Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Royal Air Force help develop Iraqi flight safety

Royal Air Force held the first combined flight safety meeting at the Basra International Airport, which is becoming a significant transport hub for Iraq’s second city. The meeting, hosted by the Group Captain Andrew, the Commanding Officer of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), brought together a host of key Iraqi Air Force and Basra International Airport management to develop a strategy to bring the airport flight safety into line with international standards.

For more information on Basra International Airport click here

Basra Blog

UK Military spokesman in Iraq, Major Paul Smyth with his latest update from Basra:
I signed off last week as the team were fully engaged planning for the change of Commander Multi National Division (South East) (MND (SE)). The torrent of coverage that followed the transfer and the London briefing that Major General Barney White-Spunner gave, demonstrated that the team out here in Iraq and back in London had delivered what was required.

Headlines likes "Basra, it's absolutely blooming!" paint a very powerful picture of the significant changes that Basra has been experiencing over the past five months. Life here is much better and there is a new sense of optimism, but, there is still much to do.

On top of the reports highlighting the new pace of life here, there were many stories which speculated on troops being pulled out of Iraq. However much that may be the wish of the newspapers, the reality is that we have a valuable and much needed job to do here. One thing that is certain is that the Prime Minister has a long tem strategy, which will mean a fundamental change in mission. But as in any military operation the decision will be made based on conditions on the ground when the time is right.

Across Al Basrah province, UK and US troops are working with the Iraq Army, as well as the Iraqi Police Service. The coalition troops provide a real and much needed capability which is increasing the self reliance of the Iraqi Security Forces so that they can take control of their own city without the need for outside help.

Two days ago there was an explosion near a US police vehicle that was travelling through Northern Basra. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the vehicle survived with very little damage. It wasn't long before the media ops phones started ringing, asking what had happened.
While we were working out what the situation was and passing on the information to the media, the Iraqi Security Services set up a cordon and search operation around the scene of the explosion. What they uncovered was a bomb factory full of IEDs, detonators, rockets and guns which was an impressive find. But what made the whole event so significant, was that an explosion in Basra made headline news.

Major Paul Smyth, RIFLESMND (SE) Press Information Centre Director and spokesman

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tea, Then Briefing

Staff writer Tom Peter joined the British military having worked extensively with US forces in Iraq, he was pleasantly surprised style differences.

"With the Americans, I'll get off a helicopter in the summer heat carrying close to 60 or 70 pounds of equipment," says Tom. "Often, as soon as I take off my body armor, American officers will go right into background briefings while I'm still soaked with sweat and wiped out from the flight."

But when the American convoy dropped Tom off at the British base, his hosts helped him carry his bags to his cot. "I was braced for the whirlwind arrival briefs, but instead the commander brewed up a pot of tea and chatted with me about world events. It was quite nice to at least let the sweat dry before getting down to business."

To read Toms full article click here - Basra gains revive talk of British exit

Thursday, August 21, 2008

All aboard Saddam Hussein's own train

Saddam Hussein's luxury, private train, equipped with chandeliers and Italian-made curtains, is being put into public service to help ease a train shortage, Iraqi rail officials said yesterday.
The 23-carriage, French-built train was kept in a secret location for three decades and shielded from the widespread looting that followed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Starting in the near future, the train will ferry passengers between Baghdad and the southern city of Basra, said Karim al-Tamimi, a spokesman for Iraq's rail system.

Read more from The Australian

Watch a BBC news video on the train

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Poachers half-way through Iraq duties

BOSTON soldiers reaching the half-way point of their operational tour of Iraq have been reflecting on a 'different Basra'.

The 2nd Battalion Anglian Regiment – known as the Poachers – are operating as military transition teams. They live alongside the Iraqis, supporting them and training them out on the ground.

For the full article on the Boston Standard click here

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Basra Blog

Major Paul Smyth, RIFLES
MND (SE) Press Information Centre Director and spokesman.

The last week and half has flown by since I took over as the Media Spokesman in MND (SE). There was a sense of deja-vous as I walked off the Hercules C130 and into the passenger handling area, as I was last here in December 2006.

While much of the Contingency Operating Base (COB) was still familiar a great deal has changed with new buildings springing up all over the place. The most prominent changes across the COB being huge barns that have been purpose built to provide state of the art catering facilities and welfare areas, with coffee bars and internet access; important facilities for the hard working people living here.

More importantly, there is a significant change to the atmosphere here. Within minutes of arriving last time, I was taking cover as rockets flew into the base. It was a very timely reminder of the dangers faced by British and Coalition troops every day back then. So far, I haven’t had to put into action the Indirect Fire (IDF) drills that became second nature to me last time I was here.

The handover from my predecessor was termed as ‘hot’ as my arrival coincided with the media focus turning onto Iraq. All of the great work that had been completed out here since ‘Operation Charge of the Knights’, that has been a monumental turning point for Basra, was now under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. As I was being pushed through the arrivals briefs and sorting out my room and kit, my oppo was hard at work ensuring that no one was in any doubt about how the British had provided the support the Iraqi security forces requested for ‘Op Charge of the Knights’ that had included armour, artillery, airpower, medical and logistic support. So, with that out of the way, the final handover took place and as Tom Holloway headed back to the UK, I took command of the Media Ops team.

With a tri-service, UK and US team, there is a great deal to get to grips with in the office before the real media ops work could start. However, this was not the time for a few days of contemplation as only days after my handover the Commander of MND (SE) was due to change too. For media ops, this was going to be a big and full on task, requiring a great deal of effort to ensure the change of Commander MND (SE) would run as smooth as clockwork.

Friday, August 15, 2008

'Time right' for Iraq task change

The outgoing commander of British forces in Iraq has hinted at the possibility of reductions in the number of British troops in Basra.

Listen to a radio broadbcast from the BBC

Poachers praised for role in Iraq

Army boss speaks of pride for soldiers of the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment
As around 100 Bedfordshire soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment near the halfway point of their operational tour in Iraq, Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Simon Browne has spoken of his pride in them.

Full story on Bedford Today

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New commander for British forces in Iraq

Major General Andy Salmon took over from Major General Barney White-Spunner as General Officer Commanding of Multi-National Division (South East) Iraq at a ceremony held yesterday, Tuesday 12 August 2008.

Major General Andy Salmon

The Governor of Basra, tribal leaders, and the Commander of the Iraqi Army in Basra joined coalition troops for the ceremony which took place at Basra International Airport.

Speaking at the event Lieutenant General Lloyd J Austin III, Commanding General Multi-National Coalition - Iraq, said:

"General Barney and his headquarters have performed superbly. Within a week of their arrival, the Government of Iraq launched the Charge of the Knights Operation to restore the rule of law here in Basra. Multi-National Division (South East) is key to supporting the operation through partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces."

Major General Barney White-Spunner has been the General Officer Commanding of Multi-National Division (South East) since February this year. He said:

"Let me thank the leaders and the people of Basra. Basra the beautiful, Basra the lung of Iraq, and how good is it now that the people have their city returned to them. Basra now stands poised to be the economic miracle of the Gulf, with the security forces provided by the Iraqi Security Forces it will soon rival Dubai or Bahrain."

With the help provided by British forces, the Iraqi 14th Division in Basra is developing into a very effective military force. It has already demonstrated its ability to plan, execute and sustain operations which has lead to the vastly improved security situation.

General Mohammed, Commander of the Iraqi Army, added:
"Iraq, its Government and its people will remember the efforts that have been made for some time with respect and appreciation."