print your return address and the servicemember’s complete name, without rank, followed by unit and APO or FPO delivery address on one side only of the package.

  • Place a return address label inside the package.

  • Stuff fragile items with newspaper or packing material to avoid damage.

  • Remove batteries from toys and appliances. Wrap and place them next to the items inside.

  • Purchase insurance and delivery confirmation service for reassurance of package delivery.

(Report by Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Jung, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs office.)

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OEF Summary, Oct. 28, 2009: Low Visibility Blamed for Helicopter Crash

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Oct. 28, 2009 -- U.S. military authorities have determined that the cause of an MH-47 helicopter crash in Afghanistan’s Badghis province Oct. 26 was a combination of factors caused by very low visibility, officials said today.

The crash killed seven U.S. servicemembers and three U.S. civilians.

The incident occurred about 3:30 a.m. when the helicopter lifted off following a successful operation against militants. Thick dust stirred up from the initial takeoff and overwhelmed the visibility of the helicopter crew. As the crew tried to correct the aircraft's movement, it struck a tall structure, causing it to crash. Militants did not fire at the helicopter at any point during the departure or crash, officials said.

Before the crash, a combined team of Afghan and international forces and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency members was conducting a mission to disrupt arms smuggling and narcotics trafficking in the Darreh-ye Bum Village in the province’s Qadis district. Finances from these illegal activities provide support for the insurgency.

The names of the deceased servicemembers will be released when their families are notified, and investigation of the incident still is ongoing, officials said.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, an Afghan and international security force detained several suspected militants today after two separate compound searches in the Saydabad district of Wardak province.

The first compound is known to be used by a Taliban commander involved in making improvised explosive devices. The second compound is known to be used by a Taliban enabler. Both are believed responsible for several attacks and for supplying IEDs to other militant groups in the region.

In the first search, near the village of Belangash, the combined force detained several militants, one of whom was disguised as a woman and is believed to be the sought-after Taliban commander and bomb-maker. The second search, near Maru village, resulted in the detention of “a couple of militants,” officials said, with one surrendering immediately and identifying himself as the Taliban enabler.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.)

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Combat Camera Video: Missile Defense Agency Japan Flight Test-3


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Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), in cooperation with the United States Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the U.S. Navy, conducting an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) intercept flight test at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), off the coast of Kauai in Hawaii. The event, designated Japan Flight Test Mission 3 (JFTM-3), marks the third time that a JMSDF ship will demonstrate the sea-based mid-course ballistic missile defense capability provided by Aegis BMD. (Courtesy Video, Missile Defense Agency. Length: 00:03:02.)

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Combat Camera: 2/3 Marines Clear Taliban From Buji Bhast Pass

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Sgt. Perry J. Bessant, a squad leader from Co. F, gives out meal ready-to-eat and water after a shura on the last day of Operation Germinate Oct. 10. (Photo by Lance Cpl. John Hitesman, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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Capt. Francisco X. Zavala, commanding officer of 2/3's Co. F, shows a local Afghan how to open a meal ready-to-eat after a shura at a village in the Buji Bhast Pass Oct. 10. (Photo by Lance Cpl. John Hitesman, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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Lance Cpl. Alexander B. Shaver, of 2/3 Weapons Co., holds security during Operation Germinate Oct. 10. (Photo by Lance Cpl. John Hitesman, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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Marines from 2/3 and Afghan national army soldiers move across a wheat field in the Buji Bhast Mountains Oct. 10 during Operation Germinate. (Photo by Lance Cpl. John Hitesman, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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Lance Cpl. David W. Parrotte, of Co. F, covers the front entrance of a compound being used to host a shura and medical facility during Operation Germinate Oct. 10. (Photo by Lance Cpl. John Hitesman, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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Lance Cpl. Cody R. Adams, of 2/3's Co. F, practices Pashto with some locals waiting to get medical attention Oct. 10. (Photo by Lance Cpl. John Hitesman, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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Lt. Col. Patrick J. Cashman, 2/3 battalion commander, sits next to the Afghan national army commander during a village shura in the Buji Bhast Pass, Oct. 10. (Photo by Lance Cpl. John Hitesman, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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Lance Cpl. Tim A. Persons, of 2/3 Weapons Co., scans the surrounding countryside for possible threats against a shura involving the battalion commander and local village elders Oct. 10. (Photo by Lance Cpl. John Hitesman, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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Marines from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, move across the rugged landscape of the Buji Bhast Pass during the final day of Operation Germinate Oct. 10. (Photo by Lance Cpl. John Hitesman, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

Dispatches from the Front:

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELARAM, Farah Province, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2009 -- Marines from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conducted Operation Germinate to clear Taliban insurgents out of a pass through the Buji Bhast Mountains near here Oct. 6-10, 2009. The pass is the most direct route from the southern plain here to the district center of Golestan District in the mountains, where part of 2/3's Company F is located.

The first element of 100 Marines left here by convoy the evening of Oct. 7 headed for the southern entrance to the pass. Hours later, a second airborne contingent of 100 more Marines and Afghan soldiers flew into previously identified positions in the pass to keep the enemy from escaping into the mountains. The Marine and Afghan national army forces aimed to push the enemy out – one way or another.

"I figured it was either going to be a ghost town or it was going to be a significant battle," said Capt. Francisco X. Zavala, Company F commanding officer, "Unfortunately, there was some battle, but it was nothing my Marines couldn't handle."

As the ground-side element rolled through the pass, the rest of the Marines and ANA soldiers who had been inserted via helicopter blocked the eastern and northern exit routes. Their supporting mission was to stop and search Afghans fleeing the area and prevent any possible insurgent support from reinforcing their comrades.

It didn't take long for them to attract the wrong kind of attention.

"We saw spotters throughout the hills, and we were just waiting for something to happen," said Staff Sgt. Luke N. Medlin, the engineer platoon sergeant and part of the eastern blocking position.

A few hours after they assumed these blocking positions, the Marines and Afghan soldiers started receiving fire from machine guns, rifles and mortars from enemy positions in the surrounding hills. The Marines quickly dispatched the initial attackers and called in a UH-1N Huey, an AH-1W Super Cobra and an F/A-18 Hornet to destroy the enemy position further uphill.

"We were attacked from a well-fortified fighting position in the hills," Medlin said. "My Marines quickly returned fire, giving us time to maneuver and overwhelm the position with fire until air support got there."

Once the sound of gunfire died away, the Marines began searching the mud-brick buildings scattered throughout the pass to ensure they hadn't missed any hidden insurgents and introduce themselves to the people living there.

The Marines spent the next two days moving from compound to compound, working with the people and maintaining a visible presence in the pass to keep the enemy from trying to move back in. They did receive some small-arms fire, but it was quickly dealt with.

"During the clearing of one compound, a woman drew a pistol, aiming it at one of the Marines," said 1st Lt. Shane Harden, weapons platoon commander, F Company. "Lance Cpl. (Justin B.) Basham demonstrated extreme composure and great fire discipline not to shoot her. Within a split second he realized that he could use a non-lethal method to disarm her."

At first the people in the Buji Bast pass were skeptical and nervous when the Marines came into their villages, Harden said, but after explaining why they were there, the people accepted their presence.

"Luckily the people that were still in the compounds cooperated with us, once they seemed to understand why we were here and what we were doing. It really helped speed things along," said Lance Cpl. David W. Parrotte, an infantryman with Company F.

During the searches the Marines collected not only weapons and grenades, but also large supplies of IED-making materials, like batteries, connector wires and open radios. They also found 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrite and 1,500 pounds of sugar, which are both primary components of homemade explosives, according to Zavala.

In some of the compounds, anti-International Security Assistance Force propaganda was found and confiscated. Some of the contraband was linked to two men who were taken into custody.

On Oct. 10, the last day of the operation, male and female corpsmen were brought in to treat and assess locals while battalion commander Lt. Col. Patrick J. Cashman held shuras with elders in the villages. These meetings gave the residents a chance to ask questions and put in reimbursement claims for any goods or property damaged during the searches.

During the shuras, the medical personnel treated and assessed some of the local population for symptoms of sickness and injury. The 2/3's medical personnel treated approximately 300 people.

At each of the meetings, Lt. Col. Sakhra, commander of the Afghan 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 207th Corps, talked to elders about actions they should take to keep insurgents out of their towns and the pass. He talked about the power of unity against the Taliban insurgents who threaten their way of life and stressed that they need to trust the Marines and help them eliminate the threats.

"Lieutenant Colonel Sakhra did a fantastic job pointing out the responsibilities of the elders," said Cashman. "He has the cultural knowledge to tell them where they are wrong and how they need to change to save the lives of their people."

Cashman added that most of the problems in these small, isolated towns result from the younger men having no way to provide for a family or find legitimate work. So, some of them pick up a gun and take what they want. It is the responsibility of the elders to guide their people and help them prosper without using violence as an easy way to make a living.

After the meetings, the people were given food and water to take home, and instead of leaving immediately, the Marines and corpsmen stayed to give as much time as possible for the villagers to bring their sick and elderly for a checkup.

This four-day operation to clear insurgents out of the Buji Bhast Pass promises safer travel for Afghan people and coalition forces alike. But equally important are the first building blocks of trust laid down between the Marines and ANA and the residents of the pass.

(Report by Lance Cpl. John Hitesman, Regimental Combat Team 3.)

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OEF Update, Oct. 28, 2009: Helicopter Incident Update; Force Operations; ISAF Casualties

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2009 -- U.S. military authorities have determined that the cause of the Oct. 26 MH-47 helicopter incident in Badghis province was a combination of factors caused by very low visibility.

The crash killed seven U.S. servicemembers and three U.S. civilians. The incident occurred at approximately 3:30 in the morning when the helicopter lifted off following a successful operation against militants. Thick dust stirred up from the initial takeoff and overwhelmed the visibility of the helicopter crew. While trying to correct the aircraft's movement, it struck a tall structure, causing it to crash. Militants did not fire at the helicopter at any point during the departure or crash.

In the hours prior to the crash, ANSF, ISAF and Drug Enforcement Agency members were conducting a mission to disrupt arms smuggling and narcotics trafficking in the Darreh-ye Bum Village, Qadis district, where finances from this illegal activity provide support for the insurgency.

No civilian casualties were reported during the operation or the crash. The names of the deceased servicemembers will be released pending the notification of next-of-kin.

Investigation of this incident is still ongoing.

Afghan-International Security Force Operation:

An Afghan and international security force detained several suspected militants in Saydabad district, Wardak province, after conducting two separate compound searches in different locations today.

The first compound is known to be used by a Taliban commander who is also an improvised explosive device facilitator. The second compound is known to be used by a Taliban enabler. Both militants are believed to be responsible for several attacks and for supplying improvised explosive devices to other militant groups in the region.

The first search was conducted near the village of Belangash. The joint force detained several militants one of whom was disguised as a woman and is believed to be the sought-after Taliban commander and IED facilitator.

During the second compound search, near Maru village, the joint security force detained a couple of militants, with one surrendering immediately and identifying himself as the Taliban enabler.

Both searches were conducted without incident. No shots were fired, and no one was injured.

ISAF Casualties:

Yesterday's OEF Update reported the deaths of eight U.S. servicemembers and one Afghan civilian during the past 24 hours.

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Combat Camera Video: Army Cordon and Knock Ops in Iraq


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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of U.S. soldiers performing a cordon and knock mission, along with the Iraqi Army. (Produced by Sgt. Paul Dayes, American Forces Network Iraq. Length: 00:03:33.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 -- The following news release made available Tuesday 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.

Pfc. Devin J. Michel, 19, of Stockton, Ill., died Oct. 24 in Zhari province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon: 'Af-Pak Hands' Strives for Continuity in US Mission

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 -- The U.S. military is building a cadre of officers who each will serve a multi-year assignment dedicated to a narrow piece of the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Known as “Af-Pak Hands,” the program steeps officers in the language and culture of the region, and limits the range of their duties and focus on a single area for a four-to-five-year cycle. Officers will serve in a similar job at home and downrange, an aspect of the program military officials say will enable them to create and maintain relationships with the local populace abroad, a lynchpin of counterinsurgency doctrine.

“They’ll be a group of experts that will learn to speak the local languages, understand the dialects, become attuned to the culture and remain focused on the problem for an extended period, rather than just on a rotation basis,” a military official said, speaking on background.

In a normal rotation cycle, troops returning to the United States from deployment would likely occupy a different job from the one they held downrange. But the continuity of Af-Pak Hands would reduce the learning curve usually attendant to fresh boots on the ground, with officers building on their knowledge of local culture, language and tribal dynamics upon each of multiple, relatively short deployments.

“The idea is that you’re not reinventing the wheel each time a new servicemember replaces an old one,” another defense official speaking on background said of the program. The department has identified 300 billets that will comprise Af-Pak Hands personnel, including 121 new positions created as part of the initiative.

Af-Pak Hands training began recently, with about 30 officers enrolled in courses taught by the Defense Language Institute, the department’s flagship language and cultural training center. Dari, Pashto and Urdu – the region’s three dominant tongues – make up the 16-week language curriculum.

The initiative comes to fruition as President Barack Obama and his advisors weigh decisions on the next phase of the Afghan war. The debate is said to cover a spectrum of proposals ranging from deploying more troops to a narrower, scaled-down approach that moves away from the counterinsurgency model.

Counterinsurgency is a form of warfare in which a civilian population is in the center of a tug-of-war between an insurgency and the forces attempting to stop it. The Army and Marine Corps in late 2006 published a counterinsurgency strategy written by a host of contributors, and its implementation is credited with helping to reverse violence in Iraq.

“If the strategy remains a counterinsurgency strategy and that’s where the White House takes us, then [Af-Pak Hands] will be critical in the ‘clear, hold and build’ classic counterinsurgency strategy,” the military official said. “You want to get to the point where you relate to the general populace and you’ve built the trust, so that it’s more the population pushing the Taliban out than you trying to pull them out.”

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, established the program, which has garnered support from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took command of forces in Afghanistan earlier this year. Career fields that apply include intelligence, special operations, combat arms and engineering, and could include civil-military operators, a military official said.

“The program goes back to a focus that both Admiral Mullen and General McChrystal had on wanting to maintain some continuity, and understanding that the key to the counterinsurgency effort is building the relationships,” the official said.

“And your best opportunity to build those relationships is to have the same faces and the same understanding of the language and culture. If you’re going to nurture that relationship and really build the trust that you need, it’s got to be a sustained effort.”

Tours of duty, which are expected to be primarily in the contentious southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan, will last six to 12 months, the official said. Duty stations domestically include the Joint Staff’s Pakistan-Afghanistan coordination cell in the Pentagon; U.S. Central Command’s Center of Excellence or U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla.; and the Joint Special Operations Command in North Carolina, among other possible locations.

The program is being coordinated through the U.S. Central Command, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, U.S. Joint Forces Command and the military services. Service branches are identifying officers for participation in the program, which will comprise a joint force with members of all branches and possibly a civilian component, a military official said.

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

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 -- The following news release made available Tuesday 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.

Sgt. Eduviges G. Wolf, 24, of Hawthorne, Calif., died Oct. 25 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked her vehicle with a rocket propelled grenade. She 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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OIF Summary, Oct. 27, 2009: Iraqi Forces Nab 7 Terrorism Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 -- Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. advisors, arrested seven suspected terrorists today while searching for terrorist network leaders, military officials reported.

Iraqi security forces with U.S. advisors arrested five suspected vehicle-bomb network members while searching for a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq bomb network leader west of Mosul.

The security team searched two buildings at the targeted location. During the search, the team encountered a suspected terrorist who became physically combative. The suspect grabbed the weapon of one of the security officials, and subsequently was shot and killed.

The team apprehended five others who were identified as suspected members of the Mosul-based network. Iraq forces arrested the suspects.

Meanwhile, Iraqi soldiers arrested two suspects on warrants during a security operation in northwest Baghdad.

Iraqi soldiers and U.S. advisors searched two buildings for a Jaysh al-Mahdi terrorist group member wanted on a court warrant for allegedly was planning homemade bomb attacks against security forces in Iraq.

The team did not find the man, but arrested two suspects based on evidence found at the scene linking them to criminal activity.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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OEF Summary, Oct. 27, 2009: Force Recovers Missing Crew, Aircraft in Afghanistan

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 -- International Security Assistance Force members today recovered the remains of three civilian crewmembers and the wreckage of an aircraft missing for two weeks in the rugged mountains of northeastern Afghanistan, military officials reported.

The crew was flying an Army C-12 Huron when they failed to return to Bagram Airfield after a routine mission early Oct. 13 above Afghanistan’s Nuristan province.

Due to continued recovery efforts, officials said, information was not immediately released so as to not interfere with operations. Upon visible inspection of the site, the mission changed from search and rescue to search and recovery.

The incident is under investigation, though hostile action is not believed to be the cause of the crash, officials said.

Additionally, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter en route to the recovery site Oct. 17 experienced a strong downdraft and performed a hard landing near the site. All crewmembers were rescued. On Oct. 21, the aircraft was stripped of its sensitive and usable parts, and destroyed in place Oct. 25. Mountainous terrain and elevation prevented aircraft recovery operations. Hostile action was not involved, officials said.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, an Afghan and international security force killed several militants yesterday in Paktia province during an operation to pursue a suspected Haqqani terrorist bomb maker and his associates.

The Haqqani element is believed responsible for several homemade bomb attacks in the Khowst-Gardez Pass in southeastern Afghanistan.

Security forces coordinated an air strike on the enemy location based on intelligence that Haqqani militants were in transit outside Haqdad Kheyl village in Wuza Zadran district. A combined security force ground element searched the location, confirmed that militants were killed by the air strike and identified the sought-after Haqqani bomb maker among those killed.

During the search, the force also seized bomb-making components, small-arms weapons and communications gear.

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.)

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Wire: Senior US Official in Afghanistan Resigns Over Lack of Clear Strategy

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that a key U.S. official in Afghanistan has resigned in protest over U.S. policy in region, as the Obama administration continues to slowly mull over its strategy there.

Matthew Hoh, 36, a senior foreign service officer, wrote a four-page letter to Ambassador Nancy Powell, director general of the foreign service at the State Department, to express his "doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy," as first reported by the Washington Post today.
"To put simply, I fail to see the value or the worth in the continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year-old civil war," the former Marine wrote in the emotional letter.

Hoh spent six years in Iraq, where he served as a Marine Corps captain and then as a civilian for the Department of Defense.
Hoh told the Washington Post he decided to speak out publicly because "I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, 'Listen, I don't think this is right.'"

The U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl W. Eikenberry, and Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, apparently tried to talk Hoh out of resigning. The latter even offered him a job but Hoh declined, according to the Post.

Hoh's resignation comes as a blow to the Obama administration, which has yet to decide whether it will send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, as the lead commander on the ground, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has requested.

Speaking at a Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., Monday, President Barack Obama made an incredible statement while defending criticism of his slow decision on Afghanistan.

"I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm's way," the president told servicemen and women. "I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary. And, if it is necessary, we will back you up to the hilt. Because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission, the defined goals and the equipment and support you need to get the job done."

Obama did not speak to the needs of the troops currently fighting in Afghanistan.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: U.S. official resigns over Afghan war

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OEF Update, Oct. 27, 2009: 8 More US Troop Deaths in Afghanistan Tuesday

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 27, 2009 -- Eight U.S. servicemembers and an Afghan civilian working with ISAF were killed today in multiple complex IED attacks in southern Afghanistan. Additionally, several servicemembers were wounded in these incidents and were transported to a regional medical facility for treatment.

"A loss like this is extremely difficult for the families as well as for those who served alongside these brave servicemembers," said Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, IJC spokesperson. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who mourn their loss."

Details concerning the event are being withheld pending next of kin notification.

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Wire: Sen. Kerry Slams McChrystal Afghan Plan, 'Goes Too Far, Too Fast'

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 -- Newswire services yesterday reported that John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says a proposal to send as many as 40,000 more American troops to Afghanistan "goes too far and too fast".

Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, Senator Kerry praised U.S. President Barack Obama's current review of the nation's strategy in Afghanistan, VOA News said.

We now have to choose a smart way forward so that no one is ever compelled to ask whether we've made a mistake in staying," Kerry said.

The top U.S. and NATO military commander there, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has warned the United States could lose the war if additional forces are not deployed.

The United States has nearly 68,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan and there are about 40,000 from NATO and other allied countries.

The general reportedly is asking for as many as 40,000 additional troops -- a figure Kerry said is too high, VOA News noted.
"I am convinced, from my conversations with General Stanley McChrystal - and I'm grateful to him for the time he gave me there and even on the telephone since - he understands the necessity of conducting a smart counterinsurgency in a limited geographic area," he said. "But I believe his current plan reaches too far, too fast."

Kerry, during a recent trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, is credited with playing a key role in convincing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to enter a run-off election, following wide-spread corruption that tainted the initial contest in August.

Kerry said now is not the time for a large surge of additional troops.
The White House has said a decision on Afghan strategy will be made in "the coming weeks."

Yesterday, 14 Americans were killed in Afghanistan.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Pentagon Identifies 4 Marine Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 -- The following news release made available Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying casualties:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of four Marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The following Marines died Oct. 26 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
  • Cpl. Gregory M.W. Fleury, 23, of Anchorage, Alaska.

  • Capt. Eric A. Jones, 29, of Westchester, N.Y.

  • Capt. David S. Mitchell, 30, of Loveland, Ohio.

  • Capt. Kyle R. Van De Giesen, 29, of North Attleboro, Mass.

Fleury, Jones and Van De Giesen were assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Mitchell was assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Monday, October 26, 2009

'Mini Herc' Set to Join US Air Force Fleet

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A C-27J Spartan taxis on the ramp at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., during flight testing in early 2009. The Air Force plans to add 38 C-27Js to its inventory, which will be operated by the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force Photo.)

Focus on Defense:

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Oct. 26, 2009 -- Air Force plans to include the C-27J Spartan, the latest propeller-driven airlifter planned for the Air Force inventory, are steadily progressing.

In April, through Resource Management Decision 802, Defense Secretary Robert Gates moved the C-27J program and its related direct support mission from the Army to the Air Force. Since April, the Air Force and Air Mobility Command have taken a serious approach to building the program, officials said.

"The program is in transition from an Army-led joint program to a sole Air Force program," said Lt. Col. Gene Capone, AMC's C-27J test manager at the Joint Program Office. "Making a switch like this is no small affair, especially at this phase in the acquisition process. Because the Army lost all fiscal year 2010 C-27J funding due to RMD 802, the Air Force is funding the Army to continue leading the program through completion of Multi-Service Operational Test and Evaluation."

The Air Force will field 38 C-27Js, operated by the Air National Guard. Two are currently going through qualification and operational testing.

According to Air Force officials, the C-27J is an "extremely rugged" aircraft, designed for austere environments. And, although it has yet to complete its testing, they say it should thrive in the "dirt."

"Think of the C-27J as a 'mini-Herc' -- it looks like and acts like a C-130, but it is about half the size (3.5 pallet positions versus 6 to 8 pallets for the C-130)," Colonel Capone said. "This smaller size brings efficiency of scale to the Air Force's portfolio of airlifters."

The colonel also said the aircraft is very powerful and agile.

"It flies a lot like a C-130, but with a bit more power for its weight," he said. "Of course, as with most airplanes the pilots who fly the aircraft love it -- myself included."

AMC officials here say work to make the C-27J capable of fully supporting the Army's needs in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility is also continuously progressing.

"The Secretary of Defense gave the C-27J and its mission to the Air Force and we are 100 percent committed to making this work," said Maj. Gen. Brooks Bash, director of AMC's Air, Space and Information Operations Directorate.

A formal test is taking place from October through December in Iraq to gather information on this new Air Force mission.

"This test will help us work out the command and control structure of the direct support mission and help us to validate requirements," said Col. Bobby Fowler, also with the Air, Space and Information Operations Directorate.

Air Force officials say there is still a lot to do as more and more C-27s come into the inventory.

"A concept like this will take time and effort, but most importantly it will also require feedback from the forces," Colonel Fowler said.

AMC and Air Force officials plan to continuously review and update the C-27J using input from field commanders until it is incorporated into joint doctrine.

(Report by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol, Air Mobility Command Public Affairs.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2009 -- The following news release made available Monday 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 soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Oct. 23 in Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. The soldiers were assigned to the 569th Mobility Augmentation Company, 4th Engineer Battalion, Fort Carson, Colo.

Killed were:
  • Spc. Eric N. Lembke, 25, of Tampa, Fla.

  • Pfc. Kimble A. Han, 30, of Lehi, Utah.

(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OIF Summary, Oct. 26, 2009: Iraqis Arrest Bombing Suspects in Baghdad

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2009 -- Iraqi forces, with U.S. advisors, conducted a series of operations today resulting in the arrest of 11 suspects in vehicle-bomb networks operating between Baghdad and Mosul.

Iraqi forces searched several buildings in western Baghdad for a suspect believed to be responsible for a truck bomb that struck government buildings in Baghdad and killed at least 150 people. The cell leader also is suspected of staging the deadly Aug. 19 attacks in the Iraqi capital.

Based on evidence found in the buildings, Iraqi forces arrested eight people suspected of being linked to a bomb network in Baghdad that receives support from cells stretching north along the Tigris River Valley.

The 3rd Emergency Services Unit, with U.S. advisors, also targeted a bomb network today in southwest Kirkuk. The team searched a building for a member of the Kirkuk-based terror group who is believed to organize bombings throughout the Tigris River Valley. The operation resulted in the arrest of two people.

Iraqi police, with U.S. advisors and acting on a warrant, arrested a person suspected of procuring vehicles for use in the attacks. The security team arrested the suspect without incident about 50 miles south of Mosul.

Also today, Iraqi soldiers acting on intelligence reports arrested 14 suspects believed to be associated with a Mosul-based al-Qaida in Iraq cell leader.

On Oct. 24, Iraqi soldiers arrested a suspected Islamic State of Iraq terrorist group member in eastern Mosul who served as the former extortion ringleader for the region. Based on credible intelligence, the soldiers, with U.S. advisors, searched for Islamic State of Iraq members suspected of extorting money from companies in Mosul.

During the search of a building, the security team found and apprehended a man suspected of using extortion money to fund attacks against Iraqi security forces and civilians. He is alleged to be closely associated with extortion network members operating in northern Iraq.

Iraqi police on Oct. 24 also captured a suspected vehicle- bomb network member and two additional suspects in southern Kirkuk.

Iraqi forces, with U.S. advisors, searched two buildings and arrested a suspected bomb network member based on a warrant. The suspect is an alleged member of the Islamic State of Iraq-sponsored bomb network.

In other recent operations, Kirkuk police detained nine suspected al-Qaida in Iraq members Oct. 20 in possession of possible bomb-making materiel. One is believed to have purchased thousands of pounds of ammonium nitrate throughout 2006. The man is suspected of having ties to known al-Qaida in Iraq members associated with insurgent activity in Baghdad.

Iraqi police in Kirkuk called on U.S. forces advisors to test suspicious material found when two vehicles were stopped during a routine traffic checkpoint. Police discovered more than 300 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a can of gasoline and other suspected bomb-making materials in the vehicles.

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, submitted samples of the material for chemical testing to verify that it is explosive material.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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OEF Update, Oct. 26, 2009: Helicopter Incidents in Afghanistan; Joint Operations; Casualties

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 26, 2009 -- Today an International Security Joint Force helicopter went down due to unconfirmed reasons in western Afghanistan, and casualties from this incident have been verified. The cause is not believed to be from enemy action.

Seven U.S. servicemembers and three U.S. civilians were killed. Those injured include 14 Afghan servicemembers, 11 U.S. servicemembers and one U.S. civilian.

Additionally, two ISAF helicopters were involved in what was believed to be a mid-air collision in southern Afghanistan this morning.

Four ISAF servicemembers were killed and two others injured in the incident. The incident is currently being investigated, but it is confirmed that hostile fire was not involved.

U.S. spokesman Colonel Wayne Shanks, confirms the four ISAF servicemembers were from the U.S.

“These separate tragedies today underscore the risks our forces and our partners face every day. Each and every death is a tremendous loss for the family and friends of each service member and civilian. Our grief is compounded when we have such a significant loss on one day,” said Col. Wayne Shanks, an ISAF spokesman. “I can never truly express in mere words our condolences for the families for their loss and sacrifice.”

Joint Security Operations

An Afghan and international joint security force killed a dozen enemy militants in Kandahar province Oct. 25 in an operation to interdict a Taliban commander and his element. This Taliban group is believed to be responsible for attacks in the Arghandab district, west of Kandahar City.

The joint security force coordinated an air strike on the enemy position. During the search several of the killed militants were discovered armed with AK-47 rifles, rocket propelled grenades, ammunition belts and communications gear. All items were destroyed in place.

In another operation, a joint security force killed several militants and detained a few suspected militants today in Khowst province after searching compounds in pursuit of a Haqqani facilitator linked to an improvised explosive device and fighter element in the area.

The joint security force searched two compounds near the village of Now Deh, north of Khowst City. Militants outside of one of the compounds posed a hostile threat to the joint force and were killed.

During the search the joint security force discovered multiple hand grenades and multiple AK-47 rifles.

In a third operation, on Oct. 24 a joint security force searched a compound and detained a few suspected militants believed to be members of an IED network in Bala Boluk district, Farah province.

During the search suspected militants surrendered peacefully with no shots being fired.

No Afghan civilians were harmed during any of these operations.

ISAF Casualties

A U.S. service member was killed in an improvised explosive device attack in eastern Afghanistan Oct. 25. In another incident on Oct. 25, a U.S. service member died of wounds sustained in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan.

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Wire: 14 Americans Killed in Afghanistan

Off the Wire
A university student (left) kicks a burning effigy of President Barack Obama at a demonstration in front of the Afghan Parliament in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009. Hundreds of Afghans shouted anti-U.S. slogans and burned an effigy of Obama during a rally to protest a rumor that U.S. forces had bombed a mosque and burned a copy of the Koran.

Off the Wire:

At least 46 U.S. troops killed in October.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that a helicopter crash and separate collision involving two other choppers killed 14 Americans on Monday in one of the deadliest days for U.S. troops in the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. military said.

The Associated Press said in the first crash, a helicopter went down in the west of the country after leaving the scene of a firefight with insurgents, killing 10 Americans -- seven troops and three civilians working for the government. Eleven American troops, one U.S. civilian and 14 Afghans were also injured.

AP noted that in a separate incident in the south, two other U.S. choppers collided while in flight, killing four American troops and wounding two more, the military said.
U.S. authorities have ruled out hostile fire in the collision but have not given a cause for the other fatal crash in the west. Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmedi claimed Taliban fighters shot down a helicopter in northwest Badghis province's Darabam district. It was impossible to verify the claim and unclear if he was referring to the same incident.

U.S. forces also reported the death of two other American troops a day earlier: one in a bomb attack in the east, and another who died of wounds sustained in an insurgent attack in the same region. The deaths bring to at least 46 the number of U.S. troops who have been killed in October.
In Washington, Obama is set to meet yet again with his national security team today in what is to be the sixth full-scale Afghanistan conference in the White House Situation Room.

Also Monday, Abdullah called for election commission chairman Azizullah Lodin to be replaced within five days, saying he has "no credibility."
On Sunday, Karzai and Abdullah both ruled out a power-sharing deal before the runoff, saying the second round of balloting must be held as planned to bolster democracy in this war-ravaged country.

Meanwhile, security forces in Kabul fired automatic rifles into the air for a second day Monday to contain hundreds of stone-throwing university students angered over the alleged desecration of Islam's holy book, the Quran, by U.S. troops during an operation two weeks ago in Wardak province. Fire trucks were also brought in to push back protesters with water cannons. Police said several officers were injured in the mayhem.

U.S. and Afghan authorities have denied any such desecration and insist that the Taliban are spreading the rumor to stir up public anger. The rumor has sparked similar protests in Wardak and Khost provinces.

On Sunday, the students in the capital burned Obama in effigy and chanted slogans such as "down with Americans, down with Israel" as they marched from Kabul University to the parliament building, where riot police turned them back.
(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: 14 Americans killed in 2 Afghan helicopter crashes

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