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COVER STORYU.S., Afghan forces are lone guards between Taliban routesA dot in a border valley surrounded by peaks and two Afghan observation posts, Spera is a single point of U.S military presence in the heart of Taliban terrain. Here, a dozen U.S. soldiers live in a tiny, rugged compound with 20 to 30 Afghan soldiers, with the primary mission of maintaining and defending their little thorn in the Taliban’s side. • Story and photo gallery

Back from college, military kids reflect on stateside experiencesOverseas teens leave life on a military base and face college in the United States, often alone for the first time and far from family. Teens get a potent taste of civilian life in college and then — a little older and wiser to the world outside the military — they return to far-flung bases for summer break. • Story

Airmen left stewing with cooler ABU delayAir Force members shouldn’t hold their breath expecting to beat the heat in a lighter-weight version of the Airman Battle Uniform. At least not this summer. Air Force officials said last week that a new lightweight version of the ABU blouse won’t be available until the fall of 2010. That will give manufacturers enough time to produce the new blouse in sufficient quantities. • Story

Rebuilding Iraq’s economy, brick by brickImproved security means the U.S. may bring in experts from other Middle Eastern countries to train Iraqi workers whose skills have languished due to years of sanctions and violence. Eric Shutler, a former Navy pilot and U.S. Agency for International Development representative on the Karbala provincial reconstruction team, said there’s a desperate need to train Iraqi workers since many lack skills needed to run a modern economy. • Story

Logan Veath: ‘The screams of a man on fire will haunt you’Army Capt. Logan Veath and members of his Stryker company were setting up concrete barriers to quell insurgent attacks in the Sadr City section of Baghdad when they were caught in a maelstrom of enemy fire and roadside bombs. • Story

Charles Claude: ‘We probably saw more action than anyone’Staff Sgt. Charles Claude Jr. said the patrol in which he earned his Bronze Star was the same as nearly every other one he did that month: a cache of explosives, hidden insurgents and a nasty gunfight. • Story

Spouse CallsA weekly column in Stripes' Scene magazine by Terri Barnes, a military wife and mother of three who lives and writes in Germany. • This week's column • Terri Barnes' blog

About the U.S. editionFor the first time since the Civil War, Stars and Stripes is returning stateside. The U.S. edition, available to local newspapers as a supplement, features some of the best content from the week’s daily overseas editions ... the top military stories from several news bureaus within Stars and Stripes’ three theaters — Europe, Pacific and Middle East — as well as coverage of military issues from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill.

Are you interested in advertising in the U.S. edition of Stars and Stripes, or seeing it your local newspaper? Contact Dan Krause at kraused@stripes.osd.mil, or call him at 202-761-0910.

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