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Archives: Jan. 2010

Jan.
17th

Heading to Haiti

The News Tribune is traveling with an air crew from McChord Air Force
Base on a humanitarian mission to Haiti, which was devastated by
Tuesday’s massive earthquake.

The C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet landed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at 9:45 a.m. local time. The air crew immediately set to work in pelting rain to load supplies and pick up personnel needed to assist the relief efforts in Haiti.

The equipment they were loading included a crash recovery vehicle, trailer, small four-wheel-drive truck and a floodlight set.

Crews were working with deliberate speed to get back in the air as quickly

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Jan.
13th

Lewis troops monitor the border

TALLIL, Iraq – American military commanders have left little doubt of their annoyance with Iran’s interference in the internal security of Iraq, and much of it can be blamed on the porous border: Smugglers carrying anything from bootlegged cigarettes to bombs pour into Iraq, and its security forces often can’t stop it.

But one Fort Lewis company has the task of tightening the frontier.

Charlie Company, 38th Long Range Surveillance works with Iraqi border guards to monitor the 900-mile-long frontier. They perform dismounted patrols with the Iraqis and call in any suspicious activity.

The company is perhaps the most high-profile unit of the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, which deployed in September and has soldiers at almost 40 bases across Iraq.
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Jan.
13th

Keeping the data flowing

TALLIL, Iraq – Modern warfare is a high-tech affair.

The 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade’s smallest company keeps the data flowing.

With soldiers fanned out to about 38 locations across the country, the intelligence unit relies on its 63rd Network Support Company to keep everyone connected.

“The world is getting more and more technical, and the Army is no different,” said Sgt. 1st Class Landi Whiteside. “The military intelligence work relies pretty heavily on communications to talk to the teams that go out across the country.”
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Jan.
12th

Among the people

Photo by Scott Fontaine/The News Tribune
Photo by Scott Fontaine/The News Tribune

KHALIS, Iraq – With each beat of the drum, hundreds of men dressed in black beat their backs with metal chains. A singer belted a haunting poem about the death of a seventh-century Shia martyr. Others pounded on drums and cymbals, held banners or waved flags.

The men and boys – the women, also clad in all black, were relegated to watching from alleys and rooftops – who lined the streets of Khalis tapped their chest in rhythm with the drum beat. The colorful flags that hang from storefronts, power lines and the water tower were replaced with plain black ones. Nearby mosques blared the singer’s poem, a tribute to Mohammed’s grandson Hussein, from their loudspeakers.

And about a dozen Fort Lewis soldiers, sprinkled amid the jammed sidewalks, watched in awe. The city’s mayor told the troops they would be attending a parade, but few expected to show up at a solemn religious event. When it became obvious what they were watching, word spread: Don’t take any gratuitous photos. Try not to smile. Try to remain as respectful as possible.

Their commander, Lt. Col. Chuck Hodges, dressed in black and gold robes with a black-and-white checkered headdress. He held prayer beads as he stood next to the mayor.
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Jan.
12th

It’s like an anti-MRAP

KHALIS, Iraq – The United States doesn’t have a military presence in Somalia (well, not one the Pentagon likes to talk about), but there’s no reason why soldiers can’t get a bit of the local flavor in Iraq.

So here’s the scene: The commander of 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment was due to appear at a parade commemorating the 40th day after the death of Hussein. The platoon drove to the mayor’s office to link up with city officials. Strykers weren’t quite the right vehicle to bring to the solemn Shiite procession.

So while a few people crammed into the

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Jan.
10th

Happiness for the neediest

MUJADEED, Iraq – At the site of goodies, the kids went bonkers.

Fort Lewis soldiers from 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment were in Mujadeed, a site of a joint United States-United Nations project to relocate refugees who fled during 2007’s ethno-sectarian fighting. As they were preparing to load up on their Strykers, the kids gathered around as the troops handed out coloring books, colored pencils and other gifts – all donated from folks back home.

Lt. Col. Chuck Hodges, the battalion commander, kept a pack of lollipops in a cargo pocket that he hands out to kids. Soldiers handed out

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Jan.
10th

Militia chic

KHALIS, Iraq – Want to confuse the heck out of a print-shop owner in Diyala province? Just walk in and ask for posters of Muqtada al-Sadr.

Joe and I went on a daylong tour of the civil-affairs projects of 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment and walked through the main market in Khalis. One shop hawked large posters of Sadr, the firebrand Shiite cleric whose hate of the Americans is pretty well-documented. The guy’s a major political influence throughout Diyala province (and much of Iraq), so posters of him aren’t a rare sight.

So Lt. Col. Chuck Hodges and

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Jan.
10th

Coming home is never easy

MUJADEED, Iraq – Small white buildings sit randomly among untended fields like some sort of unnatural plant. Men in kuffiyahs move bricks and construction supplies. Little girls play among piles of discarded plastic wrappers and water bottles.

This collection of three villages outside Khalis in Diyala province was once the site of fierce fighting. Al Qaida in Iraq arrived first in 2007, targeting the Shia who lived there. The Mehdi Army responded, killing Sunnis.

The residents, Shia and Sunni who long lived as neighbors, fled across the country.

But now about 250 families have returned, lured by new homes

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