Thursday, August 19, 2010

Last Combat Brigade Leaves Iraq

This article from AOL documents the exit from Iraq of the last combat brigade, the 4th Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.

However, as long as one American soldier remains in Iraq, there will be an insurgent (foreign terrorist, disenchanted Sunni, or radical Shiite) trying to kill them. DO NOT FORGET THOSE TROOPS WHO REMAIN BEHIND.

It ain't over 'till the fat lady sings, i.e. until the last soldier leaves Iraq.

No matter what you feel about America's conquering of Saddam Hussein, the fact remains that we will ultimately leave a country that has been given a chance at liberty and self-determination.

What they do with that opportunity after we are gone is up to them.....

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Last US Combat Brigade Pulls Out of Iraq

Rebecca Santana, Associated Press

EDITOR'S NOTE: The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was officially designated the last combat brigade to leave Iraq under Obama's plan to end combat operations in Iraq by Aug. 31. Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana joined the troops on their final journey out of the country.

KHABARI CROSSING, Kuwait (Aug. 18) -- As their convoy reached the barbed wire at the border crossing out of Iraq on Wednesday, the soldiers whooped and cheered. Then they scrambled out of their stifling hot armored vehicles, unfurled an American flag and posed for group photos.

For these troops of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, it was a moment of relief fraught with symbolism. Seven years and five months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade was leaving Iraq, well ahead of President Barack Obama's Aug. 31 deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there.

When 18-year-old Spc. Luke Dill first rolled into Iraq as part of the U.S. invasion, his Humvee was so vulnerable to bombs that the troops lined its floor with flak jackets.

Now 25 and a staff sergeant after two tours of duty, he rode out of Iraq this week in a Stryker, an eight-wheeled behemoth encrusted with armor and add-ons to ward off grenades and other projectiles.

"It's something I'm going to be proud of for the rest of my life - the fact that I came in on the initial push and now I'm leaving with the last of the combat units," he said.

He remembered three straight days of mortar attacks outside the city of Najaf in 2003, so noisy that after the firing ended, the silence kept him awake at nights. He recalled the night skies over the northern city of Mosul being lit up by tracer bullets from almost every direction.

Now, waiting for him back in Olympia, Wash., is the "Big Boy" Harley-Davidson he purchased from one of the motorcycle company's dealerships at U.S. bases in Iraq - a vivid illustration of how embedded the American presence has become since the invasion of March 20, 2003.

That presence is far from over. Scatterings of combat troops still await departure, and some 50,000 will stay another year in what is designated as a noncombat role. They will carry weapons to defend themselves and accompany Iraqi troops on missions (but only if asked). Special forces will continue to help Iraqis hunt for terrorists.

So the U.S. death toll - at least 4,415 by Pentagon count as of Wednesday - may not yet be final.

The Stryker brigade, based in Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and named for the vehicle that delivers troops into and out of battle, has lost 34 troops in Iraq. It was at the forefront of many of the fiercest battles, including operations in eastern Baghdad and Diyala province, an epicenter of the insurgency, during "the surge" of 2007. It evacuated troops at the battle of Tarmiyah, an outpost where 28 out of 34 soldiers were wounded holding off insurgents.

Before the Aug. 31 deadline, about half the brigade's 4,000 soldiers flew out like most of the others leaving Iraq, but its leadership volunteered to have the remainder depart overland. That decision allowed the unit to keep 360 Strykers in the country for an extra three weeks.

U.S. commanders say it was the brigade's idea, not an order from on high. The intent was to keep additional firepower handy through the "period of angst" that followed Iraq's inconclusive March 7 election, said brigade chief, Col. John Norris.

It took months of preparation to move the troops and armor across more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) of desert highway through potentially hostile territory.

The Strykers left the Baghdad area in separate convoys over a four-day period, traveling at night because the U.S.-Iraq security pact - and security worries - limit troop movements by day.

Along the way, phalanxes of American military Humvees sat at overpasses, soldiers patrolled the highways for roadside bombs, and Apache attack helicopters circled overhead as the Strykers refueled alongside the highway.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gus McKinney, a brigade intelligence officer, acknowledged that moving the convoys overland put soldiers at risk, but said the danger was less than in past.

The biggest threat was roadside bombs planted by Shiite extremist groups who have a strong foothold in the south, McKinney said.

But except for camels straying into the road, and breakdowns that required some vehicles to be towed, there were no incidents.

The worst of the ride was conditions inside the Strykers - sitting for hours in a cramped space - and the temperatures outside that reached 50 Celsius (120 Fahrenheit).

The driver's compartment is called the "hellhole" because it sits over the engine and becomes almost unbearably hot. The vehicle commander and gunner can sit up in hatches to see the outside world. At the tail end are hatches for two gunners. Eight passengers - an infantry squad in combat conditions - can squeeze in the back.

Riding as a passenger felt a bit like being in a World War II-era submarine - a tight fit and no windows. The air conditioning was switched off to save fuel on the long ride south to Kuwait. Men dozed or listened to music on earphones.

When the convoy finally reached the sandy border, two soldiers, armed and helmeted, jumped off their vehicle and raced each other into Kuwait.

Once out of Iraq, there was still work to be done. Vehicles had to be stripped of ammunition and spare tires, and eventually washed and packed for shipment home.

Meanwhile, to the north, insurgents kept up a relentless campaign against the country's institutions and security forces, killing five Iraqi government employees in roadside bombings and other attacks Wednesday. Coming a day after a suicide bomber killed 61 army recruits in central Baghdad, the latest violence highlighted the shaky reality left by the departing U.S. combat force and five months of stalemate over forming Iraq's next government.

For Dill, who reached Kuwait with an earlier convoy, the withdrawal engendered feelings of relief. His mission - to get his squad safely out of Iraq - was accomplished.

Standing alongside a hulking Stryker, his shirt stained with sweat, he acknowledged the men who weren't there to experience the day with him.

"I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot, to finally see us getting out of here," he said.

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Well done, 4th Stryker Brigade.....

Charles M. Grist

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Seven Green Berets Awarded The Silver Star

The following article is from CNN:

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7 Special Forces soldiers to get Silver Star for Afghan valor

Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer

Fort Bragg, North Carolina (CNN) -- It's been clear for months that the fighting in Afghanistan is more intense than it's been since the war there started nearly nine years ago. Yet, from the midst of those increasingly violent firefights come some amazing stories of heroism.
On Monday, seven soldiers will receive public recognition for their actions during a Silver Star ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The medals -- the third-highest award for valor in the Army -- are being awarded for five separate battles over a span of more than two years.
Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Gonzalez and Sgt. 1st Class Mark Roland were part of Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (SFODA) 732.
On June 11, 2007, their unit was sent to help a group of Afghan soldiers who had been pinned down by an enemy attack. When the unit arrived, they and their fellow soldiers were immediately enveloped in the same ambush by a much larger enemy force.
Even though the enemy was firing from just 10 feet, Roland immediately climbed out of the relative safety of his armored vehicle and started attacking enemy fighters in a nearby wadi, or dry streambed.
He and his fellow soldiers killed two of the enemy and cleared the rest of the wadi of enemy attackers, all while under fire from snipers. Their actions meant the enemy was no longer a threat to his unit's rear flank.
About the same time, Gonzalez saw that four Afghan soldiers were pinned down by enemy fire. He jumped out of his vehicle and ran nearly 40 yards through enemy fire.
"Without regard for his life," the Army account read, "over the course of three trips through enemy fire, he rescued all four soldiers and brought them back to the safety of his armored vehicle." He did it all while under fire from enemy sniper and machine gun fire.
After clearing the wadi and getting back in his vehicle, Roland saw eight Afghan soldiers who were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire. He got out of his vehicle, ran through enemy fire and moved four of the Afghan soldiers back to his vehicle and directed the other four to another armored vehicle.
All told, the actions of Roland and Gonzalez -- both of whom had already received the Bronze Star for past battle -- and their fellow soldiers defeated the ambush and led to the death of 60 enemy fighters including two Taliban commanders, according to the Army.
Staff Sgts. Mario Pinilla and Daniel Gould also had Bronze Star medals to their name, and Gould had also received the Silver Star for past heroics. They were both serving with Special Operational Detachment Alpha 7134 near Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.
The two were checking reports of Taliban movements near the village of Faramuz when they were ambushed near a river. Pinilla saw one of his fellow soldiers pinned down by enemy fire and already shot twice. Pinilla grabbed a large machine gun, ran through enemy fire, shooting back the entire time, then dived to the ground to block the enemy fire from his wounded colleague, according to the Army.
During a 10-minute firefight, he was shot twice. Eventually, more soldiers showed up to help Pinilla and the other wounded man. The Army account says even though he was wounded, Pinilla didn't stop fighting.
"While his fellow detachment members fought to get to him back to safety, Sergeant Pinilla drew his 9mm Beretta and continued engaging the enemy's ambush line, despite being critically injured," the account reads.
Gould also put his life on the line to save a fellow soldier.
When the Taliban ambushed the unit, he got into an intense half-hour gun battle with the enemy. His helmet was shot off his head, and he was hit once in his body armor.
During the fight, he saw one of his teammates, who was much closer to the enemy, get shot and critically wounded. According to the Army, he used a large machine gun to neutralize the enemy that was the greatest threat to the wounded man, giving a medic a chance to go help the soldier. Then, knowing then man need to be evacuated, Gould joined the medic first in dragging the wounded soldier through nearly 50 yards of enemy fire, and then carrying the wounded man the last 40 yards on his shoulders until they all reached safety.
An enemy unit ambushed Master Sgt. Julio Bocanegra's convoy on August 26, 2008. During the attack in Paktika province, Bocanegra noticed that a group of four Afghan national policemen were pinned down by the enemy, their pickup truck blocking the route for the rest of the unit. According to the Army, Bocanegra jumped out of his vehicle and ran through a hail of fire to reach the Afghan police, all but one of whom was wounded. The Army account spells out how he helped get them to safety.
"Sergeant Bocanegra then disregarded the enemy fire and picked up one of the wounded and placed him into the vehicle which [was] continuing to receive effective fire. Continuing to ignore the danger to his life, Sergeant Bocanegra then picked up a second policeman with multiple gunshot wounds to both legs and placed him into the vehicle," the account said.
Bocanegra, with the help of the one policeman who had not been shot, got the third wounded officer into the Afghan police pickup truck and moved them all to safety. All three Afghan police officers and three soldiers who had been wounded in the fight survived their injuries.
Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Clouse, an Army veteran, was working with a Marine special operations unit and was walking along a boulder-strewn path when one of his teammates was badly wounded. He immediately provided medical attention to that man. Then, according to the Army, another teammate was wounded.
"SFC Clouse ran through the kill zone to render further medical attention under head machine gun fire that struck the back of his body armor," according to the Army summary of the battle. The second man's life couldn't be saved.
The summary says Clouse continued providing advanced combat first aid amid intense enemy fire.
"Reacting to the calls for assistance from other wounded, SFC Clouse again ran through the kill zone to provide medical assistance," according to the report.
One enemy sniper bullet destroyed Clouse's weapon, but he kept on. All told, Clouse provided medical assistance to four American wounded and one Afghan soldier who'd been wounded in the attack and helped moved them to safety.
Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez was in a convoy of U.S. Special Forces and Afghan national army soldiers traveling through the village of Shewan in Ferah province on May 29, 2008.
As many as 60 insurgents attacked the convoy, disabling Nunez's vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade. The vehicle started burning, and Nunez was worried that other soldiers were still in the vehicle, according to the Army.
"Without regard for his own life, [Nunez] began to discard ammunition and explosives from the rear of the vehicle in order to ensure others were not injured. During this entire period of time, SFC Nunez was engulfed in flames. Ignoring his wounds and the intense concentration of enemy fire, he continued to assist the convoy pinned in the kill zone until he eventually succumbed to his injuries," the battle account reads.
Nunez's obituary noted that he had already received a Bronze Star, an Army commendation medal and numerous other decorations.
After Monday's ceremony at Fort Bragg, his record will be upgraded to include the Silver Star for "his bravery in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, this command and the United States Army."
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America is blessed to have such warriors defending our freedom....
Charles M. Grist

Saturday, August 14, 2010

War Video: How NOT to Plant an IED/Roadside Bomb

This was forwarded by a friend in Kentucky.

NOTE: This video is intense:

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Rule #1: After putting the bomb in a hole, don't tamp the ground too much.
Rule #2: Don't forget rule #1

The attached video of thermal footage was recorded from an AC-130 gunship from a mile or more away. No rounds were fired by the aircraft. The problem solved itself with no American intervention.

Some jihadists were trying to bury a roadside bomb made from a 155 mm artillery shell. Evidently they lost the instruction manual.

The result could not have happened to a more deserving group of people.

The plus for them is that they get to meet those virgins.

However, finding their own working body parts may be a problem!


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The Lord works in mysterious ways...

Charles M. Grist

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sergeant Awarded Silver Star for Valor

An Army sergeant has been awarded the third highest medal for valor in combat for his actions during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2009. The following story is from the Army News Service.

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August 03, 2010

Army News Service
by Don Kramer

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A modest NCO received the Army's third-highest award for valor July 22 during the welcome-home ceremony for 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Staff Sgt. Jarrett D. Brown of 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment 'Buffaloes,' received a Silver Star on Watkins Field at the beginning of a busy ceremony that included the brigade's redesignation and change of command. The acting commanding general of I Corps, Maj. Gen. John D. Johnson paused the proceedings to pin the medal on Jarrett's chest and congratulate him for his conspicuous bravery on Aug. 24, 2009.

On that day, Brown was serving as assistant M-240 machine gunner during a patrol in the Arghandab River Valley, a hotbed of Taliban resistance at that time. The patrol was ambushed and hit by a combination of fires from machine guns, small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

Brown exposed himself to enemy fire to direct his machine gunner to cover a fire team caught in the open, while also firing his rifle. He then directed suppressive fire on the enemy's heaviest weapons.

As the platoon consolidated, Brown's gunner collapsed in the 100-degree heat. He grabbed the machine gun and dragged the gunner to a concealed position, from which he delivered accurate support by fire.

When it became clear the platoon's situation was untenable, the platoon sergeant ordered the squads to break contact. Brown alternately provided covering fire and moved, dragging his gunner with him. When he saw an enemy fire team creeping to within 30 meters of the platoon, he threw his gunner behind the last concealment available, abandoned his own cover and engaged them, killing one and wounding a second enemy fighter.

Brown set up the M-240 and provided suppressive fire as the rest of the platoon covered about 100 meters to better cover and began a faster, bounding egress. He followed them, still carrying his gunner. The platoon came under heavy fire once more before making it back to the Joint District Coordination Center. Brown returned fire and identified multiple targets for other platoon members. His response created space for close-coordination aircraft to be called in to neutralize the enemy and allow the platoon to finally return to safety.

Brown's first action once the platoon was safe was to find medical assistance for his gunner.

Brigade Commander Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV attributed the success of the Destroyer Brigade during its deployment to the countless unselfish acts of individual Soldiers in dangerous situations -- as Brown did.

"The success of the brigade has been due to the willingness of individual Soldiers to be so untiring as they got ready for war and so staunch in their desire to do their duty in harm's way," Tunnell said.

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Well done, Staff Sergeant Brown.

Charles M. Grist

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy 220th Birthday to the U.S. Coast Guard

Happy Birthday to the warriors of the U.S. Coast Guard! Here is a link to a great tribute by USAA .

Charles M. Grist

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

You Could Have Heard A Pin Drop

While there are some (on the left and in the current administration) who think America should apologize to the world, the following history lesson suggests otherwise. Suggest you pass this one on:

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Subject: A Pin Drop

JFK'S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60's when De Gaulle decided to pull out of NATO. De Gaulle said he wanted all US military forces out of France as soon as possible. Rusk responded, "Does that include those who are buried here?"

De Gaulle did not respond. You could have heard a pin drop.

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When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of 'empire building' by George Bush.

Powell answered by saying, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom  beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."

You could have heard a pin drop.

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There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying, "Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?"

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: "Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?"

You could have heard a pin drop.

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A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S. , English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, "Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?"

Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, "Maybe it's because the Brit's, Canadians, Aussie's and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German."

You could have heard a pin drop.

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Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.

"You have been to France before, monsieur?" the customs officer asked sarcastically.

Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.

"Then you should know enough to have your passport ready."

The American said, "The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it."

"Impossible. Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France !"

The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look... Then he quietly explained, ''Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find a single Frenchman to show a passport to."

You could have heard a pin drop.

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We ARE the greatest nation in the world. Our ideals, our sacrifices, and our Constitution have made it so. Perhaps the rest of the world should apologize to America....and thank us as well....

Charles M. Grist

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"My Last War" Wins Gold Medal from Military Writers Society of America

I am pleased to announce that my book, My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq has been awarded a gold medal in the "memoir" category of the 2010 Awards by the Military Writers Society of America.

The MWSA's annual banquet and awards ceremony will be held at the end of September. I will be honored to receive this from such a prestigious group of military authors, and I look forward to meeting some extraordinary men and women.

Thanks again to all of you for your support.

Charles M. Grist -