Taking in the Great Ziggurat of Ur
A Soldier looks into the dark ruins of a royal tomb Feb. 9, near the Great Ziggurat of Ur. The tombs were built more than 4,000 years ago in the Sumerian city of Ur in ancient Mesopotamia, near present-day An Nasiriyah, Iraq. Members of the 407th Air Expeditionary Group Chaplains Office offer three tours weekly of the Ziggurat and ruins of the city of Ur.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky
Suicide Prevention for Veterans + Hybrid Warfare + Update in Iraq
Sgt. Stryker here. Sometimes all it takes to get through a rough time is having someone to talk to, someone to listen to you. Also, a new form of warfare is on the horizon. Finally, I want to take a look at continued progress in Iraq.
First, though, a look at the VA suicide prevention hotline. Since being launched in July 2007, almost 100,000 veterans, family members or friends of veterans have reached out for help by calling the Department of Veterans Affairs suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
According to a recent VA statement, more than 2,600 veterans have been “rescued” through the hotline. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is staffed by trained mental health professionals prepared to deal with immediate crisis. Although the lifeline isn’t restricted to military veterans only, callers are prompted to “please press 1 now” if they are a U.S. military veteran or are calling about a veteran. If they do, they’re transferred to the nearest VA call center.
“I urge veterans and their loved ones to take advantage of our suicide-prevention program,” VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said in a recent statement. “Help for these heroes is a phone call away.”
VA, the Defense Department and local communities are making it a point to understand suicide and determine better prevention methods. Defense leaders, including Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have voiced concerns for short- and long-term solutions.
“We have got to be able to support those individuals in ways that, in some cases, we haven’t quite figured out yet,” Mullen said during a lecture at Grove City College, Pa., earlier this month.
Troubled veterans, whether they call the suicide prevention hotline or walk in, receive follow-up care almost immediately. Preliminary evaluations occur within 24 hours of requests, and referrals are given for mental health appointments. Comprehensive evaluations are conducted within 14 days, with emergency cases handled immediately.
Hybrid and Irregular Warfare
Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, NATO’s supreme allied commander and commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, said the United States has lost some of its nuclear and conventional war edge in recent years, but remains superior on these fronts.
“We are not superior in irregular warfare,” he said in a speech at the Foreign Policy Research Institute here. “And that’s what we’ve got to be.”
Mattis discussed the need for the U.S. military to transform to a “hybrid” force that expands its nonconventional means without sacrificing classic warfighting competence.
“If I was to sum up everything I’ve learned in 35 years of wearing this uniform, I’d do it with three words: improvise, improvise, improvise. And the more we anticipate, the more we try to get it right ahead of time, the less we have to improvise in combat,” he said.
To help quantify problems the military may face over the next quarter century, officials developed the idea of the Joint Operating Environment. This conceptual battlefield takes into account potential threats born out of competition for resources, economics, increased urbanization and the possibility of nonstate actors obtaining more deadly weapons.
Joint Forces Command released its findings in December in a report called Joint Operating Environment 2008. A follow-on document, known as the Capstone Concept, created with approval from Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will guide how U.S. joint forces are implemented.
“Today’s challenges and threats are not strictly military in nature, solved or countered by military means alone,” Mullen said last month. “We owe future generations a longer-term view of security. The concept is designed to help military and other national security leaders think about challenges and opportunities.”
Mattis said one certainty is that the United States will fight 21st century war among “hybrid conditions” and emphasized the need to maintain focus on the mixed-type of warfare and to make irregular war a core competency.
“If we don’t set up some kind of magnet to pull the [Defense] Department out of its good old â€˜mano-a-mano’ conventional war focus, then we won’t shift the budgeting, we won’t shift the focus over where it has to go,” he said. “Really, we’re going to have to be able to fight hybrid enemies.”
Iraqi, U.S. Forces Find Bomb, Seize Weapons
According to Multinational Corps Iraq news releases, Iraqi and U.S. forces foiled a bomb attack and seized stockpiles of weapons February 12 and February 13, 2009.
In southern Baghdad’s Rashid district on Friday, February 13, 2009, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers found a bomb in a plastic bag hung from the door handle of a shop in the district’s Hadar community. An Iraqi explosive ordnance disposal team responded to safely disarm it.
Meanwhile, in the Rashid district, Iraqi and U.S. soldiers confiscated two AK-47 assault rifles in the Saydiyah neighborhood.
In the Rashid district’s Ghartan community on February 12, 2009, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers found 12 AK-47 assault rifles and three large machine guns. Later that day in the Arab Jabour neighborhood, Iraqi and U.S. soldiers questioned three people in connection with a cache of four rifles, two shotguns, a pistol, two plate carriers, AK-47 assault rifle magazines, two video cameras with remote controls and tripods, and three scopes.
Two of them were released after it was determined they were not involved with the cache, and the patrol transported the third suspect to a joint security station for processing.
Also on February 12, 2009, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers found a hand grenade in the Masafee community. An Iraqi EOD team responded to handle it.
This is Sgt. Stryker signing out.