Good news from the ground in Iraq isn’t the only thing the mainstream media fails to report on when it comes to our military. They also miss stories of some of the smaller services such as the Army Veterinary Corps, which is celebrating its 90th year in 2006. Let me give you a quick idea of how the Vet Corps is contributing to our success in Iraq.
A group of Army engineers learned that five villagers, including a child, had been bitten by a stray dog. The dog was killed by the villagers, and buried. Our soldiers, concerned that it could have rabies, dug up the body and sent tissue samples to the Veterinary Corps in Landstuhl, Germany. The dog did have rabies, and the five villagers who were bitten received appropriate medical care, saving their lives, and earning the gratitude of the entire village.
In Anbar Province, soldiers of the Vet Corps travel throughout Iraq conducting food-service inspections:
With wild dogs, snakes and unfamiliar insects running throughout the region, the threat of animal borne illnesses is always present.
“There are a lot of animal borne illnesses here that we are not used to back in the states,” Boyd said. “If someone gets bitten by a wild dog, we work with the doctors who treat the patient in case the dog had rabies or any other type of disease that may infect the victim.”
Congratulations to the men and women of the Veterinary Corps on their 90th anniversary, and thanks for everything you do in the war on terror. My thanks to Melinda Yantis for alerting me to the fine work of the Veterinary Corps.
More Traditional Good News from Iraq
Iraq’s prime minister said last week that his nation’s security forces would be ready to take over security duties for the entire country in 18 months.
Major General William Webster commented that his saw signs of significant progress in Iraq during his tour there as commander of the Third Infantry Division:
“The reality was that we conducted about 800 offensive operations a day,” he said. “That included patrols, logistics, combat patrols, coordinate search operations, detainee operations, traffic control points. And the vast majority of those operations were conducted without any violence at all.
“And when there is a car bomb, it is so vastly different than what happens here, and so vastly different from what the average Iraqi has been experiencing during the day, that it makes the news. And it’s unfortunate that that is all our people here at home see. Cause there’s so much positive going on in Baghdad. Yeah, it’s a violent place. Yes, the war is still going, but our servicemen and -women and the people that are contracted to help them are doing amazing things to help the Iraqi people get on with their lives.
“When we arrived in Baghdad, there was only one Iraqi Army Battalion on the street, fighting at the time. And by the time we left, there were 22 battalions out there helping us secure the city. We have turned over 60 percent of the city to the Iraqi Army to provide security, and they’re doing that.
The State department’s James Jeffrey also sees signs of progress in Iraq. Jeffrey is the coordinator for Iraq policy and senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He predicted that 100 Iraqi light infantry battalions would be engaged in the counterinsurgency fight within 12 months.
During an interview with the AP, Ambassador Khalilzad said he believes Iraq is headed in the right direction:
I am more optimistic now than I have been at times in the past, now that we have the Sunni Arabs participating in the political process, now that we have a government of national unity, but I am, of course, realistic enough to know that there are significant challenges that still are part of the picture. We need a good Defense Minister that has to be still appointed, a good Interior Minister that has to be appointed, and the security situation has to be dealt with. But I think that fundamentally, with the political participation of all communities in the political system, that Iraq has been put on the right trajectory.
General Casey said recently that Iraqis remain optimistic:
Iraqis are hopeful about their future. They have emerged from the yoke of a brutal dictatorship and are determined to realize their full potential as a unified and prosperous nation, secure from the threats of terrorism. Their courage and commitment to overcome years of neglect and oppression is undeniable, evidenced in the broad voter turnout in national elections, investment in agriculture and business ventures, support to Iraqi Security Forces, and expanding involvement in local government. Political and economic efforts are beginning to bear fruit for all Iraqis.
What a Difference Several Months Make
The Iraq 2nd Brigade of the 9th Mechanized Division took over security operations in the Taji region. Seven months ago the 2nd Brigade had no weapons, tanks, APCs, housing, or uniforms, but today they are known as the “jewel of Iraq” by the Iraqi military:
As the new Iraqi army attains capability, more units are taking over security responsibility within their country. The latest example is the Iraqi 2nd Brigade of the 9th Mechanized Division, which assumed responsibility for security in the Taji area during a ceremony here today.
The brigade will be “in the lead” in defending 150 square kilometers of the region, including the cities of Saab al Bour and Hor al Bash.
Iraqi soldiers assumed command of security operation near Sinjar. It is the first time Iraqis have taken control of battle space in this part of Iraq.
The 4th Iraqi Army Division is now in control of the battle space in and around the city of Kirkuk:
The battle space handover was the area’s second this year and another indication of the Iraqi Army taking increased control in one of Iraq’s largest northern provinces.
For the first time in three years, residents of Husaybah are benefiting from a fully-functional police force, and two new police stations.
Steven Alvarez returned from Iraq with a newfound respect for Iraqi soldiers:
Uniformed Iraqis are the whipping boys of American foreign-policy criticism, and while it may be true that pockets of Iraqi soldiers suffered from what we called “tiny heart syndrome,” there is no doubt that the bulk of the Iraqi forces are good-intentioned, eager to learn and loyal to their flag. The majority of Iraqi security forces are proud, patriotic and brave.
The Iraqi men and women I’ve served with do so because they remember Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime. Each day, for just a couple of hundred dollars per month, these men and women suit up and set out to help their nation get a little closer to democracy, putting themselves and their families at great risk so their ancient nation can slowly adapt into a modern democracy. For some, Iraqi army-issued boots are the first pair of shoes they have ever owned.
During Operation Roll Tide, U.S. and Iraqi troops uncovered a large weapons cache in Baghdad:
During Operation Roll tide, a combined effort between elements from 6th Battalion, 2nd Brigade Iraqi National Police, and Soldiers from Company D, 3rd Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, uncovered a huge weapons cache of land mines, rockets, explosives, and documents in a house.
In one home the unit found over 140 mines, 58 blocks of C4 explosives, 18 rockets, and almost 40 mortars, as well as manuals and equipment to convert these munitions into deadly improvised-explosive devices.
In another joint operation, a terrorist training camp was shut down near Tikrit:
The 150-square kilometer complex was a chemical production facility that was closed by the United Nations after the fall of the former regime.
“Insurgents were coming here to train, conduct link-up operations, and moving out to attack Coalition Forces,” said Capt. Andrew Graham, assistant plans and operations officer, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment.
More than 200 “insurgents” were arrested during the operation.
In Balad, U.S. soldiers uncovered three large weapons caches in a matter of days:
The first two caches were discovered south of Balad by Bulldog Troop, 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 3rd HBCT, 4th ID, Task Force Band of Brothers Thursday. These caches consisted of four rocket-propelled grenade heads and propellant, two RPG launchers, two unknown rockets, one 82 mm mortar tube, one tripod, one homemade rocket launcher, one 60 mm rocket, one unknown rocket in green canister, one box of detonators, 400 rounds of 7.62 ammunition, one heavy machine gun and one assault rifle.
A third cache was discovered by Bulldog Troop Saturday in an area south of Balad, near where the first two caches were found. This cache consisted of: four RPG rounds, three anti-personnel RPG rounds, three RPG launchers, five mortar rounds of various sizes, one 60 mm rocket, one AK rifle grenade, four anti-personnel mines, four mortar fuses, 100 to 150 unknown grenades, six illumination rounds, 500 rounds of 7.62 linked ammunition, one bottle of unknown liquid, four bags of unknown white powder, one bag of gun powder, one motorcycle battery and electronic equipment for an improvised explosive device.
Near Abu Ghraib, three terrorist were killed after Coalition forces observed them planting three IEDs.
Last week, 46 insurgents were detained in operations around Kirkuk.
A tip from an Iraqi led soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division to 4 55 gallon drums filled with weapons.
Another tip allowed U.S. and Iraqi soldiers to foil a kidnapping attempt.
Multiple tips led Coalition Forces to a terrorist safe house and IED factory:
After securing the targeted safe house, the troops found one heavy machine gun, two medium machine guns, rifles, a pistol, artillery shells, IED material, large oxygen tanks configured as IEDs, a suicide vest, rocket propelled grenades and one launcher. Large amounts of discarded automobile parts were also present in the structure further indicating that cars were likely being configured into vehicle-borne IEDs in keeping with the tips provided to Coalition Forces. Additionally, the troops discovered equipment and material used for making remote controlled IEDs. The terrorists’ equipment, weapons and ammunition were destroyed by ground charges and air strikes.
Soldiers also found an 8-year-old boy who told them he was being held against his will.
Near Latifiyah, Coalition Forces killed a known al Qaeda terrorist, Abu Mustafa, and 15 of his associates. Mustafa was wanted in the shooting down of a U.S. helicopter:
Iraqi and Coalition Forces were searching for Abu Mustafa, a member of al-Qaida, because of his leadership role in the April 1 downing of the AH-64 helicopter in Yusifiyah. Abu Mustafa was also a known weapons smuggler who allegedly facilitated the movement of missiles and rockets within the al-Qaida terrorist network.
In Mosul, U.S. soldiers disarmed a car bomb before it could cause death and destruction, thus guaranteeing that the story wouldn’t make it onto most evening-news programs.
An elite Iraqi SWAT team captured the leader of a terrorist cell during a raid near Baghdad.
Coalition Forces killed two al Qaeda terrorists in an operation near Baghdad. One of the dead terrorists was wanted:
One of the terrorists killed, Abu Ahad, managed foreign fighter facilitation and also provided a modicum of command and control between several terrorist cells operating throughout the vicinity of Fallujah, Baghdad , Yusifiyah, Taji and Mahmudiyah.
No civilians were wounded during the operation, guaranteeing that the New York Times wouldn’t write about it.
Two water projects are complete in Baghdad Province:
Construction is complete on two projects “Water Compact Unit” and “Sewage Pumping Station” in Baghdad Province. These projects are within the series of water and sanitation developing projects aims to create a healthier living environment as rehabilitating the water and sanitation infrastructure provides safe drinking water and reduces the transmission of water-borne disease.
USAID has completed the Iraqi Teacher Training project, successfully training more than 38,000 teachers. Efforts included:
• Trained and prepared 68 Master Trainers to educate English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in secondary schools;
• Trained and prepared 53 Master Trainers to educate teachers and administrators in Information and Computer Technology (ICT);
• Trained and prepared 74 Master Trainers in Science Pedagogy;
• Trained and prepared 58 Master Trainers in modern teaching methods;
• Over 38,000 secondary school teachers have received instruction directly through USAID programs, including: 7,480 English teachers; 13,740 teachers in computer skills; and 15,045 in pedagogical innovations. Additionally, 115 local staff and 244 MOE staff have received training;
• Science training has reached over 1,000 model school science teachers and other teachers in the districts where model schools are located.
More than 750,000 residents of Al Amarah province are benefiting from a newly renovated fire station: Reconstruction problems included crumbling walls and floors, a polluted water storage tank and decayed roof tiles.
USACE managed the renovation, which included the installation of new joists and wall supports, roof tiles and floor tiles; new electrical, water, sewage and air conditioning systems; and the construction of a sleeping quarters, kitchen area and general use room.
A new school is complete near Mosul. The $460,000 project will benefit almost 900 Iraqi school children:
A newly constructed school located in the center of Dahuk will provide service to approximately 840 students and 36 teachers.
This new two-story complex consists of a 12-room classroom school with a detached exterior lavatory building, a play-yard and a generator building; all of which is surrounded by a three-meter high perimeter wall.
The exterior and interior walls are of masonry construction with a concrete super structure and terrazzo tile flooring. The exterior wall finishes are cut stone and plaster.
“Of the 317 school projects funded by the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund in the northern region of Iraq, 315 are complete and two are in progress. “
Marines and Iraqi soldiers joined together to hold a medical clinic in Hamandiyah for more than 300 Iraqis:
Some Iraqi citizens suffered from more serious conditions. One small infant was diagnosed with spina bifida, a condition in which the spine is not completely grown together. Doctors were unable to treat the child there, but referred his mother to a specialist for treatment.
“There is nothing we can do here for this little guy,” said U.S. Army Dr. (Lt. Col.) Kathy F. Champion, a 42-year-old physician from Olympia, Wash. “We have given the mother information on an American doctor who specializes in this area, who is in the country.”
U.S. Marine Corps Drill Instructor Sgt. Jeremiah Workman was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in Fallujah. Sergeant Workman killed over 20 terrorists while saving the lives of several fellow Marines who were pinned down by enemy fire:
Ignoring heavy enemy fire and a storm of grenades raining down on his position, Workman fearlessly laid down enough cover fire to allow the trapped Marines to escape.
After seeing the first group of wounded Marines safely to a neighboring yard, Workman rallied additional Marines to his side and provided more cover fire for an attack into the building to rescue other Marines still trapped. He continued to fire even after receiving numerous shrapnel wounds to his arms and legs after a grenade exploded in front of him, stated his citation.
Workman’s efforts did not stop after the second rescue attack. Ignoring his wounds, Workman once again united his team for a final assault strike into the building to retrieve remaining Marines and to clear the building of insurgents.
“Basically, we got ambushed,” he said. “There were insurgents on the second floor in a bedroom. We fought our way up the stairs. There were grenades going off around us (and) small arms fire everywhere.”
Marine helicopter pilot Colonel John C. “Jay” Kennedy was awarded the Bronze Star for his service during his second combat tour in Iraq. He is now starting his third combat tour in Iraq.
Marine Sergeant Timothy Connors was awarded the Silver Star for his service in Iraq:
Connors, 23, a 2001 Braintree High School graduate, was awarded the Silver Star for ‘‘gallantry and valor in combat, and a selfless act of bravery’’ while serving in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.
Major Michelle Stringer and 1st Lieutenant Sarah Paris, both of the 78th Security Squadron, received the Bronze Star for “exceptionally meritorious service” while in Iraq.
Stringer and Parris, both assigned to Iraq in May of 2005, were tasked to train Iraqi forces on the latest security and force protection techniques at Camp Ur near the city of An Nasiriyah. Both also served as gunners or commanders for supply convoys in the region. Carter stressed that the assignment was formidable for both officers. “Their job was to train people including many who had no military skills – to keep their minds focused and help build an army,” she said. “They knew it placed them in a non-traditional role, but they didn’t let social norms get in their may.” Stringer returned to Robins earlier this month after serving 12 months in the combat zone. Parris left Iraq last November after suffering facial injuries and a broken back when a Humvee she was riding in swerved to avoid an Iraqi running toward her convoy. She was in the gun turret when the vehicle rolled.
–Bill Crawford lives in San Antonio, Texas. He blogs at All Things Conservative.