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US combat troops won’t stay in Iraq after ISIS defeat

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U.S. combat troops will not stay on in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group is over, Iraq’s prime minister said Friday — a statement that followed reports on talks between Iraq and the United States on maintaining American forces in the country.

A U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government told AP this week that talks about keeping U.S. troops in Iraq were ongoing.

The U.S. official emphasized that discussions were in early stages and that “nothing has been finalized.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

In his statement, Haider al-Abadi emphasized that there are no foreign combat troops on Iraqi soil and that any American troops who stay on once ISIS militants are defeated will be advisers working to train Iraq’s security forces to maintain “full readiness” for any “future security challenges.”

While some U.S. forces are carrying out combat operations with Iraqi forces on and beyond front lines in the fight against ISIS, al-Abadi has maintained that the forces are acting only as advisers, apparently to get around a required parliamentary approval for their presence.

Any forces who remained would continue to be designated as advisers for the same reason, the Iraqi government official had told AP.

Regardless of how the troops are designated, talks about maintaining American forces in Iraq point to a consensus by both governments that a longer-term U.S. presence in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once ISIS militants are driven out — a contrast to the full U.S. withdrawal in 2011.

Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000, before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

The U.S. intervention against ISIS, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since expanded, given the Iraqi forces’ need for support.

Iraqi forces are struggling to retake the last remaining Mosul neighborhoods that ISIS holds in the city’s western half, but even after a territorial victory, Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition officials have warned of the potential for ISIS to carry out insurgent attacks in government-held territory.

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Army

US Army tests more breathable hot weather uniforms

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USAF Pararescue Jumbers (PJs) men on IED response

US Army uniform officials will begin evaluating a new Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform (IHWC) in January 2018 by issuing troops in Hawaii thousands of lighter uniforms that are more suited to the Pacific theater’s sweltering environment.

The development of new, more breathable uniforms follows another Army effort when between March and August the service fielded 9,000 pairs of new Jungle Combat Boots to combat teams with the 2nd and 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.

Until now, troops with the 25th Infantry trained in tropical environs wearing Hot Weather Combat Boots and Universal Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs) that were designed for a desert climate.

Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, an assistant product manager for Extreme Weather Clothing and Footwear, told Military.com that this January “is going to be huge,” explaining that soldiers “are going to be pure-fleeted in the [Operation Camouflage Pattern] with jungle boots in a hot weather combat uniform.”

Made by Source America, the new uniforms will have a 57 percent nylon/ 43 percent cotton blend, which Ferenczy says will give them “greater airflow” and make them dry faster than the ACU’s 50/50 nylon blend.

He noted, “It adds a little bit more strength which allows us to make it a lighter blend or a thinner weave… so it should dry a little quicker” and that “there are also architectural differences between the ACU uniform and this one.

Ferenczy described the forthcoming uniforms as having less layers of fabric, which helps it dry quicker since it can’t hold much moisture, with better flexibility as well. He also said there will be no breast pockets since the soldier’s gear usually covers the uniform when they’re in the field, so the Army decided to remove that extra layer as it winds up retaining heat and moisture.

The service removed back pockets from the uniform pants for the same reason, and a pocket for identification cards has been added inside the waistband. Instead of a zipper, the IHWC’s blouse will have a button-down front, and a button-down flap at the top of the pocket will replace the side zipper that’s usually placed on the shoulder.

Ferenczy said, “Every design feature on this uniform came straight out of the horse’s mouth,” and that the designers have worked closely with Hawaii’s Jungle Operations Training Center. In January, the $14 million program expects to issue about 20,000 sets of uniforms to Hawaii’s 2nd and 3rd BCTs with another 10-12,000 sets coming in March.

Once troop from the 25th have trained in the new Jungle Uniforms, Ferenzcy’s team will are planning to return in April or May to get feedback and make whatever necessary adjustments are required.

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Former Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta just gave away his Medal of Honor

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Former Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta just gave away the highest valor award a soldier can receive. So he clearly doesn’t need another medal in any form. Nevertheless, the Medal of Honor recipient deserves a salute for presenting his award to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team during an event in early July.

The commander in chief bestowed Giunta with the MOH in 2010 for his actions three years earlier during an enemy ambush while serving with the 173rd in Afghanistan. Giunta received the Medal of Honor in 2010 for his actions in October 2007 when he was a team leader with Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Then a specialist, Giunta was conducting a patrol with his team in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan when they were ambushed by the enemy, according to his citation for the medal. Giunta exposed himself to enemy fire to help his injured squad leader find cover. His body armor and secondary weapon were struck with enemy fire as he performed first aid on the squad leader.

Using grenades to provide cover, Giunta and his team made it to other wounded soldiers who had been separated from the squad. Giunta then realized one soldier was still missing. He discovered two insurgents carrying the wounded soldier away. He engaged the enemy, killing one insurgent and wounding the other. Then he gave medical aid to the wounded U.S. soldier he had rescued.

Since 2010, the award weighed heavily on his shoulders. When troops receive the Medal of Honor for acts of valor, they usually credit their fellow service members. No recipient in recent times has been more adamant that the award wasn’t his alone:

“The medal [Medal of Honor] should go to the guy on the right of me and the guy on the left of me,” he said after he received it.

Soldiers praised him for showing true military leadership. This act is more than an NCO’s leadership. It is a legacy. It is Giunta’s legacy to the soldiers to the right of him, to the left of him, and to all those at the 173rd who will follow after him, and see what one humble man can do.

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