Saturday, November 28, 2009

Combat Camera Video: Protection Patrols in Zabul Province


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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2009 -- Embedded above is a short video package about increased protection for Afghan village elders who have helped U.S. forces in the Zabul province, Afghanistan by expanding Forward Operating Base Wolverine. (Produced by Sgt. Wyatt Harper, American Forces Network Afghanistan. Length: 00:01:58.)

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Combat Camera: Snow Storm, Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, Part 1

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A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter prepares to land at Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, after a two-day snow storm, Nov. 25. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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A portable toilet is covered with snow after a two-day snow storm at Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, Nov. 25. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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U.S. Army Maxxpro Mine Resistance Ambush Protected Vehicles from 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, are covered with snow while parked in front of the battalion headquarters at Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, during a snow storm, Nov. 25. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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U.S. Army Oshkosh Mine Resistance Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicle is delivered to Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, during a snow storm, Nov. 24. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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The mountains around Wardak province, Afghanistan, are covered with snow after a two day snow storm, Nov. 25. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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A Russian made Mil Mi-8 helicopter lands at Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, after a two-day snow storm, Nov. 25. The civilian operated helicopter brings mail and supplies to Soldiers at FOB Airborne. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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The mountains around Wardak province, Afghanistan, are covered with snow after a two day snow storm, Nov. 25. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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The mountains as well as the tents inside Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, are covered with snow during a snow storm, Nov. 25. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Military vehicles are covered with snow after a two-days snow storm at Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, Nov. 25. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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U.S. Army Maxxpro Mine Resistance Ambush Protected Vehicles from 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, are covered with snow while parked at a motor-pool inside Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, during a snow storm, Nov. 24. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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U.S. Army Pfc. Taft assigned to 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, waits outside a portable toilet in the early morning of Nov. 25, after a snow storm felt over Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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A portable toilet is covered with snow after a two-day snow storm at Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, Nov. 25. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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A Russian made Mil Mi-8 helicopter approaches the landing zone at Forward Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan, after a two-day snow storm, Nov. 25. The civilian operated helicopter brings mail and supplies to Soldiers at FOB Airborne. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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OEF Update, Nov. 28, 2009: Militants Detained in Logar, Khowst

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2009 -- An Afghan-international security force detained a few suspected militants in Logar province today while pursuing a Taliban IED facilitator involved with several attacks in the area.

The joint security force targeted compounds near the village of Alozi in the Pul-e Alam district where intelligence sources reported militant activity. The joint force searched the compounds without incident and detained the suspected militants.

In a separate operation today, an Afghan-international security force detained a couple of suspected militants in Khowst province while pursuing a Haqqani facilitator allegedly involved with the planning of attacks and the transport of fighters into the area.

The joint security force secured a compound near the village of Lewan Kheyl in the Sabari district after intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force searched the compound without incident and detained the suspected militants. The force also recovered a number of

AK-47 rifles and military-grade batteries.

No shots were fired and no one was injured in either of the operations.

ISAF Casualties:

ISAF suffered no fatalities in the last 24 hours.

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

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Friday, November 27, 2009

OEF Update, Nov. 27, 2009: Forces Detain Militants, Strike Taliban Compound; Update on Missing Helicopter

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2009 -- An Afghan-international security force detained a Taliban district commander and other militants during the search of a compound in Kandahar province Thursday. The commander is a direct subordinate of a Taliban shadow governor in the region.

The joint security force targeted a compound near the village of Tzukazai, southwest of Kandahar City, where intelligence sources reported the commander to be located. The joint force searched the compound without incident and detained the militants, one of whom was identified as the Taliban commander. No Afghan civilians were harmed in this operation.

In a separate operation yesterday, another Afghan-international security force killed one enemy militant in Ghazni province while pursuing a Taliban commander linked to several other local commanders and responsible for numerous attacks in the area.

The joint security force raided a compound near the village of Chaprakh in the Andar district where intelligence sources reported militant activity. While moving to the targeted compound, the joint force engaged and killed one enemy militant who displayed hostile intent. The force searched and secured the compound without further incident and no Afghan civilians were harmed.

In another operation today, an Afghan-international security force uncovered and destroyed a sizable militant weapon and munitions cache in Kandahar province.

After intelligence sources reported militant activity in a compound near the village of Hajji Rahmoddin in the Zhari district, a joint security force searched the abandoned compound and discovered numerous containers of homemade explosive, RPGs, hand grenades, multiple boxes of ammunition, and an artillery round inside the compound structures. The joint force used precision aerial fires to destroy the weapons and munitions stored within the compound. No Afghan civilians were harmed.

In a separate operation, ISAF struck a known Taliban compound in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan Thursday. A Taliban commander known for attacking innocent civilians in the Kunar region, as well as international forces and bases, was the target of this precision strike. Assessment of the strike continues.

International Forces, ANSF Provide Medical Care for Boy Wounded by Insurgents:

Afghan National Security Forces and international forces provided immediate medical care for a boy wounded by insurgents near Spedar Pass in Paktika province, Monday.

As the joint force returned to its base after conducting a free medical clinic for families in Rabat, Paktika province, the military vehicle convoy stopped when a man along the road asked for their help. The man said his eight-year-old nephew sustained multiple gunshot wounds from insurgents at an illegal checkpoint to the north. An ISAF medic stabilized the boy and he was medically evacuated by air for further medical treatment.

Missing MI-8 Helicopter Update:

ISAF forces have helped identify the crash site in eastern Afghanistan of an MI-8 helicopter missing since Monday night. For further information on this topic, please contact Supreme Global Service Solutions.

ISAF Casualties:

ISAF suffered no fatalities in the last 24 hours.

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

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gen. Petraeus With USS Nimitz for Thanksgiving

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Gen. David H. Petraeus, Commander, U.S. Central Command speaks with sailors during an all hands call aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. Nimitz and embarked Carrier Air Wing 11 are currently deployed to the Central Command area of responsibility. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bryan Niegel.)

Focus on Defense:

USS NIMITZ, Gulf of Oman, Nov. 26, 2009 -- The commander of U.S. Central Command celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday at sea Nov. 26 with the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the four-star general responsible for U.S. operations in 20 countries from Egypt, to Central Asia and the entire Middle East, joined the crew at the mid-point of her 8-month Western Pacific deployment operating in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan.

"It's a unique American holiday," Petraeus said. "And to spend it on a unique piece of American turf – a ship that no other country can match – really makes it an enjoyable and memorable experience."

Minutes after arrival, Petraeus worked his way down ladder wells and through passageways to conduct re-enlistments and present awards to Nimitz sailors in the ship's forecastle.

Petraeus also had the opportunity to see flight operations from the aviators' perspective when he stepped into an F/A-18F Super Hornet from the "Black Aces" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 with Capt. Scott Conn, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11.

"It really was awesome to experience a bit of that today to have that Top Gun moment," said Petraeus. "To being shot off the deck and make a pretty quick landing and see again the extraordinary work that you do."

Petraeus took a helo over to visit sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102). Returning to Nimitz, Petraeus carved a turkey for Nimitz crew members for a memorable Thanksgiving dinner.

In addition to 1,000 pounds of traditional Thanksgiving turkeys, Nimitz' food service team served up 600 pounds of ham, 15 roasted pigs, roast-steamship rounds of beef, broiled lobster, and 150 one gallon cans of cranberry sauce.

"We brought the turkeys on board prior to leaving San Diego," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Kristopher Freyberg. "We wanted to make sure that was the first thing we had since we knew we would be planning for the holidays. We loaded the entire pig on outside of Hawaii, and aside from that, we've been taking it on during replenishment-at-sea little by little."

The day ended with an all hand's call, where Petraeus addressed the entire crew wanting the sailors deployed out here to know just how valuable they are.

"Each and every person that wears our country's uniform is indeed, in a sense, 'An Army of One,' or a sailor of one," said Petraeus. "Each of us has enormous intrinsic worth and can be the most important person in the life of a fellow sailor or others with whom we work."

Petraeus expressed thanks and gratitude for the job Nimitz sailors are doing in support of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

"I'm so thankful to be out here with over 4,000 great Americans who are engaged in important missions and working together to accomplish them," said Petraeus. "There's no greater source of energy than the 4,000 plus members of the crew and air wing that are on one of these great ships."

CVW-11 provides 30 percent of the close air support to coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan. Since Nimitz arrived in 5th Fleet area of operations, Sept. 18, more than 1,450 sorties have been flown in support of OEF.

Nimitz CSG, commanded by Rear Adm. John W. Miller, is comprised of USS Nimitz, embarked Carrier Air Wing 11, embarked Destroyer Squadron 23, and the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chosin. Ships assigned to DESRON 23 include the destroyers USS Pinckney, USS Sampson and the frigate USS Rentz.

Squadrons from CVW 11 include the "Black Aces" of Strike Fighter Squadron 41, the "Tophatters" of VFA 14, the "Warhawks" of VFA 97, the "Sidewinders" of VFA 86, the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6, the "Black Ravens" of Electronic Attack Squadron 135, the "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 and the "Wallbangers" of Carrier Airborne Command and Control Squadron 117.

Helicopter detachments include the "Easy Riders" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light 37, the "Battle Cats" of HSL 43, the "Wolfpack" of HSL 45, the "Scorpions" of HSL 49 and the "Wildcards" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23. Also accompanying the Nimitz CSG are Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 and the USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10).

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J.D. Levite, USS Nimitz Public Affairs.)

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USS Bataan Celebrates Thanksgiving On Way Home From 7-Month Deployment

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U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY In this Nov. 6, 2009 file photo, an MV-22B Osprey from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263 (Reinforced), 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). The aircraft were flown to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, where they will be transferred to VMM-261 and used to support the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. This is the first time the aircraft will be used in Afghanistan. The 22nd MEU is serving as the theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Julio Rivera.)

Focus on Defense:

USS BATAAN, At Sea, Nov. 26, 2009 -- Nearly 2,500 sailors aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and embarked Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday Nov. 26 on their way home from a seven-month deployment.

Although Bataan sailors are underway and don't have the opportunity to share a meal with their families on this special day, the reasons to be thankful are a virtual cornucopia.

"We've been given an opportunity today to give thanks for one another, and the people we've become," said Capt. Sam Howard, Bataan's commanding officer. "We can recognize that we are woven together and can enjoy the strength that we have gained from one another…Happy Thanksgiving, shipmates."

Crew members spent the holiday participating in a 5K "Turkey Trot" on the flight deck, enjoying a Native American heritage celebration on the mess decks and feasting on a traditional ham and turkey dinner, before relaxing by watching football courtesy of Direct to sailor (DTS) and the Armed Forces Network (AFN) and enjoying a day-long marathon of the pop-culture favorite "A Christmas Story" played over the ship's closed-circuit television.

"The celebration that Bataan put on was a great way to bring a little bit of home while we're underway," said Logistics Specialist Seaman Recruit Tyler Stringer. "It was amazing the way the supply department came out and got everything put together for the crew."

Preparations for the Thanksgiving meal began days before and continued through Thursday. All in all, Bataan's culinary specialists prepared more than 1,400 pounds of turkey, 450 pounds of ham, three whole pigs and more than 200 pies.

"When it comes to special meals like Thanksgiving, we put a lot of thought into the process. We focus on what we're going to prepare for the crew and make sure we have enough portions," said Chief Culinary Specialist Karlene Henri. "The holiday time is when people start missing home, so we try to put out the best meal because we want it to feel a little more like home."

Bataan left her homeport of Norfolk, Va., May 13 to conduct Maritime Security Operations in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. She served as the flagship of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which also includes the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce (LPD 15) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43).

Bataan is the fifth ship of the Navy's Wasp-class ships. She was commissioned Sept. 20, 1997, and is the second U.S. Navy warship to bear the name. USS Bataan (CVL-29) was an Independence-class light aircraft carrier that was commissioned in November 1943. After serving in both World War II and the Korean conflict, CVL-29 was decommissioned in 1954.

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan Steinhour, USS Bataan Public Affairs.)

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Combat Camera Video: Thanksgiving in Afghanistan


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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of servicemembers stationed in Afghanistan having a Thanksgiving dinner at Camp Dwyer. (Courtesy Video, Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs. Length: 00:05:33.)

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Combat Camera Video: Lt. Dan Band Performs at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan


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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of the Lt. Dan Band performing for troops as part of the USO tour in Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (Courtesy Video, American Forces Network Afghanistan. Length: 00:05:46.)

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Combat Camera Video: Thanksgiving USO Visit to Kandahar, Afghanistan


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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of the opening remarks at the USO visit to troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Scenes include performers speaking to an audience from the stage. (Courtesy Video, American Forces Network Afghanistan. Length: 00:09:44.)

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US Navy SEAL Team Commanding Officer Relieved

News in Balance
News from the U.S. Navy

News in Balance:

LITTLE CREEK, Va., Nov 26, 2009 -- The commanding officer of an East Coast-based SEAL team located at Joint Expeditionary Base, Little Creek, Va., was relieved of command Nov. 25 due to a loss of confidence in his ability to perform his duties.

After careful consideration and deliberation, Capt. Colin Kilrain, commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, relieved Cmdr. Dennis Debobes' of his duties as commanding officer, SEAL Team 4.

Debobes was not relieved due to a specific issue or incident, and there is no pending disciplinary action. Debobes assumed command of his SEAL Team in June, 2009. He is being relieved at the five-month point of a planned 24-month command tour. Debobes has been temporarily reassigned to another unit within the Navy.

Another SEAL officer will assume command until Debobes' permanent relief is identified.

SEAL Teams conduct special operation missions in support of U.S. combatant commanders at forward locations throughout the world.

(Report from a Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Public Affairs news release.)

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Combat Camera Video: Thanksgiving in Baghdad


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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of servicemembers stationed in Iraq preparing and eating a Thanksgiving dinner. (Produced by Sgt. Frank Merola, Joint Area Support Group-Central. Length: 00:04:09.)

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Combat Camera Video: Thanksgiving Day at CJTF Phoenix (OEF)


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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of soldiers from Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix in Afghanistan enjoying the Thanksgiving meal. (Produced by MC3 Jeffrey Richardson, 48th Brigade, Ga. National Guard. Length: 00:05:38.)

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OEF Update, Nov. 26, 2009: Forces Detain Insurgents in Kandahar and Logar; ISAF Casualty

Dispatches from the Front
Cpl. Delio Lazoreyes from Los Angeles, Calif., a soldier assigned to Able Troop, 3-71 Cavalry Squadron, checks on smoked turkeys as he helps prepare Thanksgiving dinner in Logar province, Afghanistan, Thursday Nov. 26, 2009. (Newswire photo.)

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2009 -- An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants in Kandahar province while pursuing a Taliban commander operating in the area today.

The joint security force targeted compounds near the village of Wahabkan Kalay in the Maywand district where intelligence indicated militant activity. The joint force searched the compounds without incident and detained several suspected militants.

In another operation today, an Afghan-international security force detained a sought-after Taliban suicide bomb facilitator along with few other militants during a search of compounds in Logar province. This facilitator reportedly had extensive ties to several militant elements throughout Logar and Kabul provinces.

The joint security force targeted compounds near the village of Qal' eh-ye Shayhee in the Muhammad Aghah district where intelligence sources reported the facilitator to be located. The joint force searched the compounds without incident and detained the militants, one of whom surrendered with little resistance and confirmed his identity as the Taliban facilitator. The force also recovered pistols and a significant quantity of ammunition.

No shots were fired, and no one was injured in either of these operations.

Afghan Director Provides Donated Items:

In the Khost province, an Afghan director and his staff distributed approximately $15,000 in donated winter and school-related items to more than 100 Afghan disabled, orphaned and deprived locals at an orphanage in downtown Nov. 21.

Nearly 30 U.S. organizations and individuals sent items that Narai and his staff requested, which included blankets, clothes, hygiene items and a variety of school supplies.

ISAF Casualty:

One ISAF servicemember from Denmark was killed when he encountered an IED in southern Afghanistan yesterday.

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

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pentagon Discuses 'First-Strike Ration'

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2009 -- Several military organizations are working together to provide soldiers with healthy, good-tasting, sustainable and nutritionally sound combat rations.

"We're charged with a fairly awesome task, and that is to fuel the Defense Department's most flexible and adaptable weapons platform, and that of course is the individual warfighter," said Gerry Darsch, director of the Defense Department's Combat Feeding Program at the Massachusetts-based Natick Soldier Systems Center during a Nov. 23 interview on the Pentagon Channel podcast "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military.

Darsch was joined by Andy Young, chief of the Military Nutrition Division at the U.S. Army Institute of Environmental Medicine.

Because many military personnel have jobs similar to those in the civilian sector, their nutritional requirements aren't going to be very much different from those of their civilian counterparts, Young said, but some servicemembers in operational specialties do require more fuel and energy then most civilians. Achieving their nutritional requirements while working in the field can be especially difficult, he added.

The MRE -- shorthand for its designation in the supply system as Meal, Ready-to-Eat -- is the standard military ration. Each meal provides one-third of the military-recommended dietary allowance and must meet a variety of requirements, including long shelf life, tolerance of changes in temperature and stability in varying conditions, Darsch said.

"We do have a business philosophy here, and that is, 'Warfighter recommended, warfighter tested, and warfighter approved,'" he said. "And that is driving our continuous product-improvement program."

One of the latest developments that has come out of this program is known as the first-strike ration, or FSR. Before its introduction, servicemembers who were outside of a forward operating base for two to seven days were given MREs to travel with. Because of space limitations, soldiers would field-strip the meal and throw away more than half of the food, including a large portion of nutrients.

"The first-strike ration, in essence, is issued at one per warfighter per day, instead of two or three MREs," Young said. It reduces the weight and volume of the MRE by 50 percent, and also is more cost-efficient.

"The first-strike ration provides all the components that can be easily eaten on the move," Young said. "And we now can regain control, if you will, of nutrition and make sure that those warfighters are getting the nutrients that they so desperately need to maintain [or] enhance both cognitive and physical performance."

Working with the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, the group convened a panel of nutrition experts from all over the world, many of whom had served in the military, and challenged them to get the best nutrition possible into a limited amount of space.

"After that, it was simply a matter of testing the actual performance improvements and capabilities of the ration in human subjects in the field conditions that would be used," Young said.

Focus groups and surveys revealed what products were being left behind, and from there, a list was put together of items that servicemembers wanted.

Packaging was one of the main issues, Darsch said. When the design of an electrolyte drink was changed into an hourglass-shaped package with a feature that allowed water to be added directly from a canteen or CamelBak, the consumption rate went from 33 percent to more than 70 percent.

The addition of a shelf-stable, pocket-style sandwich was another request from soldiers. Because microwave ovens and frozen food items aren't available in the field, the combat feeding team's technologists used "hurdle technology," a packaging process that balances water, atmosphere and acidity in the package, creating hurdles to bacterial growth and keeping the products shelf-stable.

The groups did field tests with the U.S. Forest Service, testing the rations on forest firefighters who have similar metabolic and work demands as infantry soldiers on the ground, Young said. They later tested the rations at Fort Benning, Ga., on the 75th Ranger Regiment's Pre-Ranger Course and with the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Va.

The next goal, Darsch said, is to expand the first-strike rations menu from three to nine meals and to go into the field and allow warfighters an opportunity to rate the new menus.

"The most important thing about the first-strike in particular, and nutrition in general, for the warrior in the field is, it's not nutrition unless it's eaten," he said. "So it doesn't do you any good to take the package; you've got to actually eat it. And that's why the first-strike is such an important step forward for the particular audience it was targeted at -- that it actually improves consumption, and that, in turn, improves the nutrition."

(Report by Christen N. McCluney, Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

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Combat Camera Video: Thanksgiving Day Feast Prep, Joint Base Balad, Iraq


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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of cooks in Iraq making Thanksgiving Day dinner for servicemembers on deployment and Sen. Airman Rosemary Tamba touring the cooking facility looking at the traditional holiday dishes. (Produced by Sen. Airman James Courtright, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. Length: 00:08:07.)

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Wire: 3 US Navy SEALs Face Assault Charges for Nabbing Most-Wanted Terrorist

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that three U.S. Navy SEALS who helped capture a terror suspect in Iraq are now facing criminal charges for allegedly beating up that man after he was in custody, then lying about it. The suspect, who's the alleged mastermind of the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004, had a bloody lip.

The three servicemembers have refused non-judicial punishment -- called an admiral's mast -- and have requested a trial by court-martial, FOX News said.

Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military code-named "Objective Amber," told investigators he was punched by his captors — and he had the bloody lip to prove it.

Now, instead of being lauded for bringing to justice a high-value target, three of the SEAL commandos, all enlisted, face assault charges and have retained lawyers.
  • Matthew McCabe, a Special Operations Petty Officer Second Class (SO-2), is facing three charges: dereliction of performance of duty for willfully failing to safeguard a detainee, making a false official statement, and assault.

  • Petty Officer Jonathan Keefe, SO-2, is facing charges of dereliction of performance of duty and making a false official statement.

  • Petty Officer Julio Huertas, SO-1, faces those same charges and an additional charge of impediment of an investigation.

The three SEALs will be arraigned separately on Dec. 7. Another three SEALs -- two officers and an enlisted sailor -- have been identified by investigators as witnesses but have not been charged.
Fox News obtained the official handwritten statement from one of the three witnesses given on Sept. 3, hours after Abed was captured and still being held at the SEAL base at Camp Baharia. He was later taken to a cell in the U.S.-operated Green Zone in Baghdad.

The SEAL told investigators he had showered after the mission, gone to the kitchen and then decided to look in on the detainee.

"I gave the detainee a glance over and then left," the SEAL wrote. "I did not notice anything wrong with the detainee and he appeared in good health."

Lt. Col. Holly Silkman, spokeswoman for the special operations component of U.S. Central Command, confirmed Tuesday to FoxNews.com that three SEALs have been charged in connection with the capture of a detainee. She said their court martial is scheduled for January.

United States Central Command declined to discuss the detainee, but a legal source told FoxNews.com that the detainee was turned over to Iraqi authorities, to whom he made the abuse complaints. He was then returned to American custody. The SEAL leader reported the charge up the chain of command, and an investigation ensued.

The source said intelligence briefings provided to the SEALs stated that "Objective Amber" planned the 2004 Fallujah ambush, and "they had been tracking this guy for some time."

The Fallujah atrocity came to symbolize the brutality of the enemy in Iraq and the degree to which a homegrown insurgency was extending its grip over Iraq.

The four Blackwater agents were transporting supplies for a catering company when they were ambushed and killed by gunfire and grenades. Insurgents burned the bodies and dragged them through the city. They hanged two of the bodies on a bridge over the Euphrates River for the world press to photograph.

Intelligence sources identified Abed as the ringleader, but he had evaded capture until September.

The military is sensitive to charges of detainee abuse highlighted in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The Navy charged four SEALs with abuse in 2004 in connection with detainee treatment.
(Report from newswire sources.)

Source

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US Airpower Summary, Nov. 25, 2009

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Nov. 25, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in the following operations Nov. 24 according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

Air Operations in Afghanistan:

Balocan
Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft flew armed overwatch for friendly forces. When friendly forces reported taking enemy fire, the point of origin for the insurgent fire was confirmed and passed to the aircraft. A precision guided munition was employed on the enemy compound and the threat to friendly forces was eliminated.

Shurakian
Air Force B-1B Lancer aircraft provided armed overwatch for friendly forces. When the friendly forces reported receiving enemy small arms fire, air support was requested. The enemy firing point was confirmed in a treeline position. Several precision guided munitions were released on the enemy position destroying the position and stopping the enemy fire.

Navy F/A-18C Hornet aircraft were providing armed overwatch for coalition forces in the area. When the coalition forces started taking enemy small arms fire, a request for air power support went out. Several shows of force were performed and declared successful as the anti-coalition forces small arms fire ceased.

Asmar
F-15E aircraft were providing armed overwatch for friendly forces. When the friendly forces position reported receiving enemy small arms and mortar fire, a friendly force patrol went outside the wire to determine the points of origin for the enemy fire. Coordinates of the enemy firing points were passed to the aircraft and several precision guided munitions were released on the identified targets. They were successful in ending the enemy fire when the enemy positions were destroyed.

Asadabad
F-15E aircraft conducted armed overwatch for a friendly forces convoy. A show of force was requested to deter any potential. The show of force was performed and was considered successful when no enemy action was noted.

Salerno
B-1B aircraft provided armed overwatch for friendly forces. The friendly forces reported enemy activity in the area then taking enemy small arms fire. They requested a show of force to deter the enemy aggression. The show of force was considered successful in stopping the enemy action.

Musa Qaleh
Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft were providing armed overwatch for friendly forces. When the friendly forces reported enemy activity in the area, a show of force was requested. Coordinates for the show of force were passed to the aircraft and the show of force performed. It was successful in deterring enemy action in the area.

Air Operations in Iraq:

No significant action to report in the last 24 hours.

Air Power Statistics:

Air Mobility:
U.S. Air Force airlift sorties: 153
Short tons of delivered cargo: 642
Passengers: nearly 3,900
Airdropped cargo: nearly 160,000 pounds

Close Air Support:
Sorties flown to support ISAF & Afghan security forces: 69
Sorties flown to support Operation IRAQI FREEDOM: 28

Surveillance & Reconnaissance:
Sorties flown in Afghanistan: 25
Sorties flown in Iraq: 24
Tactical reconnaissance sorties flown in Afghanistan: 2 (USN)
Tactical reconnaissance sorties flown in Iraq: 2 (USAF)

Medical Evacuation:
On Nov. 23, Air Force HH-60 aircrew and Pararescue Airmen transported 16 patients

Aerial Refueling:
Sorties flown: 40
Fuel delivered: nearly 2.8 million pounds
Aircraft refueled: 197

(Report from a U.S. Air Force news release.)

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OIF Summary, Nov. 25, 2009: Forces in Iraq Nab 18 Suspected al-Qaida Associates

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2009 -- Iraqi security forces arrested 18 suspected al-Qaida in Iraq associates today, and earlier this week captured a terrorism suspect they have pursued for three years, military officials reported.

Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched several houses in Mosul looking for an alleged al-Qaida in Iraq regional leader who is suspected of staging deadly attacks against Iraqi civilians and security forces.

Based on preliminary questioning and evidence gathered at the scene, Iraqi forces arrested 18 of his suspected associates.

The arrests in Mosul are expected to contribute to greater safety for Iraqis from attacks during the upcoming Eid al-Adha, or “Festival of Sacrifice,” Muslim holiday.

In Diyala province Nov. 22, Iraqi security forces, advised by U.S. forces, arrested a suspected leader of a terrorist group, along with a suspected associate.

The judicial court of Muqdadiyah had issued a warrant for Harith Sadun Dawud al-Rubayi for suspicion of murder, kidnapping and bombing attacks against Iraqi citizens and Iraqi security forces. He also is suspected of smuggling weapons, home invasions and stealing money from Iraq’s interior ministry.

He is believed to be linked to the kidnapping and murder of the son of a former Muqdadiyah mayor in September, as well as the murder of an Iraqi policeman in Abu Sayda. The suspect has been wanted by authorities and had evaded capture for three years.

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

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Pentagon Announces Military Commissions Actions

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FILE PHOTO - Commissions building courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Mobley.)

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2009 -- The following news release made available Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement announcing military commissions actions:
Today, prosecutors in the Office of Military Commissions announced they intend to ask the convening authority to refer new charges under the recently-enacted Military Commissions Act of 2009 against Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al Darbi, in connection with his alleged involvement in an al Qaeda conspiracy to attack military and commercial shipping in the Port of Aden and the Straits of Hormuz.

This announcement follows the attorney general's determination on Nov. 13, 2009, that a military commission was the appropriate forum for prosecution of al Darbi.

The prosecutors are reviewing this and other cases identified by the attorney general as appropriate for trial in a military commission and anticipate making further announcements soon.

As part of the process of moving forward with the prosecution of al Darbi, on Nov. 25, 2009, in response to a request from the prosecutors, the convening authority withdrew and dismissed without prejudice the pending charges against al Darbi. Dismissal without prejudice is a procedural action that permits new charges to be referred at a later time.

A charge is merely an accusation; an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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3 Combined Naval Task Forces Meet in Gulf of Aden

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GULF OF ADEN (Nov. 21, 2009) Commodore Pieter Bindt, Force Commander of European Naval Force Somalia Combined Task Force 465 (left), Commodore Jose Pereira de Cunha, NATO Commander, Combined Task Force 508 (middle) and Rear Admiral Scott Sanders, Commander, Combined Task Force 151 (right) at the Three Combined Task Forces Shared Awareness and De-Confliction (SHADE) planning meeting on November 21 aboard the Portuguese frigate Alveras Cabral. (Official U.S. Navy Photo.)

Dispatches from the Front:

USS CHOSIN, Gulf of Aden (At Sea), Nov. 25, 2009 -- Three commanders of counter piracy task forces met Nov. 21 to discuss the future of their efforts and to welcome their newest member, Commodore Jose Pereira de Cunha, NATO Commander, Combined Task Force 508.

Rear Adm. Scott Sanders, Commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, transferred from USS Chosin (CG 65), flagship of CTF 151, on an APECS II Lynx helicopter (Mk 95) from the Portuguese frigate Alveras Cabral, to meet with Pereira de Cunha, and Commodore Pieter Bindt, Force Commander of European Naval Force Somalia Combined Task Force 465.

The three CTF leaders meet monthly to discuss and coordinate current and future operations off the coast of Somalia.

“There is an extraordinary level of communication and cooperation among all of the nations conducting counter-piracy operations in the Gulf,” said Sanders. “We communicate with each other while underway via electronic means, but to be able to meet and discuss matters in person helps to foster better relations between the Task Forces.”

Since Dec. 2008, more than nine countries have joined with CTF units in order to ensure safety, reduce wastage of assets, and create efficient and effective coverage of the Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor (IRTC).

"No ship has been successfully pirated in the IRTC that has followed the recommended maritime industry guidelines," said Sanders.

Merchant mariners that have listened to the recommendations and lessons have employed reasonable self-protection measures that discourage or prevent pirates from attempting to take their vessels. These measures have ranged from proactive lookouts, evasive maneuvering, razor wire on deck edges, using charged fire hoses to fend off attackers and employing armed security teams on board.

The presence of Coalition Navy vessels in the region demonstrates the international commitment to regional security and stability. To continue to counter and deter piracy successfully, Coalition efforts must be complimented by proactive measures by commercial shippers, regional governments, and the international community.

CTF 151 is part of Combined Maritime Forces, a coalition that conducts Maritime Security Operations throughout the Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea to help provide security and stability in the region.

(Report by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Matthew A. Hepburn.)

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George Washington Carrier Strike Group Returns From Fall Deployment

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 18, 2009) Lt. Cmdr. Jason Bartholomew and Lt. Louis Krueper give the signal to launch an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Royal Maces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27, from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). George Washington is underway supporting security and stability in the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Reann Mommsen.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 18, 2009) An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Warlords of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 51, conducts flight operations near the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). George Washington is underway supporting security and stability in the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Marcus D. Mince.)

Focus on Defense:

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2009 -- The George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GW CSG) returned to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, Nov. 23, completing its second fall deployment since joining the Forward-Deployed Naval Forces last year.

During the deployment, the carrier strike group participated in two major bilateral exercises with forces from the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan.

The first, a bilateral exercise with the ROK Navy, focused on advanced combined training to build cooperation and interoperability between both navies in the event of a crisis. Embarked ROK Navy liaison officers and Sailors worked alongside GW Sailors on board focusing on enhancing coordination to expand and improve future readiness. Personnel from the ROK Navy's Task Force 51 were also able to work with their counterparts from the GW CSG's Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15. Also during that exercise, GW hosted members of the ROK National Defence Committee and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jung Ok-Keun for a visit during flight operations.

The GW CSG also participated in Annual Exercise 21G (ANNUALEX) November 10-17. ANNUALEX is the largest annual bilateral exercise between Japanese and U.S. forces.

"The 5,000 men and women that comprise the George Washington/Carrier Air Wing 5 team are extremely excited to return to our respective homes of Yokosuka and Atsugi," said GW's Commanding Officer Capt. David A. Lausman. "During the fall patrol, we continued to exercise and hone our warfighting skills to remain the Navy's Permanently Forward Deployed Carrier Strike Group.

"Additionally, during this patrol we participated in ANNUALEX 21G with the Joint Maritime Self Defense Force where we exercised our communications and equipment interoperability with our command units. The high degree of interoperability and professionalism we share continues to make this alliance strong and ready to respond to any situation."

The Commander of Carrier Airwing 5, Capt Ross Myers echoed that sentiment when discussing CVW-5 participation in ANNUALEX 21 G.

"We learn valuable lessons working with each other, which allows us to operate at our full potential during a time of conflict," said Myers. "Having Japan Air Self Defense Force pilots on board helps us gain a greater understanding of each other's capabilities."

Embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 completed nearly 500 aircraft launch and recovery cycles during the seven-day event alone, a tempo that was nearly a hundred sorties more than a typical week of flying. In total, the carrier flew more than 1,000 sorties in the last month of the deployment.

"One of the reasons GW operates from Japan is to aid in their defense," said GW's Operations Officer Cmdr. Anthony Calandra. "Through exercises like ANNUALEX, our countries can learn from each other and operate better as a team."

While fostering cultural and working relations with other countries, GW continued maintaining mission readiness with 26 simulated fire, emergency and medical drills.

As part of the GW Engineering Department's Repair division, Hull Maintenance Technician Fireman Apprentice Sara Bingham participated in every drill as a member of a fire party hose team during her first deployment.

"I like the fast pace. It's exciting to me," said Bingham regarding GW's high operational tempo.
Though she has only been in the Navy since January, Bingham feels honored to share in the GW's responsibility as "America's 911" force.

GW steamed nearly 14,500 nautical miles, prepared more than 825,000 meals, flew more than 2,000 sorties and expended 154.2 tons of ordnance during its 48-day fall patrol in support of the nation's maritime strategy.

Also during the deployment, the carrier and made its first visit to Hong Kong. More than 300 Sailors participated in 14 community service projects ranging from visits to disabled and retirement homes to volunteering at distribution centers and schools.

The GW CSG, commanded by Rear Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, is comprised of GW, CVW-5, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, and the guided-missile cruisers USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Cowpens (CG 63). GW, commanded by Capt. David A. Lausman, is scheduled to begin its second Selected Restricted Availability (SRA) in Yokosuka, Japan, this winter.

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos Gomez, USS George Washington Public Affairs.)

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Combat Camera Video: Combat Engineers Blow a Wall in Kandahar


NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2009 -- Embedded above is a short b-roll video of Combat Engineers from the 4th Engineer Battalion, 62nd Engineer Company, 3rd Platoon using a blasting cap to blow a section out of a wall during route clearing operations. (Courtesy Video, American Forces Network Afghanistan. Length: 00:01:51.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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US Air Force: Nuke Inspection Finds 2 Wings Unsatisfactory

News in Balance
News from the U.S. Air Force.

News in Balance:

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, Nov. 25, 2009 -- Air Force Materiel Command nuclear surety inspections of two wings at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., last week found deficiencies which led to an overall rating of unsatisfactory. An NSI is designed to thoroughly evaluate a unit's ability to manage nuclear resources while complying with all nuclear standards, and takes place every 18 months.

"Unsatisfactory inspection results should not be interpreted as suggesting that the ultimate security, safety or health of the American people has been put at risk," said Gen. Don Hoffman, AFMC commander. "However, we must meet the highest standards of safety, security and reliability in maintaining the nuclear force. Anything less than full compliance is not acceptable."

Inspectors from AFMC and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency concluded an integrated inspection of the 377th Air Base Wing and 498th Nuclear Systems Wing and found significant deficiencies in both wings.

More than 85 DTRA and AFMC inspectors extensively evaluated both wings for six days in 13 major graded areas to include management and administration, technical operations, security, logistics movement, safety, storage, facilities and supply support. Although both wings excelled in some areas, deficiencies were observed in security, the personnel reliability program and maintenance activities.

Inspectors did note the units were implementing immediate plans to correct deficiencies. Also, the AFMC Inspector General recognized 12 individuals and five teams for their superior performance during the NSI.

The mission of the inspected units continues while they work to refine their capabilities, processes and procedures. AFMC officials will track progress and re-inspect both units by late February, 2010, in accordance with established Department of Defense and Air Force guidance.

(Report from a U.S. Air Force news release.)

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OEF Update, Nov. 25, 2009: Weapons Cache Found in Paktia; Food Distribution in Kandahar City; US Casualty

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 25, 2009 -- Afghan and international forces located a weapons cache in Paktia province Nov. 20.

The unit was patrolling in the Jani Khel district with international forces to determine the possible presence of insurgents. During the patrol, civilians in the area informed the ANSF about a weapons location belonging to anti-Afghan fighters.

The ANSF searched the area and found two rockets, a machine gun, four AK-47s, two bolt action rifles and 2,000 rounds of assorted ammunition. Several men were detained during the search of the area.

One man admitted the weapons were intended to be used against American and Afghan government officials and had originated from a high-level insurgent commander in the region.

ISAF distributes food and gifts in Kandahar City and nearby district centers ISAF service members distributed food and gifts to several families living near Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar City and nearby district centers Nov. 21 in preparation for the celebration of Eid al-Adha.

The provincial reconstruction team donated sugar, rice, raisins, tea, prayer carpets and prayer scarves.

“These gifts of goodwill are a present for our friends at this special time of year,” said Maj. Bill Green, civil-military cooperation team chief in Kandahar. “This donation demonstrates we are standing by our Afghan friends during the celebration of Eid.”

Civil-military cooperation teams have worked with community leaders in the Kandahar City area to build relationships. Through these relationships, local leaders helped to identify the people most in need of support.

ISAF Casualty:

One U.S. servicemember was killed during an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan Monday.
(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pentagon Identifies Army Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 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 two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Nov. 22 in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Killed were:
  • Sgt. James M. Nolen, 25, of Alvin, Texas; and

  • Pfc. Marcus A. Tynes, 19, of Moreno Valley, Calif.

(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, Nov. 24, 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.

Spc. Jason A. McLeod, 22, of Crystal Lake, Ill., died Nov. 23, west of Pashmul, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with mortar 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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Combat Camera Video: TF Attack Black Hawk (OEF)


NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of Black Hawks flying through the mountains around Salerno, Afghanistan. Scenes include the crew loading into the helicopter and aerial views of the area being patrolled. (Video by Staff Sgt. Calvin Esslinger, Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO. Length: 00:04:59.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Wire: British Defense Secretary Criticizes Obama for Afghan Indecision

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that Bob Ainsworth, the British defense secretary, has blamed President Barack Obama and the United States for the decline in British public support for the war in Afghanistan.

UK's Daily Telegraph said Ainsworth took the unprecedented step of publicly criticising Obama and his delays in sending more troops to bolster the mission against the Taliban.
A “period of hiatus” in Washington -- and a lack of clear direction -- had made it harder for ministers to persuade the British public to go on backing the Afghan mission in the face of a rising death toll, he said.

Senior British Government sources have become increasingly frustrated with Mr. Obama’s “dithering” on Afghanistan, the Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this month, with several former British defence chiefs echoing the concerns.

But Mr. Ainsworth is the first Government minister to express in public what amounts to personal criticism of the U.S. president’s leadership over the conflict which has so far cost 235 British lives.

Polls show most voters now want an early withdrawal, following the death of 98 British service personnel this year alone.

Ministers say the mission is vital to stop international terrorists using Afghanistan as a base, but Gordon Brown has promised an “exit strategy” that could start next year.
See link below for details.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: Bob Ainsworth criticises Barack Obama over Afghanistan

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 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.

Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Pucino, 34, of Cockeysville, Md., died Nov. 23 in Pashay Kala, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group of the Maryland Army National Guard in Glen Arm, Md.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon: Review Panel Leaders Tour Fort Hood Shooting Site

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2009 -- The leaders of an independent review panel toured the scene of the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting rampage today and described how they view the panel's mission.

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West and retired Adm. Vern Clark spoke at a short news conference at Fort Hood. The two men met with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday and received their charge from him.

The panel will review the circumstances surrounding the Nov. 5 shooting to see how future incidents could be avoided. "We will look at policies and procedures that look at how we deal with servicemembers who may cause trouble or harm to their fellows," West said.

The review is to look at personal reliability programs, counseling programs, procedures on the handling of defense employee's adverse information, medical screening and pre- and post-deployment evaluations. The panel members also are to look at the response to the incident and see how these procedures could be improved.

Today's trip to Fort Hood was important to starting the review, Clark, a former chief of naval operations, said.

"It was important to me to see the site, walk the ground and really see the setting," he said. "Today's activities have been immensely valuable in providing the baseline of factual information upon which we will grow the rest of the information that is required to conduct the assessment."

Clark said he was impressed with the Army's 3rd Corps leadership team. "I just want to single out ... the leadership team at the hospital," he said, adding that the panel also is charged with evaluating the performance of the first responders. "The story about how the first responder team performed is very, very encouraging. It not only involves the leadership team here at Fort Hood, but it involves the leadership teams of the hospitals in the local area and the manner in which they all responded."

West reminded everyone that the panel is not conducting a criminal investigation and will not interfere with the criminal case against Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged with 13 counts of murder who remains hospitalized in intensive care.

West said his group will "not point fingers. We are here to accumulate information and offer our best judgments to the secretary of defense."

The investigation is department-wide, Clark said. "The secretary charged us to find the gaps that make us less effective than we desire to be, and to do that, we will go over a wide range of things after we go through the discovery process."

The panel report is due to Gates by Jan. 15.

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

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualty (OIF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 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 Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Briand T. Williams, 25, of Sparks, Ga., died Nov. 22, in Numaniyah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon Discuses Fort Hood Shooting Task Force

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2009 - The leaders of the Pentagon's review board on the Fort Hood, Texas, rampage reported for duty here yesterday to begin their 45-day investigation to what led to the mass shooting, a Pentagon official said.

The Nov. 5 shooting at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Center left 12 soldiers and one Army civilian dead and 30 others injured.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced Nov. 19 that the initial review board will be headed by former Army Secretary Togo West and former Chief of Naval Operations Vern Clark.

West and Clark met with their staff, which consists of representatives from each of the military services, for the first time yesterday. They are: Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army commander; Navy Vice Adm. Michael C. Vitale, commander of Navy Installations Command; Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel; and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Willie J. Williams, director of the Marine Corps staff.

The panel will review possible weaknesses in Pentagon policies, programs and procedures in hopes of preventing similar incidences in the future, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

Also, West and Clark are scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates this afternoon to further outline and address his intents.

"They have a very tight timeline to operate off of," Whitman said. "It's a very ambitious task that the secretary has given them."

The terms of reference for the investigation, which was publicly released today, will guide the task force in their review. The Pentagon's review is independent of the criminal investigation, as well as those by the inspector general and White House, and doesn't employ the task force to take action against people suspected of withholding information that may have prevented the incident.

According to the terms of reference, the Pentagon's review will not overlap with President Barack Obama's review of intelligence matters related to the shooting or investigations of individuals in the intelligence community.

"The charter is to look at things outside of any criminal- or liability-type review that's taking place," Whitman explained. "This is not a criminal review, [but] they'll certainly make recommendations."

The review will take a closer look at personal reliability programs, counseling programs, procedures on the handling of defense employee's adverse information, medical screening and pre- and post-deployment evaluations. It also will take into account force protection programs, emergency response policies and the functionality and adequacy of those programs, policies and procedures.

The task force's review will lead to a follow-on investigation that is expected to last four to six months, Whitman said. The more in-depth review will entail each service selecting an investigative panel that will report their findings up the chain of command to a department-level panel. The department-wide group will assess the findings and identify changes needed in policy and procedure, as well as areas where additional resources are required.

"This effort here will largely inform what the broader, sustained efforts will be," Whitman said. "This will not be exclusively what determines the longer-sustained efforts. But all of the energy of the department is going to go into assisting these two prominent individuals in this very quick look" at the events that led to the shooting.

Gates is very confident in West and Clark to head the task force, Whitman said, adding that their history of service and compassion for servicemembers makes them more than credible and qualified.

"When you take a look at the individuals [Gates] asked to lead up this panel, these are two very prominent Americans that have a tremendous amount of experience with the United State military, and have, over their many years, established a reputation of caring about the men and women in uniform," he added.

As of now, West and Clark are not expected to be part of the follow-on review, he said. The panel's final report is due to Gates by Jan. 15.

Meanwhile, a military magistrate at Fort Hood on Nov. 21 ordered shooting suspect Nidal M. Hasan to remain in custody until the trial, which has yet to be scheduled, a Fort Hood press release issued today says. Hasan has been in custody and in the hospital since the Nov. 5 shooting.

Fort Hood officials are concerned about protecting the integrity of the judicial process, and all further updates about the criminal proceedings will be released by the Army's Criminal Investigative Division, the release says.

(Report by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press Service.)

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Pentagon Identifies Marine Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2009 -- The following news release made available Monday 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. Nicholas J. Hand, 20, of Kansas City, Mo., died Nov. 22 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OIF Summary, Nov. 24, 2009: Forces in Iraq Kill Bomb Cell Member, Nab 6 Others

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2009 -- Iraqi police killed a suspected bombing-cell member and arrested six others in operations over the last two days, military officials reported.

Police arrested a suspect today during a combined security operation in Beiji, southwest of Kirkuk, during a search for a member of an al-Qaida in Iraq-sponsored bombing cell.

Based on preliminary questioning and evidence found at the scene, police arrested a suspected accomplice of the wanted man, who was not apprehended.

In Mosul yesterday, federal police elements arrested five suspected vehicle-borne bomb cell members. A sixth suspect was shot and killed during the operation.

Iraqi police and U.S. advisors were searching for a suspected cell member believed to be associated with the Islamic State of Iraq terrorist organization. The suspect allegedly facilitates vehicle-bomb attacks targeting civilians and security forces in central and northern Iraq.

The team established a cordon and began searching a house in western Mosul for the suspect. During the search, a suspect fled from the building on foot. A member of the security team pursued the suspect and apprehended him. The suspect became combative and aggressively grabbed the weapon of a security team member, who shot and killed the suspect.

Police arrested five suspected associates based on preliminary questioning and evidence gathered during the operation.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 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 Nov. 19 in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when a suicide car-bomber attacked their unit. They were assigned to the 782d Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Killed were:
  • Staff Sgt. John J. Cleaver, 36, of Marysville, Wash.; and

  • Sgt. Daniel A. Frazier, 25, of Saint Joseph, Mo.

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

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OEF Summary, Nov. 24, 2009: Forces in Afghanistan Kill Militant, Detain Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2009 -- Combined Afghan and international forces killed an enemy militant and detained numerous suspects in recent operations in Afghanistan, military officials reported.

In Kandahar province today, a combined force detained several suspected militants, including a known Taliban facilitator responsible for the financial and logistical support of militant elements in the area.

Tips from intelligence sources led the force to search compounds near the village of Bahay Dehe Sufla, southwest of Kandahar City. The suspects were detained without resistance, and one confirmed his identity as the Taliban facilitator.

In another operation today, a combined force detained a sought-after Haqqani terrorist network facilitator and several other militants in Khost province. Tips from intelligence sources led the force to search a compound near the village of Maymad Kalay in the Sabari district. The militants were detained without resistance, and one identified himself as the Haqqani facilitator.

In an operation in Parwan province yesterday, a combined force detained a prominent insurgent leader associated with indirect-fire attacks near Bagram Airfield.

On Nov. 22 in Ghazni province, a combined force killed ane enemy militant and detained another suspected militant while pursuing a Taliban commander known to lead militant foreign-fighter elements and to be responsible for several attacks in the area.

The force searched a compound near the village of Ali Niazi in the Qara Bagh district after intelligence sources indicated militant activity. While clearing the compound, the force shot and killed an armed militant after he displayed hostile intent, then searched the compound without further incident, recovering pistols and grenades and detaining the suspected militant.

In a separate Nov. 22 operation, a combined force detained several suspected militants near the village of Kashimiri Bala in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province while pursuing a sought-after Taliban weapons facilitator operating in the area.

The force searched compounds after intelligence sources reported militant activity and recovered small-arms weapons, grenades, multiple assault rifle ammunition magazines and a military-grade night optical device.

In another operation Nov. 22 near the village of Ebrahim Kheyl, also in Logar’s Baraki Barak district, a combined force detained several suspected militants while pursuing a Taliban commander linked with local senior Taliban leaders and actively operating in the area. The force targeted compounds after intelligence reported militant activity in that area. The search went off without incident, and the suspected militants were detained.

Also on Nov. 22, a combined force detained several militants in Kandahar province, one of whom is a known Taliban facilitator, reportedly linked to senior local Taliban leaders and involved with a suicide-bomber element in the area.

The force searched buildings in the Molla Alla Kalay neighborhood of Kandahar City after intelligence sources reported the facilitator to be located there. The search was completed without incident, and several militants, one of whom surrendered immediately and identified himself as the Taliban facilitator, were detained.

In an operation in Kandahar province Nov. 21, a combined force detained a group of suspected militants while pursuing a senior Taliban commander from northern Kandahar. The force searched a vehicle in Ghorak district without incident and detained the occupants for additional questioning.

Also on Nov. 21, a combined force in Paktika province detained two militants, one of whom was a sought-after Haqqani facilitator who was dressed in women's attire to avoid capture. The facilitator is believed to be responsible for financing and transporting weapons and fighters to other militant elements in the area.

The force targeted a compound near the village of Nasruddin Kelay in the Bermel district where intelligence sources reported the facilitator to be located, searched the compound without incident, and detained the suspected militants. Afghan members of the force immediately saw through the facilitator’s disguise when they questioned him, and were able to identify him.

In a separate operation in Kandahar province Nov. 21, a combined force detained two militants, one of whom was a sought after Taliban facilitator responsible for several attacks in the area who has links to local Taliban senior leaders.

The force targeted buildings on the north side of Kandahar City where intelligence sources reported the facilitator to be located, searched the buildings without incident, and detained the suspected militants, one of whom was identified as the facilitator.

No civilians were harmed in the operations, officials said.

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

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