Reporter’s Notebook: Geese ready to sound the alarm at FOB Warrior
Meet Forward Operating Base Warrior’s most unusual combat unit: the “Attack Geese Special Expeditionary Squadron (Ground Assault),” a Kirkuk-based elite unit of six hefty grey-and-white geese that has attached itself to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) of Fort Campbell, Ky.
The squadron’s area of operations is a small area on the eastern side of the base. On most mornings, the unit can be seen assembling in a parking lot, marching to a honking cadence, conducting marine operations in a nearby pond and attacking anyone foolish enough to confront them.
Their rules of engagement are fair, but have teeth. After sounding a warning honk, the geese deliver nasty nips to the legs and ankles of intruders.
Maj. David Shelly was attacked by the unit and lived to tell the tale. “They’re all honk and no bite,” he said. “I definitely got the better of that engagement.”
The geese’s time on the installation dates back at least a year, although officials could not say why they chose the area, where they are from or why they are here.
Soldiers play it safe by steering clear of the honk-happy unit. “Nobody here likes them,” said Spc. Barbara Ospina. “They’re very confident and cocky. It’s like this is their territory and we’re just borrowing it.”
However, the foul fowls’ time on base may be ending soon, she warned: “We’ve been thinking — goose sounds like a very good Thanksgiving dinner.”
Ancient mosque, new rules?FOB Warrior is also home to an unusual historical monument: a 300-year-old Turkoman mosque and cemetery sitting regally amid the base’s nondescript trailers and warehouses.
The cemetery is the final resting place of Sultan Saqi, a distant descendant of the prophet Muhammad. Saqi was related to Imam Zainal Abdeed, who was related to the sons of Ali, who was Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law.
Both the bright green mosque and cemetery grounds are off-limits to soldiers, as per a theaterwide order that limits U.S. servicemembers’ access to mosques.
“We stay away from it to respect the cemetery,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Clyde Scott.
But Scott says he wants to try to bring in a local imam to lead prayers in the mosque for the 16 Muslim soldiers in the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division.
“We’ve put in a request to Corps to get permission to allow Muslim soldiers to worship,” he said. “The spirit of the rule should allow Muslim soldiers to go into the mosque. The loophole should be, if it’s on a [forward operating base] and supervised by a local imam, why not?”
Friendly firing contestU.S. and Iraqi troops engaged in a friendly firing contest during a shooting exercise at an Iraqi Army base last week.
The target: a cigarette planted upright in the ground at 25 meters. The weapon: an Iraqi standard-issue AK-47.
The challenge, given by Iraqi Col. Jasim Ali, was accepted by Capt. Cole Calloway of Company B, 451st Civil Affairs Battalion, an Army Reserve unit with members from around the United States. The exercise was intended to familiarize U.S. soldiers with foreign weapons systems, including the popular AK-47, the weapon of choice for both the Iraqi Army and many insurgents.
“I just want to preface this,” Calloway said as he nestled the Kalashnikov into his shoulder, “I’ve never shot this weapon before.”
His adversary, Lt. Col. Yashar Midhat, apparently had. He cleanly hit the cigarette on the fifth shot. It took Calloway eight shots, all close, before admitting defeat.
“He beat me fair and square,” he said with a smile.