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U.S. Army welders designed and built the first up-armored truck for the
Iraqi police to use at checkpoints.

11 October 2007
By Pfc. Bradley J. Clark
4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq, Oct. 11, 2007 — Members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division here are often faced with unusual and difficult tasks, most recently creating an up-armored truck for the Iraqi police.

Welders from the 27th Brigade Support Battalion, currently assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment said that designing and building the up-armored pickup truck was a novel, and difficult, experience in part because it had never been done before.

“Especially the doors,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Jewell Loving, “because we had to make our own hinges and fabricate a lot of stuff for them, but we had all the supplies that we needed. The project took us two-and-a-half weeks from start to finish.”

The purpose of the pickup truck is to provide security for the IPs manning checkpoints.

One of the things the welders worried about was the added weight as a result of up-armoring the pickup truck. “Even though the vehicle isn’t intended to chase after insurgents when it was taken on a test drive it had pick up, it wasn’t top heavy and it handled well, very well,” said Loving. Because the welders did such a good job accomplishing the task put before them, they have been tasked to up-armor four more pickup trucks.

“The next ones will be less time-consuming because we already have the design and we are in the process of receiving more equipment for them,” said U.S. Army Pfc. David Durham.

Accomplishing a mission as difficult as inventing something that cannot only help save lives, but also help secure a nation, made these soldiers feel great.

“I get a sense of pride by having the ability to do this for the IP,” said Durham. “We were able to work with the equipment and materials that we had. On top of all of that, I gained much more job experience due to this project.”

Photo – U.S. Army Pfc. David Durham completes the final part of welding on the first ever up-armored pickup truck for the Iraqi police on Forward Operating Base Marez, Iraq. Durham is a metal worker with Bravo Company, 27th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Bradley Clark.

Source: CentCom News feed.

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New Ramps Increase Bagram Capacity

Source: CentCom.

2 Oct 07
By Capt. Michael Meridith
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
.

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — Two new flightline ramps have opened at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, bringing new capabilities to coalition air operations, NATO and U.S. Air Force officials said.

“These ramps represent a vision of continuous improvements in our warfighting capability,” said Royal Netherlands Maj. Gen. Freek Meulman, the International Security Assistance Force’s deputy commander for air. “They will serve as launch pads and resting sites for the long-term commitment of our coalition in the fight to achieve safety and security in Afghanistan.”

The $9.3 million joint venture between the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency and the Yuksel Construction Co. provides significantly more parking space for helicopters and the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing’s F-15E Strike Eagles and A-10 Thunderbolts, said Kevin Cullen, the project manager.

“These ramps represent quite a bit of capability for Bagram,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Dan Debree, the vice commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing. “I fly in the F-15E and this is something we desperately needed. Although ramp space here has increased by 70 percent in two years, it doesn’t matter because a quick look will show you that every bit of it is used up.”

Meulman said the ramp is one of a continuing series of projects designed to increase Bagram Air Base’s ability to support coalition efforts throughout Afghanistan.

“We will continue to work together in building what I call an overwhelming capability in our common mission toward security and stability throughout Afghanistan,” Meulman said. “This new ramp will provide a long-lasting base for our dedicated airmen, who are committed to executing their challenging job here in Afghanistan.”

Such projects also help fuel the local economy, said Cullen, noting that 80 Afghan workers were hired for the project, which was finished on time, on specification and within budget.

Photo – U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jamie Cabral helps land an International Security Assistance Force helicopter on one of two new ramps that were opened to aircraft at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2007. Cabral is a transient alert quality assurance evaluator for the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Michael Meridith.

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25 Aug 07
By Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs
.

HERO CAMP, Afghanistan – Airmen and soldiers are blending medical supply logistics with a dose of Afghan National Army partnership in a dusty warehouse at ANA’s Hero Camp near Kandahar Airfield.

It’s a prescription for successful mentoring as the Afghans prepare for a new hospital opening here, said Capt. Jay Snodgrass, a medical logistics officer and ANA mentor deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The American servicemembers are helping install medical equipment into a new $6.5 million, 50-bed hospital at Hero Camp. “We’re simply here to help them improve the processes they already have in place, to share with them the lessons we’ve learned about hospital administration and logistics,” Snodgrass said.

The airmen and soldiers helping transfer equipment are medical logistics, administrators and equipment technician members for their respective services assigned to the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, which is headquartered in Kabul, Afghanistan. While in Kandahar, the servicemembers work side-by-side with their Afghan counterparts, who are responsible for supplying and equipping the Hero Camp hospital, as well as other ANA clinics and brigade support throughout the region.

Mentoring doesn’t always come easy, said Tech. Sgt. Curtis Miller, a medical logistics technician from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. While Miller’s focus is to teach Afghans how to maintain hospital equipment, he and other embedded transition team members use every available opportunity to give advice where needed. “There is a learning curve,” Miller said. “A lot of the things we take for granted in the United States, such as changing gloves for each patient, are things Afghans typically don’t consider in a hospital. We try to spend time educating them on the benefits of sanitation and ways to prevent infection.”

Miller said when he first began as a mentor, he was a little unsure how a young, American noncommissioned officer would come across to an Afghan military man who has served longer than the sergeant has been alive. It was unnerving to say the least. “There is an Afghan colonel we work with who was put in prison during the Russian occupation two decades ago,” Miller said. “He was given execution orders and was two days away from being put to death when the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan — two days away from being killed. Now, he has those orders on display in his office. You see this and you think, man, these guys have been through a lot.”

Nevertheless, the Afghan officials are eager to learn and work with their American mentors.

“My mentor, Captain Snodgrass, and I are very close,” said Afghan Maj. Abdul Ghafar, the 205th Hero Corps warehouse commander. “The Americans work fairly with each other and with us. We interact as equals.”

The relationship between the Americans and Afghans is a result of respect and tolerance from both sides, Snodgrass said. “Major Ghabar has 27 years military experience,” he said. “He knows a lot about leading troops and warfare. What he doesn’t have full knowledge of is how to manage a warehouse of this magnitude, to take care of the logistics of supplying a hospital and an entire region with 30,000 troops. So, that’s why I’m here, to help him become familiar with the various processes.” Snodgrass pointed out that the Americans are not there to impose their way of life on the Afghan people. Instead, they are learning from each other.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about our different cultures,” he said. “They wanted to know about some of the Christian holidays I celebrate. It’s not a big deal to them that I practice a different religion than they do.”

At the same time, Snodgrass and his team of Americans try to accommodate the Islamic traditions of the Afghans into their work. “We try to work around their prayer schedule,” he said. “Sometimes, we have to keep working through the prayer times, but then we step away and give them their space to lay out their prayer rugs and do what they need to do. We try to be aware of their holidays, too. For example, I won’t eat or drink in front of them during Ramadan, when they fast. When it comes down to it, it’s just about respecting each other.”

Snodgrass said he is confident about Ghabar’s leadership, and that the hospital and its warehouse will do well in the future as the Afghans gain experience in stocking and equipping such a vital mission. “What we are doing here is just part of an overall mission to help Afghans stand up a viable, safe, world-class healthcare system,” he said. “The day they can take on these operations themselves without our assistance will be a very good day for all of us.”

Photo – U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Doug Suddueth (bottom left) and Army Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rivas move a load of medical equipment to a truck Aug. 18 in Afghanistan. Suddueth is deployed from Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Rivas is deployed from Fort Sam Houston, Texas. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi.

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21 Aug 07
by Staff Sgt. Les Waters
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
.

MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AFPN) – Members of the 376th Expeditionary Medical Group recently saw their efforts come to fruition during a hand-over ceremony of humanitarian medical equipment from the United States to three hospitals in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, as part of Operation Provide Hope.

The largest single U.S.-assistance project for Kyrgyzstan since its independence, Operation Provide Hope is a humanitarian medical program coordinated by the State Department and supported by the Department of Defense and private donors.

This summer, the 376th EMDG worked closely with the State Department to inventory, inspect, install and train on millions of dollars of medical equipment to improve medical capability in three local hospitals. Bishkek City Hospital No. 4 (Center for Scientific Research), Bishkek City Hospital No. 1 and the National Center of Oncology were selected by the State Department to receive the equipment.

“It was a great pleasure to work with the U.S. Department of State and support the Operation Provide Hope hospital upgrade mission to the Kyrgyz Republic,” said Col. David Hocking, 376th EMDG commander.

The hope is that the upgraded equipment will translate into enhanced medical care for patients.

“It was like you are taking a good thing and making it better,” said Maj. Stephanie Gardner, 376th EMDG nurse anesthetist. “The care that is given in the hospitals is excellent, and the hope is that the equipment will make things easier to provide even better care. I feel like I helped them to ease the workload so they can concentrate on continuing to give excellent care.”

The ceremony was held at the National Center of Oncology, one of the locations Major Gardner helped install equipment and train people. “I had a hand in training the medical staff and setting up … I guess I felt like a proud parent because the equipment was all set up and the hospital looked really nice,” said Major Gardner. Part of the training the base medical staff provided included reviewing and highlighting equipment-operating manuals for translation, as well as assisting at all the locations that received equipment. It is training that is ongoing.

“We will continue to provide assistance and on-going training as much as the mission permits,” said Maj. Melissa Rokey, 376th EMDG administrator and project officer for this operation. “This ongoing assistance will hopefully further develop the relationship between our staff and the local hospital staff. This relationship is extremely important in many ways, to include our continual awareness of their ability to help support us in case of any contingency. It is our hope that we can continue giving something back to the community and their medical staff.”

Colonel Hocking said that the assistance translates on a larger scale the relationship between the two countries. “The critical support provided by our team ensured the overall success of this operation and demonstrated to the Kyrgyz people we’re a deeply compassionate nation as well,” Colonel Hocking said.

It was a team effort beyond the medical group. None of this would have been possible without the C-17 Globemaster IIIs bringing in the pallets and then maintainers and logistics Airman unloading it onto other vehicles. Security forces also arranged base entry for vehicles to take the equipment downtown.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the efforts … from unpacking boxes, to installing the equipment, to training, our team performed flawlessly and still never missed a beat in our primary mission at Manas AB,” said Colonel Hocking. Humanitarian assistance through Operation Provide Hope totals approximately $42.3 million over the past three years. The project was coordinated with the government of Kyrgyzstan, including the executive administration of the prime minister and the Ministry of Health.

Photo – Maj. Stephanie Gardner provides training to Chinara Djanaera, an operating nurse from the National Center of Oncology, following the hand-over ceremony of humanitarian medial equipment from the 376th Expeditonary Medical Group to three hospitals in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Col. David Hocking, 376th EMDG commander, and two other nurses observe the training. The National Center of Oncology was one of three hospitals to receive the medical equipment. Major Gardner is a nurse anesthetist with the 376th EMDG. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Les Waters.

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21 Aug 07
By Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa Public Affairs
.

DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti – Members of the 350th Civil Affairs Command Special Functions Team donated eight pallets of excess medical supplies valued at $800,000 to the Pelltia Hospital in Djibouti, July 25.

Items such as pajamas, oxygen masks, sheets, gauze bandages, knee braces, surgical instruments and humidifiers were flown in from warehouses in Qatar and Bahrain to be delivered to the hospital. From there, the supplies will be dispersed to hospitals and clinics throughout the region.

“The pallets are excess medical property and if we don’t accept it, it’s literally just buried in the sand and it all goes to waste,” said Army Lt. Col. Alana Conley, 350th medical team chief. “Basically every clinic and hospital in Djibouti and throughout the Horn of Africa can use medical supplies. Items that are usually expendable to us, they’re reusing. The supplies will be used to improve patient care overall.”

Dr. Christian Oman Glele, acting chief of staff was on-hand to accept the property once it was offloaded from the trucks with the help of people in the local community. “Thank you a lot for the medical supplies,” said Glele. “Offloading the material is a big job, but now patients have access to good equipment which is very beneficial for the hospital.”

Other civil affairs teams throughout the Horn of Africa also received medical supplies to distribute to hospitals and clinics in their respective countries. “Everywhere we’ve been, every hospital and clinic we’ve looked at, didn’t have enough supplies,” said Air Force Maj. Pauline Lucas, 350th public health officer. “Some hospitals even rewash bandages. We know that with this property, we could do more for them. We went to look at their supply warehouse and it was bare. When we looked at it, we were like wow, we have all these excess items; we can fulfill their need.”

In the future, the 350th Civil Affairs Command Special Functions Team plans to send first aid shelter kits to field hospitals in Garrissa and Bal Bala, Kenya, as well as clinics throughout Tanzania and Djibouti. Dr. Madian Said, the Pelltia Hospital’s chief of staff who also runs medical caravans throughout the country, will use some of the first aid shelter kits to help fight cholera outbreaks in the region.

Photo – U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Swain, and Air Force Maj. Pauline Lucas, 350th Civil Affairs Command Special Functions Team, offload medical supplies at the Pelltia Hospital in Djibouti with the help of local residents. More than eight pallets of supplies and equipment valued at $800,000 were donated to the hospital, July 25. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh.

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14 Aug 07
By Cpl. Zachary Dyer
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)
.

AL ASAD, Iraq – The sounds of a helicopter’s rotor blades cutting through the air overhead is fairly common aboard Al Asad. That the crew’s mission is to support the War on Terror is obvious, but what Marines in those helicopters do once they are out of sight is often unknown to the casual observer on the ground.

For the members of the “Wolfpack” of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, that mission is to transport Marines, supplies and equipment around the Al Anbar Province. “We’re tasked with assault support for (II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward)),” said Lt. Col. Roger McFadden, the Wolfpack commanding officer. “It’s in the shape of passenger, cargo and external operations. We’re also responsible for (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel) missions. The majority of our tasking is to move cargo and personnel between the (Forward Operating Bases).”

In the three months that the Wolfpack has been in Iraq, the squadron has racked up approximately 1,600 flight hours. The Marines are also working on obtaining another impressive record – 65,000 Class Amishap free hours. “The squadron has never had a mishap in its entire history, since 1984,” explained McFadden, a Cle Elum, Wash., native. “These guys are proud of the fact that they always fly safe aircraft. It’s because of safe maintenance.”

The CH-53E “Super Stallions” the Wolfpack flies along with other heavy helicopter squadrons are some of the more maintenance heavy aircraft in the Marine Corps, not because they are old but because of their size. For every one hour spent in the air, the maintenance Marines put in 40 on the ground, according to Sgt. Maj. Brian Milton, the HMH-466 squadron sergeant major.

“If the birds don’t launch, the mission doesn’t go,” said Milton, a Murietta, Calif., native. “The Marines’ ability to fix the aircraft on a moments notice is the most important thing out here. We have a lot of dedicated Marines, and sometimes we have to tell them to go home. They’re hardworking and dedicated to what they do.”

Despite the long hours of work required to make sure the squadron accomplishes its mission, the Marines of the Wolfpack have adapted to the rigors of deployment. “They’re handling it really well,” said McFadden. “We’re 90 days into it and they are keeping up with the work and keeping aircraft available.”

Like most units in Iraq, the Marines of HMH-466 have a wide variety of experience. While some Marines are on their third or fourth, others are on their first deployment. The squadron’s strength comes from the help the more experienced Marines provide to the junior Marines. “It’s never two new Marines working out there together,” said Cpl. Billy C. Roth, a crew chief with the Wolfpack, and a Quitman, Texas, native. “It’s one experienced Marine working with a new one. We train while we work. We’re always training and always working hard.”

That is exactly what the senior leaders of HMH-466 have come to expect of their Marines – that not only are they professionals in their job, but consummate Marines as well, according to Milton. “The big thing we push upon them is this,” explained Milton. “They may not be out in the trenches, but their trench is the flightline, and they are out there supporting the mission.”

Photo – Sgt. Devin Linneman, a crew chief with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, looks out the ‘hell hole’ of a CH-53E “Super Stallion” to ensure nothing happens to the cargo hanging below the aircraft during an external lift mission. Photo by Cpl. Zachary Dyer.

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10 Aug 07
by 1st Lt. Shannon Collins
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
.

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) – Approximately 150 base volunteers and 380 Airmen with the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group moved patients and equipment as they closed the doors on the old Air Force Theater Hospital and opened the doors to their pre-engineered facility here Aug. 3.

Starting at 4 a.m., Airmen in each tent tunnel section began moving patients and equipment. Throughout the past two months, a transition team, along with the help of volunteers, set up the upgraded facility. They pre-positioned as much equipment and supplies as they could to make the transition easier for the patients and medical staff.

Thousands of patients, ranging from American military members to Iraqi freedom fighters and civilians, have been treated at the hospital — the last Air Force military Level 3 trauma tent hospital in the theater. The staff performs more than 2,000 surgical procedures a month.

“We have an outstanding survivability rate, reaching 98 percent, unheard of in prior conflicts,” said Col. (Dr.) Brian Masterson, 332nd EMDG commander. “The new facility helps to enhance that capability and helps improve the survivability and minimization of the consequences of war. Inside the new facility lies the most sophisticated lifesaving technology you’ll find anywhere in the world.”

About 250 contractors worked during the day and about 150 at night to upgrade the pre-engineered facility within seven months. The existing building had been about 4,265 square feet and was the original Iraqi Air Force Academy Hospital.

The tent hospital was originally set up by the U.S. Army when the U.S. military came to Balad in 2003. In September 2004, the Air Force assumed the trauma center mission. In December 2005, the Air Force opened the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility co-located with the newly remodeled, pre-engineered facility.

The 332nd MDG’s tent hospital was about 63,105 square feet and a labyrinth of more than 30 tents. The new facility is approximately 97,000 square feet. Though there was some sentimental attachment to the tents, the upgrade gives the hospital and its staff of about 379 servicemembers several advantages.

The new facility has up to 20 intensive care units, 40 beds and eight operating tables. Better environmental controls, better power production and distribution systems,
conditioned power, indoor plumbing, all medical services in one area, safety and space are just some of the many advantages of the new facility, said Lt. Col. Michael Glass, 332nd EMDG logistics flight commander.

The previous tent hospital had very little insulation, and the environmental control units could only reduce the temperature by 20 degrees less than the ambient temperature outside, said Colonel Glass. During the summer months, the temperature reaches 120 degrees on a regular basis.

“When these systems were operating at full capacity, they tripped the breakers, causing temporary but frequent power outages,” he said. “When the power went out, the tents heated up very fast. The new hospital has hundreds of AC units to provide very controlled temperatures, and it should stay around 75 to 80 degrees year round.”

The new facility has cleaner power systems and power conditioning systems, meaning less wear and tear on the most expensive medical equipment.

One of the biggest advantages is space. The new facility has double the number of trauma bays and six isolation beds for potential infectious patients, beds they did not have in the tents. The operating rooms and patient rooms are also bigger and better, said the colonel.

Maj. Vik (Dr.) Bebarta, 332nd EMDG emergency medicine chief and flight commander for the emergency department, and his team of 24 are looking forward to the benefits of the new facility.

“The controlled climate, limited dust and better lighting will allow us to provide even better care to our injured Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines,” said the major, on his second deployment to the tent hospital.

“Working in the tents for eight months was a unique experience,” he said. “The intimate ‘soft wall’ setting created a tropism for cohesiveness, communication, passion, urgency, efficiency and patient-focused critical medical care. I hope that ethos carries over to the new setting.”

During the day of the move, the emergency department Airmen set up a department in each hospital and worked on patients in both facilities until the transition was complete. The emergency department staff evaluates about 750 patients a month, and 625 are admitted. About 65 percent of the patients are traumatic injuries, most of which are combat-related.

“We act as the entry point for all critically ill patients at the (Air Force Theater Hospital),” the major said. “We assess, resuscitate and stabilize all traumatic and medically ill patients. Our primary mission integrates with all facets of the hospital.”

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jim Keeney is the chief of orthopedic surgery and a regular member of the operating room staff. He said the tent environment posed a few challenges.

“During the summer months, temperatures inside the tents would reach peaks over 100 degrees,” he said. “The operating rooms were in portable units with a ceiling height of approximately seven feet. Bars and light fixtures suspended from the ceiling made frequent contact with surgeon heads. The general size of the rooms made positioning of equipment tight. This was particularly the case during surges in patient-care activity, when we typically had two surgeries being performed within the same room simultaneously.”

In the new facility, the operating rooms are significantly larger, providing better ability to move equipment and ease the process of performing procedures, the colonel said. Climate control is better regulated throughout the building as well.

During an average month, the 332nd EMDG teams admit approximately 625 patients, requiring more than 700 trips to the operating room for an average of 3.5 surgical procedures per patient. The success of the AFTH trauma system is reflected in a 98 percent survivorship of U.S. military members evacuated to definitive care. The survival of wounds during past conflicts was less than 80 percent, said the colonel.

From patient wards to the emergency department to the operating rooms, the pre-engineered facility offers a variety of improvements to make combat patient care even better. Whether staff members work in tents or a pre-engineered facility, they find their deployment highly satisfying, said Colonel Keeney.

“This is certainly the best professional deployment for Air Force surgeons with an interest in trauma,” he said.

Though Aug. 3 was a very long day for the volunteers and medical staff, the move was considered a success, said Colonel Keeney.

“From the perspective of a surgeon, the best thing about the move was the fact that it was coordinated well enough to fully maintain our ability to provide trauma care without a hitch during the transition process,” he said.

Senior Airman Scott Hatch, a 332nd Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician, was part of the transition team that helped upgrade the former Iraqi Air Force Academy Hospital.

“The new facility is amazing,” said Airman Hatch. “It’s easy to forget sometimes that it’s an expeditionary project. Seeing the new facility near the tent hospital is like a night and day difference. The new facility will make a wonderful gift to the Iraqi people when our mission here is accomplished.”

Photo – Maj. Julie Zwies and Capt. Kathy Betts inventory equipment at the new Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad Air Base, Iraq, Aug. 3. Starting at 4 a.m., about 150 base volunteers and 380 332nd EMDG Airmen moved patients and equipment to the newly upgraded, pre-engineered facility. Major Zwies and Captain Betts are assigned to the 332nd Medical Group lab flight. Photo 1st Lt. Shannon Collins.

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10 Aug 07
By Cpl. Ryan R. Jackson
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (FWD)
.

AL ASAD, Iraq – Throughout the theatre, service members are continually asking for and receiving operational gear they need to accomplish their mission.

The latest troops on Al Asad to get new mission essential equipment were the four-legged war fighters, more commonly known as military working dogs, of Task Force Military Police, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, who received new kennels during a ribbon cutting ceremony, July 18. The new kennels were approximately a year and a half in the making and cost approximately $400,000. The kennels are a huge step in the right direction to properly house and care for the dogs, according to 1st Lt. William Turner, military working dog officer in charge.

The facility features include running water and drainage, a rinse tub for washing the dogs, and larger training grounds and break areas. The new training area contains a large obedience course, which is a set of obstacles designed to strengthen a dog and handlers teamwork. The biggest addition to the new facility is the capacity to house 12 dogs. For normal operational purposes each forward operating base normally maintains only a few dogs.

With the increased housing capacity, Al Asad will eventually become the main hub for military working dogs as other FOBs close down and troops draw back, according to the Multi National Forces-West regional kennel master, Tech. Sgt. Nancy Hinostroza.

The biggest difference between the old kennels and the new facility is the billeting situation. In the former kennels the dogs slept in cages beneath the handlers beds and there was almost no separation between the two throughout the day. Now each dog has their own large kennel and each handler has their own room.

“They are the first professional kennels in MNF-W,” said Turner. “The restrictions being in a combat zone has always forced the handlers and dogs to live together, but here we are able to separate them out in a more professional manner.”

Separating the teams is more hygienic and keeps each end of the team healthier.

“The new kennels are more sanitary, in our old kennels we didn’t have anywhere to bathe the dogs,” said Hinostroza. “Now, we have an actual break yard where the dogs can stretch out and it’s great for training.”

The new facility is geared towards expanding on the dogs needs. The training grounds and hygiene equipment lead to better physical health of the furry war fighters, while separating them from their handlers improves their mental health.

“Now we get some separation, we’re not with our dogs all day,” said Hinostroza. “Sometimes you just need a break from your dog. Now, when we get them they are like ‘Come on, take me out!’ instead of like ‘Good morning, what’s going on?’ they are much happier to see us.”

Photo – Sgt. Aaron DeSalvo, a military working dog handler, walks his dog Kelsey through the obedience course at the new kennel facility, July 18. The facility has an improved break yard and larger obedience course, which is used to improve the dog and handlers teamwork skills.

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Oh my, a brand new boy-toy! That is what I call anything that has to do with cars, trucks, tanks, etc. But wait until you get a look at these new tanks! Well, I don’t if I can call them tanks. They’re more like gigantic trucks with all the protection of a tank and the versitility of a Humvee. Does that sound cool or what?

Marines with Regimental Combat Team 6 recently got their hands on the Marine Corps’ newest counter to attacks by terrorist forces in Anbar Province. The Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle, or JERRV, is the latest melding of technology and combat firepower to find its way onto the battlefield in Iraq. Like any new weapon fielded to Marines, instructors are needed to certify potential operators in its use.

“There’s a higher sense of security with brand new vehicles. They’re designed to carry the weight of the armor,” said McMillian, a Las Vegas native and 1998 graduate of Meadows High School. “(The JERRVs) are 40,000 pounds but they can go up to 52,000 pounds with extra modifications. Being surrounded by all that armor makes you feel safe.” [Continue reading.]

I know as soon as I mentioned boy-toys, I probably lost half of my audience, but for those of us who can wait a minute, these new vehicles will save many, many lives. My only question is, why did it take so long?

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