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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter flies above the Euphrates River, Iraq, April 15. The helicopters are operated by pilots and crew chiefs with the Virginia Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), and are a unique asset for Marine forces in Iraq. Using planning and constant in-flight communication, the air crews have been carrying out their tasking for more than 10 months with exacting proficiency. Photo by: Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevichf

Read the story associated with this photo

Medics Clear Rats From Saddam Hussein’s Bunker

Rats devoured cases of military rations left in Saddam Hussein’s underground bunker outside Baghdad. The rats then used the boxes for nesting. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Bobby Hart

By Maj. Bobby Hart, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 26, 2006 – It was a scene straight from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” or maybe “Willard.” American soldiers walking through a dimly lit, underground command bunker once used by a brutal dictator, now filled with hundreds of rats. Throw in a snake or two, and you have the perfect setting for a horror movie.

But it was not a movie.

Soldiers of the 3rd Medical Command, Fort Gillem, Ga., found themselves in just such an environment when they went to investigate a potential rat infestation.

Civilians on a forward operating base near Baghdad reported they had seen increasing numbers of rodents in the area surrounding what was known locally as Saddam Hussein’s presidential bunker — a massive, two-level, network of tunnels and rooms estimated to be able to support upwards of 100 people for several months.

The bunker included meeting rooms, a kitchen, huge underground generators, restrooms, showers, private living quarters and rats. Lots and lots of rats.

Army Lt. Col. Van Sherwood, a 3rd MEDCOM preventive medicine specialist, said he had seen rat infestations before, but nothing compared to what he saw when he pulled open the doors and entered Saddam’s bunker.

“We saw some rats around the entrance when we walked up with our lights,” said Sherwood, a Gainesville, Fla., native and graduate of the University of Florida, who currently works at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C. “Once we opened the doors and walked in, it was like rat heaven.”

Sherwood said American Special Forces troops had taken over the bunker and used them for operations and storage until January 2006. When they left, they left behind pallets of military food rations and water.

“I really had no preconceived idea of what to expect when I heard they had a rat problem,” Sherwood said. “I’ve been called out on these types of cases before, and most of the time, they are pretty mundane. For most people, one or two rats can be an infestation. As soon as we opened the doors, you could see rats scurrying down the corridors and could smell the rat urine. I knew then there were a lot of rats there.”

The rats had moved in to take over the bunker when the American soldiers left and the limited access hindered the entry of predators. The rats had a secure nesting area with a high-calorie, high-protein food source and water. A healthy female rat is capable of producing a brood of around a dozen offspring monthly. It didn’t take long for the rat population to reach epidemic proportions.

Until Sherwood and his rat patrol arrived, about the only thing the rats had to worry about was the snakes — one which was tentatively identified as a sand boa estimated to be at least five to six feet long.

“We knew we had to get rid of the rats some way, but it wasn’t as easy as it might seem,” he said. “There were so many cracks and crevices that they could easily escape the bunker and go to ground level, where there were hundreds of rodent burrows that would provide them harborage.”

Sherwood said the last thing he wanted to do was to take away the food supply and water or do anything that would drive the rats out of the bunker to the base camps to forage for their next meal.

The rats had devoured most of the military rations -- they ate everything but the salt and pepper and Tabasco sauce -- and shredded everything else except the spoons to use for nesting material. The cases looked intact, except for one or two small holes in each.

“I think that was the most surprising thing,” Sherwood said. “The boxes looked fine, but when you picked them up they were empty except for the ones that had nests built in them.”

Another surprising thing was the consistency with which the rats emptied the water bottles, which were almost all chewed through at the same height on the bottle with the holes all being very similar in size.

Sherwood decided to place poison near the now-empty pallets, which still contained ample food for the thriving rodent population, to rid the area of the problem. He said after placing the poison, his team returned and picked up dead adult rats by the hundreds and estimated many more may have died in their nests or in underground burrows.

The body count of the dead rats did lead Sherwood to believe the problem had been solved and shouldn’t happen again.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Once we got rid of the population and cleaned out the food and water, there was nothing down there that would make a rat want to go there.”

Rats filled every nook and cranny of a huge underground bunker near Baghdad. U.S. Army photo.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Van Sherwood, preventive medicine officer for Task Force 3rd Medical Command, developed and executed a plan to rid Saddam Hussein’s bunker of rats. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Sam McLarty

Only an occasional snake, like this sand boa, kept Saddam Hussein's command bunker from being a total rat heaven. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Sam McLarty

VANTAGE POINT — U.S. Army Sgt. Kenneth Labutis of Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, occupies a blocking position outside Abassi, Iraq as other elements of the battalion search the town, Dec 20, 2006. U.S. Army photo by Sgt.1st Class Michael Guillory

In Today's News - Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quote of the Day
"Freedom is not the right to do what we want,
but what we ought. Let us have faith that right makes might
and in that faith let us; to the end,
dare to do our duty as we understand it."

-- Abraham Lincoln

News of Note
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Baathists Vow Revenge if Saddam Is Executed
Iraqi govt silent on conduct of Saddam hanging - Video
Saddam says faces death without fear - Video
Iran MPs oblige government to revise IAEA cooperation
Some Iraqis fear Saddam execution would fuel violence
U.S. soldiers' death toll climbs in Iraq
Bush deciding Iraq policy at Texas ranch

Operation Enduring Freedom
Pakistan's Afghan border fence plan "impractical"
Taliban confirm top commander killed in U.S. strike

Homeland Security / War on Terror / Hamas-Hezbollah Happenings
Egypt: Kidnapped Israeli Soldier Shalit Is Alive
Israel says will act against Gaza rockets
Rice to visit the Mideast next month: Abbas
Senators nix pre-9/11 hijacker ID theory

Other Military News
Military may Recruit Foreigners
New Navy Menu Fights Flab

Religion of Peace??
Islamic Forces Retreat in Somalia
Pro-govt troops to besiege Mogadishu: Somali envoy
Ethiopian, Somali troops regain Jowhar

Worldwide Wackos
Iran MPs oblige government to revise IAEA cooperation

Politics / Government
Former Capitol Hill Aides to Air Sex Details in Trial

In the Courts / Crime and Punishment
Judges OK $2.45 bln settlement in Nortel case
Traffic-related law officer deaths jump

Science / Nature
Food, Tents Reach Indonesian Floods Victims
Airline: Bad Lighting Caused Tony Blair Plane Skid
Sexually Transmitted Disease May Be Blinding Mountain Lions
European scientists to launch "planet hunter"
Africa has high-tech tools to beat meningitis
Taiwan quake kills two, undersea cables damaged - Video

News from My Neck of the Woods
New York building collapse kills one, injures two
More than 1 million New Yorkers ask: food or rent?

Penis Cartoon Spurs STD Testing in Gay Men
Common Parasite Brings Out the 'Sex Kitten' in Women
Woman fakes kidnapping to avoid work
Who knew you could cheat at chess?
Flatulence allegedly sparks jail fight (*chortle* - you just can't make this stuff up...)

Other News of Note
Italian link in Litvinenko case to be questioned

Fox News
Report: Ford, Toyota Chiefs Discuss Partnership
Daughter of Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner Baptized Christmas Eve
Mother, Two Children Found Dead in Arkansas Apartment; Boyfriend Arrested

Reuters: Top News
Innovation, design freshen "Made in Taiwan" tech label
Tip of Louisiana falls off recovery map
Heartburn drugs raise risk of hip fractures: study
Time may not cure all wounds, but helps hangovers
An unadventurous year for mainstream jazz
Sean Paul, Matisyahu reggae's top acts in '06
Apple falls 4 percent
Ford rises 2 percent - Video
Gold finds post-holiday luster, gains on dollar
Oil hovers near flat, warm weather weighs
Euro, stocks enjoy post-Christmas cheer
Uphill struggle in Japan
New rules for savings
Ford, Toyota chiefs did not discuss tie-up: Toyota
Home loan demand plunges to near 5-month low
Top Wall Street jobs still elude women, minorities
Asia quakes damage cables; Internet, banks affected
Essar bids to buy out Hutchison: paper
Automobile Magazine names VW GTI 2007 car of year

AP World News
James Brown's body to lie at NYC Apollo
Refs irk Nets after loss to Pistons
Brown's partner: locked out of home
Billups lifts Pistons over Nets, 92-91
Injury benches Giants' Strahan for year
D-backs interested in obtaining Big Unit
Video News: Today's Military Headlines
Military Gamers' Paradise
SpouseBUZZ: Husband Fears Toys 'R Us
Military Benefits Made Easy
Now Get What You Really Wanted
Spend Hostile Fire Pay Wisely

CENTCOM: News Releases




USJFCOM gets approval to connect U.S., Australian networks - podcast
USJFCOM’s new super computer to enhance joint experimentation, training - podcast

Department of Defense
Stability & Security in Iraq Report (pdf)
For Top News Visit DefenseLink

Airmen Celebrate the Holidays in Afghanistan - Story
Chief of Naval Operations Visits USS Boxer - Story
Santa’s Helper Delivers Gifts to Foreign Nationals - Story
Trainers Tell Gates They're Pleased With Progress - Story
Residents Take Pride in Market Renovations - Story
Soldiers, Mayor Discuss Progress of City Cleanup - Story

Iraqi Police, Coalition Forces Deliver Supplies
Najaf Teaching Hospital Nears Completion
Soldiers Work 24/7 to Keep Supplies Flowing
U.S. Army Engineers Help Ramp Up Oil Production

Afghan Officials, U.S. Troops Open Runway
Chief of Chaplains Brings Support to Region
Buccaneers Return from Afghanistan Tour

Renewal In Iraq
Iraq: Security, Stability
Fact Sheet: Progress and Work Ahead
Report: Strategy for Victory in Iraq
Iraq Daily Update
This Week in Iraq
Multinational Force Iraq
State Dept. Weekly Iraq Report (PDF)
'Boots on the Ground' Audio Archive
Weekly Reconstruction Report (PDF)
Iraq Reconstruction

Afghanistan Update

Fact Sheet: Budget Request
Fact Sheet: War on Terror
Fact Sheet: Terror Plots Disrupted
Waging and Winning the War on Terror
Terrorism Timeline
Terrorism Knowledge Base

Officials Identify Casualty - Story

Bost/Laskar Ghurian Herat Kabul Qandahar

Ansbach Aschaffenburg Berlin Berlin-Tempelhof Berlin/Schonefeld Bremerhaven
Darmstadt Frankfurt Frankfurt/Main Freiburg/Breisgau Garmisch
Garmisch-Partenkirchen Geilenkirchen Gelnhausen Giessen Kitzingen Hanau Am Main Heidelberg Mainz Mannheim Nurnberg Stuttgart Trier Wiesbaden Wurzburg


Agana Agana Heights Agat Andersen AFB Asan Barrigada

Al Azamiyah Al Basrah Al Hillah Al Karkh Al Kazimiyah Al Kut
An Nasiriyah Baghdad Baqubah Mosul Najaf Nineveh Tall Kayf

Kadena Air Base Okinawa Tokyo Yokohama

Baler Radar Site Catanduanes Radar Site Manila

South Korea
Cheju Upper/Radar Chonju Chunchon Inch'on Kunsan Masan Mokp'o Osan Pusan Seoul Suwon Taegu Taejon Tonghae Radar Site Ulsan Yosu

** If you're deployed, and want to see your location's weather listed here, please email me! **

Today in History
- [Etalius] begins his reign as Catholic Pope
1437 - Albrecht II von Habsburg becomes king of Bohemia
1503 - Battle at Garigliano - Spanish army under G Córdoba beats France
1703 - England & Portugal sign Methuen-Asiento-trade agreement
1741 - Prussian forces take Olmutz, Czechoslovakia
1825 - 1st public railroad using steam locomotive completed in England
1831 - Darwin begins his voyage to South America on board the HMS Beagle
1836 - Worst English avalanche kills 8 of 15 buried (Lewes Sussex)
1845 - Ether 1st used in childbirth in US, Jefferson GA
1850 - Hawaiian Fire Department established
1862 - Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs, MS (Chickasaw Bayou); Battle of Elizabethtown, KY
1867 - Ontario & Québec legislatures hold 1st meeting
1871 - World's 1st cat show (Crystal Palace, London)
1884 - Netherlands recognizes king Leopold II's Congo Free State
1892 - Foundation Stone of the Cathedral of St John laid (New York NY)
1903 - "Sweet Adeline", a barbershop quartet favorite, is 1st sung
1923 - Unsuccessful assassination attempt on prince-regent Hirohito of Japan
1926 - Latkin Square in Bronx named for 1st US Jewish soldier to die in WWI
1932 - Radio City Music Hall opens (New York NY)
1934 - Shah of Persia declares Persia now Iran
1937 - German immigration officials with no explanation bar Juan Carlos Zabala (Argentina), 1932 Olympic marathon champion, from entering Germany
1939 - 8.0 Earthquake in Erzincam Turkey, about 50,000 die
1941 - Japan bombs Manila even though it was declared an "open city"
1942 - 1st Japanese women camp (Ambarawa) goes into use
1943 - German warship Scharnhorst sinks in Barents Sea; Montgomery discusses Overlord with Eisenhower & Bedell Smith
1944 - Greece: British premier Churchill flies back to London
1945 - International Monetary Fund established - World Bank founded
1947 - 1st "Howdy Doody Show" (Puppet Playhouse), telecast on NBC
1949 - Queen Juliana (Netherlands) grants sovereignty to Indonesia
1961 - Belgium & Congo resume diplomatic relations
1972 - New North Korean constitution comes into effect; Belgium recognizes German Democratic Republic
1974 - FSLN (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional/Sandinista National Liberation Front) seizes government hostages at a private Managua party
1976 - Albania constitution goes into effect
1978 - King Juan Carlos ratifies Spain's 1st democratic constitution
1979 - Soviet troops invade Afghánistán, President Hafizullah Amin overthrown
1983 - Pope John Paul II pardons man who shot him (Mehmet Ali Agca)
1985 - Terrorists kill 20 & wound 110 attacking El Al at Rome & Vienna airports; President Reagan blames Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi
1988 - Bulgaria stops jamming Radio Free Europe after more than 3 decades

1755 - Antons Klemens Theodor king of Saksen (1827-36)
1761 - Michael A Barclay de Tolly Scottish/Russian minister of War
1773 - George Cayley England, found science of aerodynamics
1801 - Guillaume L Baud Dutch minister of Colonies (1848-49)
1803 - John ACA van Nispen Sevenaer Member of Dutch 2nd parliament (1848-75)
1814 - James Henry Carleton Brevet Major General (Union Army), died in 1873
1816 - Eliakim Parker Scammon Brigadier-General (Union volunteers), died in 1894
1822 - Louis Pasteur Dole France, bacteriologist (pasteurization)
1829 - James Clay Rice Brigadier-General (Union volunteers), died in 1864
1831 - Lucius Fairchild Brigadier-General (Union volunteers), died in 1896
1897 - Iwan S Konew Russian marshal/supreme commander pact of Warsaw
1924 - James A McClure (Senator-ID); Mokta Ould Daddah President of Mauritania (1961-78)
1930 - Meg Greenfield US politician(?)
1951 - William Waldorf 4th viscount Astor/English large landowner
1953 - Arthur Kent newscaster [Scud Stud], (NBC-Gulf War coverage)

0418 - Zosimus, Greek Pope (417-8), dies
0975 - Balderik, bishop of Utrecht (918-75), dies
1065 - Ferdinand I the Great, king of Castile, dies
1590 - Emmanuel-Philibert of Lalaing, marquis of Renty, dies at 33
1641 - François van d'Aerssen, ruler of Sommelsdijk/diplomat, dies at 69
1836 - Stephen Fuller Austin, founder of state of Texas, dies at 43
1919 - Theodoor H de Meester, Dutch liberal premier (1905-08), dies at 68
1936 - Hans von Seeckt, German general/advisor of Chiang Kai-shek, dies at 70
1938 - Emile Vandervelde, Belgian Secretary of State (BWP), dies at 72
1952 - Henri G Winkelman, Dutch supreme commander army/navy 1940, dies at 76
1972 - Lester B Pearson, 14th Canadian PM (Nobel 1957), dies at 75
1978 - Houari Boumédiene, Algerian President, dies after 40 days in a coma at 53
1979 - Hafizullah Amin, President of Afghánistán (1979), murdered
1982 - John Leonard Swigert, Jr., astronaut (Apollo 13), dies of cancer at 51
1994 - Karl AF Schiller, West German economist/SPD-minister, dies at 83

Reported Missing in Action
Ortiz-Rivera, Luis A., US Army (Puerto Rico); released by PRG January, 1968

Innes, Roger B., USN (IL); F4B shot down, presumed KIA

Lee, Leonard M., USN (VA); F4B shot down, presumed KIA

Martin, Sammy A., USAF (TX); F4C shot down, slipped out of rescue sling, Killed, body not recovered

The following Air America Civilians reported Missing in Action when their C123 was shot down:

Ritter, George L.

Townley, Roy F.

Weissenback, Edward J.

Anderson, John W., USAF (OR); F4E shot down (w/Ward), released by DRV February, 1973 (injured) - alive as of 1998

Chipman, Ralph J., USMC (UT); A6A shot down (w/Forrester), KIA, body not recovered

Forrester, Ronald W., USMC (TX); A6A shot down (w/Chipman), presumed KIA

Jefcoat, Carl H., USAF (MS); F4E shot down (w/Trimble), released by DRV March, 1973 - killed in aviation accident in 1987

Trimble, Jack R., USAF (SC); F4E shot down (w/Jefcoat), released by DRV March, 1973 - retired as a Lt. Colonel - alive as of 1998

Ward, Brian H., USAF (CA); F4E shot down (w/Anderson), released by DRV March, 1973 - alive and well as of 1998