Monday, February 28, 2005

ipod, truth locals and troops

I was going to get an ipod, but I remembered that I had to beware of the world around me. To notice that there are no children or pets playing on the street, or there are no animals or insect noises at night, to hear the sounds of nature and human race mix. For many while listening on an ipod, they are oblivious to the world. Listeners can not pick up on the vibe of the street, since they are engrossed with their world of music. Those are the signs of possible danger and a threat to fellow soldiers. One can escape the world by plugging into their ipod and not notice what is going on during a convoy, or hear incoming while walking back from the shower or DFAC, but that can be dangerous. That is one reason I will not get an ipod: I want to return home alive.

Check out the following articles on the same subject of the increasing size of the Afghan National Army. See their bias or slant:
Al jazerera: US pushes Afghans' frontline training
Arutz Sheva: Afghani Army Growing and Preparing To Fight Taliban
The Guardian: Afghan Army Increases to 20,000 Troops
Boston Herald: Afghan army reaches 20,000
WBOC-TV: U-S military braced for increased Taliban violence as winter ebbs

Is this just serving what the customer wants, reporting only the truth, or what the publishers think what the truth should be?


It looks like the locals are sick of the war and are telling Coalition Forces where caches of weapons are at. After 25 years of war, it looks that everyday people want to get back to living their lives without weapons all over the place.

I wonder if this means that there will be no American troops in Europe in 20 years from now.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Weather, Falluja and Norway

It is cold, snowing, raining and windy, so I will be in the gym in a few minutes then do an early dinner at DFAC. After that I will try to get a head of some paper work. If it warms up tomorrow I will journey to Mainz to see some Roman ruins.

Do you want to see how the soldiers of the US Army really took Falluja down? MTV or BET could not put together this video. This is what we call the ground truth. Not the BS on the TV. This is the real deal. Be warned it is big, so I hope you have a high speed internet access. This is where you can get it. The sound track is on some soldier's ipods in this unit.

It looks like the Norwegians like us, so much they want to join our party! More the merrier. This is interesting that Norway, a European country, is not putting these forces into ISAF, but under US command. This shows that Norway is sending the right troops for the mission. Their mission is not the win the hearts and minds, but more of the put-a-bullet-in-the-head-of-the-target or officially know as direct action. (more here)

Saturday, February 26, 2005

1FCK, ISAF and humor

Today I went to a football or soccer game between 1FCK and Wolfsburg. It was an ok game with the score of 0-0. I purchased a scarf with the 1FCK logo on it; a few locals walked up to me after the game and asked me the score of the game. I answered in my oh-so fluent Deutsch with the score. Maybe I fooled a few with my native accent. The game was all right, but it was fun to watch the real rabid fans at the ends of the pitch bang their drums, wave their team flags and scream for the whole game. There were lots of security and polizei around. If you saw the amounts of beer that was flowing at the beer tents before the game outside the stadium and at half time you would have thought there would be a riot, but every body was well behaved, except for the kid who sat behind me and taught me how to curse at the referee.

Here is some good analysis of the expanding role of ISAF in Afghanistan. It is interesting that it does not mention that the conditions that some countries attach to their aid that makes it hard for the Afghani government to implement. Also I am surprised that the Spanish are getting back in to the game. Guess who is running the EU based ISAF? The Turks are known to be aggressive fighters and after the bombing in Istanbul, there will be no love lost between the Turks and al Qeuada. This will be interesting.

SRT humor.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Commanders time, artillery, briefings

My Commanding Officer did something pretty cool today. He told us; if you are finished with your work go home. Also he made Monday, commanders time or more commonly known as a day off. For the troops who live in Germany or other countries near by this is great. It is more time off to be with your family. I am kind of jealous, but I don’t fault them, I would be screaming down the autobahn to my family if they lived near by. For us who were mobilized from America we are just hanging around the barracks. Hitting the gym and running a few miles will be on the agenda. I might head into town and go find a museum or walk around the city. Maybe on Monday I will take the train to Mainz to see some old Roman ruins.

Here is a web page of artillery men in Afghanistan. It is professionally done and had great text and images.

We will be starting briefs on the foreign militaries that we will work with. One purpose is familiarizing troops with the uniforms, rank structure, insignia and customs of our allies that are in Afghanistan. Also it will help alleviate the chance of international incidents. I don’t want a troop to mistake a Turk for a Greek. With the expanding ISAF presence in Afghanistan the briefs will be more important for the troops.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Coffee, newsletter, images and mistakes

Every morning I have a couple cups of coffee. In the mess hall during breakfast I make an army field expedient latté mocha: a mug of coffee and chocolate milk. When I say I have one or two “cups of coffee” that is an understatement, since I bought a big mug with the lid that automatically seals up at AAFES. The mugs are pretty big. They are great since you can carry a mug of coffee and not spill it while driving in a humvee or flying in a helicopter. One time a troop was asked how he like his coffee and he answered “I like my coffee like my woman: hot, tanned and sweet.”


This is the US military newsletter for the troops in Afghanistan. It is a little different from the New York Times. Check out page nine on the effectiveness of SAPI plates.


These photos will never make in the press. No blood or guts, just soldiers helping the locals. Also these soldiers will be going home soon, because my unit will be replacing them. I hope they have some fun in the sun for me.


Is this how the Air Force deals with mistakes? via Schanenfreude

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dilemma, profile and movies

One of the big dilemmas a soldier has to face is what to bring when traveling down range. There is a packing list that is put out by higher headquarters that has the usual items: sleeping bag, air mattress, tactical (helmet, IBA, load bearing vest….) equipment, toiletries, ect.. but the bottom line is you can bring all you want but the weigh can not exceed 400 pounds. Here is the kicker: the 400 pounds includes the soldiers’ body weight. If the soldier is a big guy that weighs 200 pounds, he will have to pack all the tactical gear, weapon and three days worth of rations, into a ruck sack and duffle bag. That means he might be able to stuff a paperback novel for a personal item into the cargo pocket of his pants. On the other hand one of the smaller and lighter troops said that he would carry extra personal items of others for a small fee or 10 dollars per pound. Capitalism lives in the enlisted ranks.

Here is a psychiatrist who profiled the enemy. The stereotype that is propagated in the media is inaccurate. This is vital reading so we can understand and defeat our enemies.

Hollywood should read this, so I will not be laughing at the movies too much. Most movies with a military theme I find are funny, because of all the inaccuracies with uniforms, hair cuts and the way the military is portrayed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Kobenhavn, classes and Afghan voice

I had a great time in Kobenhavn. My hosts were fun and informative and taught me a little bit about life in Denmark. If you are into bicycles, move to Kobenhavn. It is a bike friendly town and each street has a bicycle lane.

If you are going to eat out bring lots of Danish Kroners. We ate dinner at Amokka, a café and it was good, but expensive. I bought dinner for three adults and one child and it totaled 1042 Danish Kroners or 185 USD or 162 Euros. We did not go crazy, but 25% was sales tax. Now I understand why lots of people eat over at friend’s house, drinks lots of beer or wine, and then go out.

It is nice to go to a city that is pedestrian friendly and it shows in Kobenhavn. Also I saw the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace. It was pretty impressive and the band was good.

There is retail district that has a nice pedestrian street with good stores along and at the end of it has the Round Tower. Go walk the tower to the top to get a good view of the city!

Over all I had a great time. I will post images once I get my camera in the mail since I left it back in Denmark.


Today we were going to have a PT test, but there is snow all over the place, so maybe next week.

The rest of the day was classes on field craft such a calling in a nine line medevac request.


Afghan voice is a web site that I found that has a around up of what is going on in Afghanistan.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Kobenhavn, winning, CH-47 and RIP.

I am back from Kobenhavn, Danmark. More Later.

Guess who says we are winning in Iraq? Senator Hillary Clinton. Ladies are usually right.

Do you want to know how I will get around in Afghanistan? A CH-47 or more commonly known as a Chinook and read this for some insight of the pilots and crews of the Chinooks.

Sh$%hook drivers still have that soldier sense of humor:

They — like all deployed soldiers — feel overworked and under-loved. Soldiers and supplies come on; soldiers and supplies go off. Crews fly around the clock.
For many, this is their second Afghan rotation, which will probably be extended.
“‘Go first. Stay longer. Come back last.’ That’s this company in a nutshell,” Gustin said.
Crew dogs fly every day. “I fly 30 days a month,” Hammond said. “We need more crew dogs,” MacCauley says, for once totally serious. “That’s all there is to it.”
Helicopters leak. Helicopters break. The crews’ motto is “if it ain’t leakin’, it ain’t flyin’.”
“They’re 50 years old,” Brunet said of the Chinooks, shrugging. “Of course they break.”

HST. RIP. A great American writer. Read Hells Angels. It will be a classic.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Soul food, traveling and the new Governor

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Back on the 6th of January I wrote about soul food Thursday. Here is an image of some ribs, corn, greens, yams, rice, salad, pecan pie and milk from this weeks serving. The tray was empty of food when I was done. The food here is pretty good.

I will be heading to Copenhagen, Denmark this weekend to meet some of my wife’s family. We are on the downward slope to the ready ramp, soon I will be marching on to the big iron bird that will take me down range. Many troops who live locally or in Europe are going to see their family this weekend. I am just playing tourist.

This should drive al Qaeda crazy. The President Karzai just appointed the first female governor. Would this have happened if the US just threw some cruise missiles instead of invading after 9/11? Now the US Army is now helping Afghanistan join the 21st century.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Work, Valentines and scorecard.

If you think you have it hard at work read this. This is what we call “suck it up and deal with it” in the army.

Earlier this week Wifey and I observed St. Valentines day; we did not celebrate like usual with the nice dinner and champagne. I sent some roses and we talked on the phone. That is the best we can do. I will make it up to wifey for this lack of celebrating later when I get back. I do love and miss her a lot.

Another one bites the dust. Time to update the scorecard on AQ

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Best car and leave

Do you want to know what the best car in the world is? It can do 180 kph easy, has a great stereo system, corners like a jet fighter and has lots of storage area. Don’t you know what type of car it is? It is a rental! Sign the contract and fly down the autobahn!

We are getting a few days off now. Most of the unit is made up of expat Americans living in Europe, now they can visit their families before we fly out. For the stateside crew it is day trips to keep busy or do some extra training. We may start practicing how to clean rooms. No vacuum cleaner needed, just a M-4 and some flash bangs. Time for fun in the rubber room.

Monday, February 14, 2005

SERE and tourist

We just finished Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training. During the prisoner section we went over the code of conduct. It was all right, for me it was a good review, but when dealing with be a prisoner, a few guys said that will not happen to them. In past wars we have fought countries that treated us some-what to the Geneva Conventions and others that inflicted serious amounts of pain, but you did have a chance to make it home alive. Now we are facing an enemy that shows no quarter. One troop said it was better to go out as a warrior, than be doped up on special K, beg for your life on Al-Jarzeera and have your head hacked off on video that will be downloaded onto the internet.

What is amazing since the fall of Saddam in Iraq and the start of OEF in Afghanistan there is only officially one prisoner/MIA. If you think back to other wars America has fought, there were many prisoners or missing in action. Considering how many soldiers, sailors, marines and air force personnel, who have rotated through theater, it is mind boggling that the US has only one POW/MIA. This is a tribute to all ranks, especially the lower ranks that make sure that we leave nobody behind.


Robert over at the Expat Yank has a link to some tourist who just arrived in England to do “charity work.” Here is the tourist guide book written by our kind friends at al Queada or the new Minutemen.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Roadtrip

“Nothing prepares you for it. It is overwhelming and the smell is still there.” That is what First Sergeant said and he was right.

I am not the smartest guy on the planet and I know that, so I will not write a thousand word essay on going to Dachau, much better has been done in the past by others.

Here are some photos and I will just give you a few random thoughts:

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It cost two Euros to park your car there. Why? Do we still have to make a few bucks on this?

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As you can see it was a grey and rainy day. The weather matched the location and my mood.

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Most of the cars were German, with a few from France and Italy. A couple of visitors were from China or Japan.

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While walking through the exposition there were a map of Germany with just not the major camps(Dachau, Flossenburg,….) but collection camps, major work farms, youth camps and factories where skilled or able bodied concentration victims worked. The map had locations all over Germany. There were copies of victim’s photo ID cards who worked for BMW, Agfa and other major German companies who contributed to the Nazi war effort. Have those companies made reparations to the workers/victims? They had to put in bids (Reich marks per person per day) for slave labor that the SS supplied. The management of the companies must have known what was going on.

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I will now laugh when I hear that Germans at the time did not know what was going on in the camps. How stupid were they? The Dachau facility was not in the countryside; it was across the street from the industrial park of the town. Did the residents see the victims get off the trains and the corpses shoveled out the train? Could they not hear what was going on in the camp? Did the smell of the crematorium give a clue? It is only a few blocks from the center of the town. Did the SS, guards and camp administrators go in to the surrounding area and tell the truth and boast about their great deeds for the fatherland?

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Some of the guards and others involved were pardoned, released from jail or the statue of limitations just ran out on their crimes.

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One of the prisoners was Irish.

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Many of the victims were hanged right in front of the crematorium ovens.


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This there the ashes of thousands are buried.

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Dauchau was liberated by a US army unit. (more here)

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Now some Germans are saying they were victims too; give me a break.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Domain, estimates, tool, PT and quote

My good friend Mary Barrett has beaten the cybersquaters who has taken his God given right for his own domain. (in the dot com realm!) So go check out his web site now!

I do not know accurate these reports are, but I wonder how they come up with these estimates. The next rotation for US forces in Afghanistan.


SPIDERS is one of the new of the new high tech tools that the army is putting to use in Afghanistan.

I will be roadtriping tomorrow. More to come.

Physical fitness training was a good but a pain this morning. We did two “pyramids” of push ups and sit ups. Do a set of ten push ups, then a set of nine…all the way to one. It was just 54 push ups but it was…..then the same with sit ups then top it off with flutter kicks. I am still sore typing this out and getting old.

Quote: that name-tag defilade is overrated

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

MWR, boomerang and quote.

Morale, Welfare and Recreation(MWR) Germany, arranges ski and snowboard trips and other activities for soldiers that are at a good price, so I will be going a few trips either to Engleberg, Jungfrau, Feldberg, or St. Anton later this month. I will not be cutting the slopes in Afghanistan next season, so I will make the most of it while I am here in Germany.

Boomerang (More here) looks like a great piece of equipment that I might be using. It is amazing how fast equipment is coming on line.

Quote for the day: Let’s not make this into pole vaulting over rat turds.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

CNN, classes

Supposedly I am now part of a death squad, targeting CNN reporters, according to CNN. This is pretty sad of them to say that. More here.

Recently we had a few classes on hands and arms signals for air assault and dismounted operations(Page 15-20) and the other class was on individual movement techniques. They were fun and interesting.

Ralph Peters is spot on.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Rambo, Super Bowl and news.

Rambo is alive and well in Afghanistan. Really, I bet you will not mess with him or you might get a dope slap with his lead pipe.

I watched the Super Bowl live this morning and thank God that the Pats won or more accurately the Eagles self-destructed and gave the game away. The only thing that blew was that the game was on AFN and there were no commercials, just public service announcements (PSAs) about drunk driving and other bad behavior. While the PSAs were going I got up and got some beer and chips.

Here is more good news from Afghanistan. Why don’t this make the news?

Time to go to bed. PT at 6:30 am

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Training

Two times a week while conducting physical fitness training, we practice drills from Krav Maga. This is the kind of training that is good to know, but you pray that you not have to use it. It is interesting that there is no rank when instruction is being conducted, just instructors and students. This form of combative training is being taught not for finding inner peace, but to kill the enemy in the fewest moves possible. We were practicing blocks and the instructor said you could block a knife with your forearms. A few troops laughed and said that would suck, but when the Sergeant pulled up his sleeve and showed a big scar, he said “it was better to get a few stitches than a sucking chest wound”.

One of the best places for information on Afghanistan is over at Strategy Page. It reads as cleaned up for public consumption J-2 brief.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Dachau and women.

I was going to head to Dachau later today, but the Die Bahn or the German train system said it would take four to five hours to travel each way, cost 140 Euros for a train ticket, plus the cost of a hotel and bus out to Dachau from Munich, it would be cheaper and easier to just rent a car to drive on the autobahn. I will visit Dachau later this month.

If you look at the website for the National Organization for Women, their last press release that was related to Afghanistan was dated May 2002. If no news is good news, this means the fight for women’s rights is going well by their standards or they would be writing more press releases telling the President that there should more should be done on the behalf of women. Maybe President Bush is looking after the rights women or his policies are helping women directly or indirectly.

Here are two web sites that you can look at to help Afghani women. Women for Afghan Women and Bpeace look pretty good
to me. I googled (is to “google” a verb?) both organizations in the news section and nothing came up, so in the theme of this post, no news is good news, these organization must be all right.

Maybe this (more here) will incite the NOW to ask the president to take direct action against the Iranian Government. A female soldier in the unit saw this and said she would make short work of the men in the image with her M-249 SAW.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Mail

The other day I received a care package in the mail from Wifey. It was a good sized box with lots of pogey bait (chocolate, twizzlers, beef jerky, starburst….) newspapers from home, magazines and other great items. When I opened the box a few soldiers were watching and joking that I should give them some of my treats and I did since some troops will never get any mail or gifts from “family” or “friends”. I feel bad for them so I figure sharing some of my gifts would be the only decent thing to do. We passed the newspapers and magazines around, so they will not have to burn their money on something that they would trash in a few hours.

A few troops commented that I am lucky that I have a wife that spent the money and time to send a care package in the mail and I should keep her around. I tell them that I will do everything in my power to do so. If you know somebody in the military, send them a letter in the mail. Email is great, but to receive a letter or package during mail call is special, because it symbolizes that somebody when out of their way to send you a little piece of home. When you are in the middle of nowhere, humping a rucksack, receiving mail can lift morale, trust me I know.

If you are willing to send a letter to a troop, email me and I will send you a name and address of a soldier. The military has stopped the program of delivering mail addressed to “any soldier.” It takes to much time and resources.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Metz

This past weekend I went to Metz, France for a day trip so I would not earn the title of “barracks rat.” You can only work out so much, cruise the internet, eat and sleep without going insane.

Traveling in Europe by train is easy because everything so close. Within an hour or two anybody can be in three or four countries. Anyway, I have to say that the Die Bahn ICE trains are clean, efficient and on time. Would you expect anything less from the Germans? The cost of train tickets to Metz, France and return were fifty eight Euros or seventy-five Dollars.

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I traveled to Saarbucken then switched trains to the French SNCF system, The French train was quick, had a maximum speed of 140 kph and were manufactured by Alstom.

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In this part of Germany there were a few factories, lots of small farms and there were deer hunting stands next to the forest areas.

When I crossed into France, I noticed that there were no cattle or horses roaming around, maybe it was the time of year. Getting closer to Metz, it looked a lot like the US. There were new housing developments that were going up on farmland that were built for single families and a couple of them had swimming pools. In the suburbs, while on the train I saw a McDonalds and a 10 screen cinema advertising the latest movies from America mixed with the local French fare.

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The train station in Metz looks very impressive and I found out that it was built by the Germans during the occupation. I am not sure of which one, since this part of Europe has gone back and forth between Germany and France.

While walking from the from the train station to the cathedral, I saw at St. Nicholas square another out post of civilization: Le Comptoir Irelandais. Yes another Irish goods store that sells lots of Irish whiskey, jumpers, and sweets. It was fun to brose around.

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After that I headed to the Cathedral that was one of the main attractions of Metz. I will not go in to detail, there were a few interesting points. First you can go in and walk around for free. I did that at first and when you walk behind the altar; you will see graffiti. Not any old graffiti, but people chiseled their names into the pillars, like Pierre did back in 1751 and Jacques in 1814. Some people never learn. Also you can pay two Euros and walk down to the crypt and see models of other French cathedrals, statues and other parts of the church. The two Euros will also get you into the sacristy. There will see gold chalices, rings, staffs and other religious items that go back five hundred to a thousand years. Most of the church valuables were taken during the French Revolution.

After the cathedral was the Musees de la Cour d’Or. It was good with the works of Dieder Barra were featured in a special exposition. The museum cost 4.50 Euros and is worth it. The only drawback is if you have a broken leg or use a wheelchair forget it, there are lots of stairs and no elevators.

After that I walked around the city center looking at the shops. There were a few signs of the impending doom. Footlocker, Burger King, Subway and McDonalds were doing a brisk trade. A big mac, fries and coke went for five Euros or six dollars and fifty cents. There were no big department stores around, but I did stumble up upon HMV. The new U2 release was on sale for 18 Euros or 23.48 dollars.

I was looking for a nice restaurant for dinner, but most opened at 8:00 or later, so I settled for a brassiere . A bowl of onion soup, small steak, French fries on a piece lettuce, chocolate mouse with a bottle of Pierre and cappuccino went for 22 Euros. It was a nice meal and the waitress gave me a menu that was in English to make dinner easier to order.


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When I was walking around I found a small pastry shop, and the ladies who were working there thought I was German. So they asked me where I came from in Germany, so I told them that I am an American soldier in K-town. They said “you are good, America number one.” I was pleasantly surprised, I thought I would get lectured about the evils of America, but they are nice ladies everywhere. Maybe they remember how America liberated Metz from the Nazis and moved on.

The train back to K-town from Metz started from Paris and was heading to Frankfurt. It was not as nice as the German ICE train. It looked like a 1960 river cruiser instead on the sleek 21st century German spaceship on wheels. Even the Polizei was nice to me when I handed my military ID card while they were looking for illegal aliens.