Wednesday Hero

January 31, 2007

This Weeks Hero Was Submitted By Mark Bell

LCpl. Nicholas J. Manoukian
22 years old from Lathrup, Michigan
1st Marines 6th  Batallion 2nd Marine Division
Oct 21, 2006

Here is a website that LCpl. Manoukian’s mother set up for her son after he lost his life in Ramadi.
These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday.  For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
It Is Foolish And Wrong To Mourn The Men Who Died. Rather We Should Thank God That Such Men Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll.  If you would like to participate in honoring the brave men and women who serve this great country, you can find out how by clicking here.


4-9 News

January 30, 2007

The Picture below and Article by Spc. Alexis Harrison
2-1 Cav. Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq – In order for Soldiers and civilians on the base to sleep soundly, someone needs to stay up all hours of the night to make sure no one gets in who shouldn’t. In order to keep peace and safety in the International Zone, someone needs to control all the traffic.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Soldiers from 4th Squadron, 9 Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, keep watch over the base and every single entry point into the IZ. They know it isn’t glamorous, but they know it’s as vital as any other mission the “Black Jack” Brigade performs.

At all hours of the day and night, someone is watching traffic and pedestrians from atop a guard tower. That someone is a trooper like Pfc. Estanislado Bella from Miami. Bella, who is a part of Troop A, 4-9 Cav., said that if he and his friends weren’t in the towers, there’s no telling what might happen.
“It’s one of those jobs that if it’s not done, somebody’s life could be at risk,” Bella said. “We see a lot from up here [in the tower]. It’s also a good opportunity to get to know your fellow Soldiers. It helps with the cohesiveness of the unit.”

Staying up all night isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish, but Spc. Yosef Spell from Philadelphia, also a part of Troop A, said working as a team can help you get through those cold Iraqi nights. “It’s a lot like a football team,” he said. “You have towork together to get things done.”

Spell recently helped out a friend in a big way. His friend is married to another Soldier in the 13th Sustainment Command out of Fort Hood, Texas. In order for the two to see each other on their mid-tour leave, Spell volunteered his slot, so his buddy could be with his wife.

“A lot of us are really close, but we work together no matter what,” Spell said.

Outside the base, on the outskirts of the IZ, there are Soldiers manning checkpoints at every possible entry route. These Soldiers don’t sit inside a guard tower and wait for something to happen. They get a hands-on view of every vehicle and person that comes inside the gates.

Soldiers from Troop B, 4-9 Cav., pay attention to the little details while doing their jobs. Some search people, some search cars and trucks, and some pull security while watching the ebb and flow of
Iraqis coming and going.

The several steps of security aren’t meant to frustrate incoming persons or impede traffic. The Soldiers from the “Blackhawk” Troop check, check and recheck for anything on the “bolo” list. Things that are on the “do not try to bring into the IZ” list.

Cpl. Karl Sweeting, a medic from Houston, is on his second tour to Iraq. He’s been busy manning the gates into the IZ. Although, he hasn’t had to perform many medical duties while working, he said he still feels a sense of accomplishment after every day at work.

Pfc. Nicholas Jefferson works alongside Sweeting at one of the northern checkpoints. The Van Buren, Ark., native said he’s not in the thick of things like a cavalry scout should be, but he knows what his mission is.

“I wish there was something more we could be doing,” he said. “But, I know that this is our mission, so we’re going to do the best we can to keep all the important people and people who want to make this
place better from getting hurt.”

This mom is grateful for all that the men and women are doing to preserve our freedoms and to combat the War on Terror. Ya’ll Rock!!!  

I will post more on the following graphic very soon!

The Lies We Tell

January 29, 2007

“You look great in those jeans!”

“You are the best cook ever!”

“I will always love you the most!”

We often slip in a little white lie, not to hurt, but to protect the feelings of others.

…And those of us on the receiving end understand. Dinner was not the best, but someone loves us enough to try to shelter us.

“I am not in any danger over here. It is very quiet and boring. I love your brownies!” (OK, the last one I will continue to believe. )

I try to believe the other stories my son tells me because life would be so much easier if that were the truth. Yet, I know deep down in my heart, that he is in danger. I know…

Now back to the one that my L’il Trooper told me when he was 5, “I will always love you most!” Hmmmmm… I think I will continue to believe this one too!

Now I must quickly decide just what is an appropriate gift to send a son for Valentine’s Day. Something that says I love you too and I think you are a fantastic son.

maybe a tank

or a jeep

Chocolate of course… or perhaps some boxers

Because nothing says, “You are a wonderful son” quite like a pair of boxers.

Gosh David, There is no gift that adequately tells you that I am so proud of you. No gift that shows how much we love you.

Unless something jumps out at me at the store tonight, you will have to feel our love when you eat some more of my awesome brownies. (you know, the same ones that you tell me are so good… The brownies that probably could break your teeth by the time they arrive)

For those who are looking to send out a Valentine’s message to our men and women who are away from home, here is a good link: 

Good News Friday (part 3)

January 26, 2007

A member of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment and a native of Griffen, Ga., plays with young children Jan. 15 outside the newest girls and boys school in Mushahidah, Iraq.

Cav Troopers Help Open Three New Schools

Article and Photo By Sgt. Cheryl Cox
1-1 Cav. Public Affairs
MUSHAHIDAH, Iraq – It has been said that fostering education is one of many steps toward improving safety and stability for Iraq’s future-its children.

The Soldiers of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment helped the city of Mushahidah, Iraq, get one step closer to this goal by opening three new schools within the city Jan 15.
The Soldiers assisted with opening a girl’s elementary school, a girl’s secondary school and a boy’s elementary school.
“This project is an example of the close partnership we have with the Mushahidah city council to create a secure, safe and stable environment in Mushahidah,” said Capt. Adrian Spevak, the Co. B, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment commander and a native of Allentown, Pa., during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the girls’ schools.

“It is an honor and privilege to be here for the ceremony, and I look forward to continuing our close relationship with future projects.”

Just as Spevak said he was excited to see the children have a new place to go to school, the Mushahidah city council members said they were also very excited.

“This is a great example for the projects in this area,” said Shiek Naif Moutlak, the chief of the city council. “We thank the coalition for all they have done and hope for other projects in the area to help the people.”

And helping people is what makes all the hard work worth while. “We have been working for six months to get the school to a good standard for the kids,” said Capt. John McGowan, the Company C, 414th Civil Affairs Battalion commander and a native of Birmingham, Ala. “By working with the Iraqi government, we have made a better place for the students to go to school.”

While the council members and the Soldiers celebrated the ribbon cutting, McGowan had chance to talk to a few people at the school.

“By being here talking to the students, I know that they are very happy to have a better place to go school,” he continued. “And the teachers are happy to have a good place to go to work and teach from.”

The newly opened schools are a great improvement from the old schools the children were attending, according to McGowan. “The children now have classrooms with new desks and unbroken windows,” said McGowan. “They also have new school supplies that they may not have had without the help of the coalition partnership,” he added.

Before leaving the girl’s secondary school, Spevak stepped into one of the classrooms to talk to the students.
“I am honored to be here to help make this school a better place,” he told the girls. “It is definitely a privilege to look into the eyes of tomorrow’s leaders in Iraq.”

Good News Friday (part 2)

January 26, 2007

By Polli Barnes Keller
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region North PAO
TIKRIT,Iraq — The $31.2 million rehabilitation and expansion of a 400kV/132kV substation along with the five feeders in the Diyala Province will provide a more reliable power source for over 63,000 people.

Built by local construction companies with quality assurance managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, these renovations and additions will add stability to Iraq’s electrical grid. This 400kV substation is considered to be an important component of the national electrical system, having a significant impact on the national grid.

Rehabilitating this substation not only improves the electrical distribution network in the province by reducing the load of the already overloaded substations; it also increases the reliability of the power supplies for domestic, industrial and commercial uses with less down time.

This substation ties into the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system (SCADA). SCADA is the system that controls the overall national power management and national electrical grid system monitoring and control. It also synchronizes the power facilities throughout Iraq, so they may work together as a system, which ultimately protects the National Network from shutting down when there is an unsynchronized situation.

Shutdowns are common in Iraq as the electrical systems are not yet stable and consumption is more than the source can handle. SCADA is designed to reduce and eventually eliminate blackouts by the continuous automatic monitoring and control of the system which results in a smooth power management procedure and distributes the power available on the national grid evenly all over the country.

“Since 2003, the Government of Iraq has imported electricity from Turkey and Iran, and at one time, Syria to help sustain the national system,” explains Saman Mosa, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, electrical sector project manager. “This solution adds power to the national grid but at a great cost. The goal is for Iraq to be self sufficient and provide its own power source instead of sending money out of the country that can never be recovered.”

It would take 10,000 Mega Watts of electricity to sustain Iraq with constant power 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, the country is only producing 3300 Mega Watts which is only 33 percent of the actual demand and leaves a shortage of 67 percent. Most of the country receives an average of seven hours of power a day broken into two to three hour increments throughout the day.

“While the impact of these projects may not be felt immediately,” explained Major Neil Doherty, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, deputy area engineer-forward, “they are all a part of a larger plan. If the projects continue to proceed at this pace, the people of Iraq will see the results in a matter of months.”

Currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Gulf Region North has 35 completed substations with four under construction and four more scheduled for construction within the year.

One step at a time… Progress is being made!

Good News Friday (part 1)

January 26, 2007

Part 1 is about the Good News that will be coming out of Iraq!

I just received the article below regarding the “Baghdad Bowl”, which will be featured during the Super Bowl pre-game show on CBS.  The Baghdad Bowl will be including our Black Jack Brigade Soldiers. Set your VCR’s (yes, I still have a VCR!)

USA Today

January 24, 2007

Sports on TV      

U.S. Soldiers To Play In CBS’ Baghdad Bowl On Super Sunday

By Michael Hiestand

New bowl games always pop up. But here’s one that, without a title sponsor or teams with track records, gets a fabulous time slot its first time out:

The inaugural Baghdad Bowl, in Iraq, will air during CBS’ Super Bowl pregame show. CBS analyst Randy Cross says he proposed the idea to CBS after visiting a U.S. military base in Afghanistan last year.

The idea is for U.S. soldiers in Iraq – male and female – to don Colts and Bears jerseys for a touch football game that, he jokes, “will give you an early indication” of the Super Bowl winner. 

Not surprisingly, says Suzanne Smith, who is Cross’ director on regular NFL coverage and will go to Iraq with him Monday, this bowl will be creative. Jeeps will be lined up to serve as bleachers, she says, “And we’re talking about making some kind of goalposts.”

She is not sure about player gear – “Maybe they’ll wear their helmets.”Smith, working with the military, says she’ll be supplied with two cameras – “which I guess is a big deal over there” – and help in scouting locations:

“In e-mails, like whenever you do a shoot, they talked about the advantages and disadvantages of two sites. But with this, they talked about which is safer.

But at least the game balls, which will emulate Super Bowl balls, will be emblazoned with “Baghdad Bowl” lettering. After all, Cross says, “The idea is to bring some degree of normalcy to the troops.” 

This video is the  “Navy vs.  Marines Bowl” Fallujah, Iraq!

Our Four Legged Heroes

January 24, 2007

This is my Thursday post. However, I’m not sure if I will have access to the computer tomorrow…. 

Today I choose to honor the four legged Soldiers in the War on Terror. I am thankful for their service and dedication. Hugs to the Dogs and their Handlers.

The Nose Knows
Four-legged ‘Troops’ Sniff Out Explosives

By Staff Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow
2nd BCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – Two of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s most valuable assets never talk about work, preferring to let the results speak for themselves.

Even with their quiet demeanor, they have uncovered numerous weapons caches and explosives, and have become two of the most popular members of the unit.

They are the unit’s two military working dogs, Blacky and Frisko.  The dogs are trained to sniff out explosives and chase down insurgents.  Getting them ready for those essential tasks is up to the handlers.

Blacky, a 2-year-old German shepherd with a dark chocolate coat and handled by Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael Jones. Jones, from Kingswood, W. Va..  The team is attached to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment.

The other dog team with 2-17th FA consists of Frisko, a 6-year-old black-and-brown German shepherd and handler Senior Airman Adam La Barr of Rome, N.Y. La Barr.

The initial training takes about 90 days. The first step is getting the handler and dog comfortable with each other. Handlers bathe and groom the dogs and learn each other’s personalities. Next, the dogs are drilled in obedience, and they begin sniffing for explosives.

All that time and training pays off on the battlefield. Merely having a dog along pays dividends against insurgents, said Jones.

“Just seeing a dog deters them from running away or trying to pass weapons and explosives through,” he said.

But the intimidation and heightened senses would be useless without human input.

“The dog and handler are a team,” Jones said. “One can’t work without the other.”

Part of the handler’s role is to point out areas for the dogs to search. Handlers base the dog’s training plan around areas the dog needs to improve.

“Blacky is not as good at finding things high up…so in training, I make it where he would want to go up high. I put a couple of training aids up, to show him, sometimes, it’s up there,” Jones said.

In the real world, though, the trainer wouldn’t know where the bomb is placed. This is where the dog’s nose comes in handy, and the handler has to understand the dog.

When Blacky comes upon a suspected explosive, he reacts passively.

“He won’t be aggressive, he won’t paw at it,” Jones said. “We don’t want that, if there’s a bomb in there. (The explosive ordnance disposal team) gets paid to go in and mess with it.”

Instead, Blacky sits by the suspected explosive or lies down, if it is lower. Sometimes the response can be even more subtle.

“I look for changes in his behavior, to see when he’s curious about something,” Jones said.

Frisko reacts in a similar way, but each dog has his own method, La Barr said.

The dogs teams’ workload is intelligence-driven, but they usually go on about five missions each week. While the basic job is always the same, it’s an ever-changing game.

“We adapt our techniques to what the enemy would be using,” Jones said.

The dogs have found multiple weapons caches and explosives, he added. When they find something, the dogs get a treat, of sorts.  Jones or La Barr breaks out a misshapen lump of rubber that vaguely resembles a beehive. Blacky and Frisko get to play with the object as the reward for making a find.

“They know if they find something, they’re going to get that one toy and they’re excited,” La Barr said.

While people naturally gravitate to the dogs, Jones said it’s important to remember they are not pets.

“Everyone thinks they can play with them,” he said. “They are trained to be handler-protective. He’s still an animal.” 

As such, the handlers never allow anyone to pet the dogs. “That might soften them up, or it could be seen by the dog as an attack,” La Barr said.

Both handlers said working with dogs is a great job.

“A lot of people over here miss their pets,” La Barr said. “He’s not a pet, but I have a dog I can relate to.”

Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael Jones, attached to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, leads Blacky on a search for explosives at Forward Operating Base Loyalty. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow, 2nd BCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs)


Senior Airman Adam La Barr stands with Frisko, a military working dog, on Forward Operating Base Loyalty. La Barr, attached to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, works with Frisko on missions to track down explosives. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow, 2nd BCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs)