Tuesday, February 23, 2010

U.S., Philippine Troops Fight Insurgent Bomb Threat

Posted on Tue, at 08:53:00 -0600

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden 
American Forces Press Service
 COTABATO, Philippines : Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Stutzke looked over the rock quarry from a distance as three explosions boomed. Gathered around him was a team of Philippine army explosive ordnance disposal soldiers gleaming with pride from their work that briefly charred the clear afternoon sky.
Just minutes before, Stutzke completed a training session for his Philippine counterparts and some U.S. Army soldiers on how to properly construct dynamite for an electrically charged remote detonation. For the Philippine troops, the Feb.20 exercise was a rare opportunity to conduct hands-on training with real explosives and basic EOD tools.
Though the Philippine troops train frequently to learn new techniques to dispose of roadside bombs and unexploded ordnance, they seldom have the tools to do so safely, Stutzke said. The Philippine military, including its EOD units here in central Mindanao, lack sufficient funding and fundamental equipment such as bomb suits, detection robots or expendable explosives to train with, he explained.

"I think we need to better equip [the Philippine forces], Stutzke said. "If you don't have any of the basic tools to work with, you can't do your job. Well, you can't do your job safely."

This is especially true for the Philippine EOD teams, as they are among the busiest and most at-risk soldiers in their force.

Forgotten ordnances -- or remnants of war, as U.S. troops from Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines here describe them -- are abundant after years of terrorist actions and past wars on Philippine soil. For this reason, competent and properly trained EOD troops are vital to the nation's decade-long counterinsurgency fight.

Philippine EOD teams have found terrorist cache sites of explosives used for roadside, motorcycle and car bombs. Two U.S. Army Special Operations soldiers lost their lives to a roadside bomb in September, which was the deadliest attack on the American military here since 2002. Philippine troops are targeted on a weekly basis, however, often resulting in injuries or death.

"[Improvised explosive devices] are a significant threat, because they're easy to make," Stutzke said. "And training [the Philippine EOD soldiers] is very important, because there's so much ordnance available in the region for insurgents to get their hands on. The best way to get rid of that threat is through joint training and disposals."

U.S. EOD troops spend as much time as possible assisting and training their Philippine counterparts, and often lend them equipment such as metal detectors, which has led to some recent successes in the area.

Both militaries also work together educating the local populace on how to identify and report bombs and unexploded ordnance, said Stutzke, a native of Midland, Ga.

Stutzke recalled a recent situation that could have been fatal to the Philippine EOD troops. A grenade was reported in a public building, and the Philippine soldiers disarmed and disposed of it without a bomb suit or protective gear.

"They went up and did their job, and that's how good they are," he said. "That's one thing not a lot of people realize: They're very confident and efficient, and they have the knowledge. But they could be better and much more safe if they had funding for equipment."

Filipino army Capt. Francis Senoron echoed Stutzke's sentiments.

"The problem with the Philippine army is we have very limited resources," Senoron said. "We have limited supplies and must come up with our own creative ways to disrupt IEDs."

Senoron and his troops have encountered more than 100 bombs and pieces of unexploded ordnance since 2008, he said. He and many of his comrades have been injured multiple times, he said, but he added that security and protecting innocent civilians is more important than his own safety.

"The local populace is very supportive to our efforts," he said. "We've conducted awareness programs for our civilians, so they know what to do if they find an IED. Because of our civilians, we're able to accomplish our mission, and I hope this will continue in the future." 

Friday, February 19, 2010

US Aircraft flies near Guam

 A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron out of Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, flies near Guam Feb. 17, 2010. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin, U.S. Air Force/Released)

Forces Uncover Multiple Weapons Caches in Afghanistan

By American Forces Press Service

 Combined patrols of Afghan and international security forces uncovered multiple weapons caches during operations throughout Afghanistan yesterday.
In Helmand province last night, a security patrol found a large cache containing nearly 3,000 rounds of ammunition, three anti-aircraft weapons, 15 rocket-propelled grenades, 34 mortar rounds and other ammunition.

Also, a patrol found a weapons cache in Balkh province yesterday containing 15 Russian 122mm projectiles.

During a patrol in Kandahar last night, forces found a cache containing two artillery rounds, two grenades, an anti-tank mine, 400 rounds of ammunition and a radio.

All caches were destroyed.

In other operations yesterday:

-- A combined Afghan and international security force searched a compound in Helmand province after reports indicated militant activity. The force detained two insurgents during the search. As they were leaving, a small team of militants attempted to set up a small-arms ambush. The force engaged them and killed one insurgent. The joint force later captured two others near the same compound.
-- A security force searched a compound in Kandahar province last night after getting reports of militant activity. During the search, the joint force captured a Taliban commander connected to suicide bombings, foreign fighters and car bomb attacks.

-- A combined force searched a series of buildings in Khost province. During the search the force captured a terrorist subcommander known as an experienced explosives manufacturer, tester and attack planner. Several other insurgents also were detained.

-- In another Khost operation last night, a security force searched a compound after reports confirmed militant activity. During the search the joint force captured a terrorist sub-commander responsible for managing weapons caches, acquiring weapons for militant cells and obtaining illegal passports. When confronted the commander identified himself. The joint force also detained another insurgent. The search also uncovered multiple weapons, including rifles, a shotgun, automatic rifles and grenades. (Issued on Feb 18, 2010)

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.) 

In photo U.S. Army Pfc. Stephen Atwood, from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, scouts for enemy activity during an operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan on Feb. 13, 2010. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez, U.S. Air Force/Released)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Afghan National Police officer tell a story

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Vili Schwenke, a security forces member from the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team, listens to an Afghan National Police officer tell a story during a shura at the Qara Bagh district center in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan Feb. 15, 2010. The officer recounted a day when he was shot in the head while fighting off insurgents. (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Sarah R. Webb, U.S. Air Force/Released)

Relief in Haiti continued

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Micah Denny directs Haitians carrying bags of rice to the exit point of Food Distribution Point 16, sponsored by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Adventist Development and Relief Agency, in Carrefour, Haiti, Feb. 16, 2010. NGOs are in Haiti, along with the Department of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to support Operation Unified Response, which is a multinational, joint-service operation to provide humanitarian assistance to Haitians affected by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the region Jan. 12, 2010. (DoD photo by Logistics Specialist 1st Class Kelly Chastain, U.S. Navy/Released)

Military Community Loses Pioneer

Retired Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm, the first woman to serve as major general in the Air Force and the Department of Defense, passed away Feb. 15. Holm is credited as the single driving force in achieving parity for military women and making them a viable part of the mainstream military. According to a special report issued Thursday; Feb 18, 2010 Retired Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm was a driving force in achieving parity for military women and making them a viable part of the mainstream military. 

The Portland, Ore., native attained the rank of two-star general in 1973 after a career that began 31 years earlier in 1942 when she enlisted in the Army. Holm entered Women's Army Air Corps in January 1943, where she received a commission as third officer, the WAAC equivalent of second lieutenant. 

Holm also became the first woman to attend the Air Command and Staff School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 1952.

She was promoted to brigadier general July 16, 1971, the first female airman to be appointed in this grade. She was promoted to the grade of major general effective June 1, 1973, with date of rank July 1, 1970 - the first woman in the armed forces to serve in that grade.

In recognition of Holm's pioneering career, Air Force officials renamed the Air Force Officer Accession and Training Schools at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala., the Jeanne M. Holm Officer Accession and Citizen Development Center in June 2008. Its mission is Air Force officer recruitment and training within the Air University.

Holm also authored two books about women in the military. "Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution" was published in 1982 and was updated in 1994. Four years later she wrote "In Defense of a Nation: Servicewomen in World War II."

During World War II, Holm was assigned to the Women's Army Corps Training Center at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., where she commanded a basic training company and then a training regiment. At the end of the war, she commanded the 106th WAC Hospital Company at Newton D. Baker General Hospital, W.Va. She then left active military duty in 1946.

In October 1948 during the Berlin crisis, Holm was recalled to active duty with the Army and went to Camp Lee, Va., as a company commander. The following year she transferred to the Air Force, when a new law integrated women in the regular armed forces.

Holm served in a variety of personnel assignments, including director of Women in the Air Force from 1965 to 1973. She played a significant role in eliminating restrictions on numbers of women serving in all ranks, expanding job and duty station assignments for women, opening ROTC and service academies to women, and changing the policies on the status of women in the armed forces. During her tenure, policies affecting women were updated, WAF strength was more than doubled, job and assignment opportunities expanded, and uniforms modernized.

Holm retired in 1975. She served three presidential administrations: special assistant on women for President Gerald Ford, policy consultant for President Jimmy Carter, and first chairperson of the Veterans Administration's Committee on Women Veterans for President Ronald Reagan.

In another photograph Retired Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm, right, shakes hands with retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Anna Der-Vartanian during a Memorial Day ceremony held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 26, 2008. Der-Vartanian, who entered the military in 1943, one year after Holm, became the Navy's first woman master chief petty officer, the highest enlisted grade. DoD photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.

(Article courtesy of Air Force News Service.) 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

U.S. Navy helps carry a patient in Cange, Haiti

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew McLean helps carry a patient from an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter to an advanced aftercare treatment facility in Cange, Haiti, Feb. 12, 2010. The patient is one of several being transferred from USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) to the hospital in Cange to receive long-term post-surgical care and therapy. The transfer is possible due to Haiti’s growing medical infrastructure, which is part of the country’s rebuilding process following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the region Jan. 12, 2010. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chelsea Kennedy, U.S. Navy/Released)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Press Meet

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Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen address the media during a press availability at the Pentagon Feb. 1, 2010, regarding the fiscal year 2011 budget rollout. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, U.S. Navy/Released)