April 20th, 2010
03:44 PM ET

Photo Spotlight: Combat Outpost Bari Alai

A rifleman with 2nd Platoon, Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Destroyer, fires an automatic grenade launcher during a small arms attack on Combat Outpost Bari Alai in early April. The base came under fire from anti-Afghan personnel with automatic machine guns about seven hours after a sniper also shot at the base. Neither Afghan National Army nor International Security Assistance Forces were injured during the attacks. Anti-Afghan forces have repeatedly targeted the base, located in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province, in an unsuccessful campaign to drive ANA and ISAF from the area.

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Filed under: Photo Spotlight • Troops
April 20th, 2010
03:10 PM ET

Care packages more important than fast food

The announcement by Sgt. Maj. Michael T. Hall of the International Security Assistance Force announced that fast-food offerings like Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen and Orange Julius were being shuttered inspired a lively debate about morale and the amenities afforded servicemen and women serving overseas - often in harm's way. Those affected, however, didn't seem very concerned.

"The big things that improve morale in a combat zone are lots of letters and packages from loved ones," Marine Cpl. David Brian Crouch said.

The veterans and active-duty troops all said that access to healthy foods, local cuisine and packages of snacks sent by friends and family trumped military base fast food as morale boosters.

Especially appreciated in these care packages are sweet, sour, salty and spicy condiments, such as Tabasco, sugar packets and seasoned salts for enlivening the military's frequently derided Meals Ready to Eat - individually packaged rations for service members stationed away from meal preparation facilities.

Read more on the troops reaction to the closings

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Filed under: Behind the Scenes • Troops
April 20th, 2010
11:50 AM ET

Volcanic ash diverts troops to Iraq for treatment

Some U.S. troops critically wounded or taken ill in Afghanistan are being shipped for treatment to Iraq instead of Germany, due to the European air traffic turmoil caused by the spread of volcanic ash.

The troops cannot be transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where the airspace has been closed.

The first troops arrived in Iraq three days ago and there were about 20 of them there, according to Master Sgt. Stefan Alford, spokesman for the 332
Air Expeditionary Wing in Iraq.

The U.S. military hospital at Balad, Iraq, has been designated the new hub for all aeromedical evacuations because of the disruptions in air traffic
caused by the volcano eruption in Iceland.

Balad can provide urgent or higher levels of medical care for the troops before they are sent to the United States, the U.S. Air Force said.

Wounded troops taken from Afghanistan to Iraq will be treated swiftly and then moved on to the United States.

The Air Force and Pentagon did not announce the shift to Iraq. But the website for the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing says Balad is now ready for a
"sudden high-paced operations tempo," and expects to receive more U.S. wounded troops.

"We anticipate receiving more and more battle injuries from Bagram," said Capt. Ethan Moses, an Air Force flight surgeon at Balad. He was referring to
Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

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Filed under: Daily Developments • Troops