Monday, September 6, 2010

Out in The Stix's

As usual there has been a significant reduction in blogs for a laundry list of reasons.
1. My company moved to a new Area of Operations in Wardark province where we built a base in the middle of no where from scratch, hence no internet

2. The transition has been fairly difficult with the summer heating up.
3. Lets face facts, blogging is hard, especially in a war-zone.Luckily I have had help through James Foley, a reporter who has been with my platoon for over 5 months. He is no longer with us but he did a great job of covering some day-to-day things we have done over the deployment and chronicled all of this in his blog It is an excellent website and I highly recommend you check it out.Right now I am currently journeying back to my platoon after being on my R&R (rest and recovery) leave for two weeks in New Zealand. My buddy Kevin Peters is currently working at sky resort in New Zealand called Mt. Ruapehu. The Army essentially offers you a free plane ticket anywhere and I used this rare opportunity to go to the opposite side of the world! I know my family and friends in the states weren't to happy but fortunately they understood.Kevin being the great host that he is offered me a beer after the 6 hour bus ride from Auckland!

Climbing the Tongarirro Crossing (right next to the famous mountain used as Mt. Doom in LOTR). Kevin is the guy in grey with the stripped beanie trying not to freeze to death!
New Zealand was the perfect break from Afhganistan. Unlike my Afghanistan, New Zealand is beautiful, covered in lush green grass, and is chock full of English speaking delightful people that don't veil their women and consume alcohol. Perfect! The major highlights of the trip included several festive nights in Wellington and Auckland, snowboarding for free at Kevin's mountain, hiking Mt. Doom during an earthquake, and visiting WETA Workshops (the design workshop that invented all the props and special effects for Lord of the Rings), playing an amazing 9 holes of golf with Kevin and most importantly making friends from all over the world.Of course our golf game was freezing and wet but a great time. We had to take the time to whack the crap out of a few snow piles...
Now unfortunately I am back in the real world and back to my job; fighting a war. I am actually excited to be back with my guys and stop living out of a suitcase. Of course I have come back in the worst time: elections. This is the end of fighting season so its the last chance that the enemy can make a major push against the government before the snow and cold comes in.The good news is that our little base has gotten some major improvements including showers, a kitchen for hot meals, and best of all INTERNET! So I will do my best to get back to a weekly post to let people know whats going on.

One of my Sergeants is big into photography so I have added a few pics to show you what our new home looks like.Me right before a patrol. For all those not in the military I am pretty much doing everything wrong in this picture: hands in pockets, no weapon, no helmet and only one knee pad :)
This is pretty much what a patrol looks like. Dirty soldier in the dirt, pulling security by watching a barren wasteland. Wardak is pretty flat except for some mountains far in the distance...that we still manage to find and climb up.One of the few actual success stories I have is when I managed to get my platoon and another platoon into a concrete building that was once a school as our permanent home. Originially we were staying in tents that didn't offer much protection. This picture is one of my favorites because it shows the love my guys have for their country while concurrently showing how we live to defend her. This is doorway of 1st squads room. Each squad has a 15' by 25' room that they share between 9 guys. Makes you appreciate having your own room doesn't it? Luckily we have a few electricians in the platoon that wired it up with lights and outlets for power. Life of luxury, except when it rains through the leaky roof.

God bless America.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Love - Hate

So by a complete fluke I am back at a large base in order to get a few administrative things completed. Of course it takes forever to catch a helicopter flight to wherever you are going in Afghanistan so I am stuck in this land of hot showers, internet, and decent food. As much as I appreciate the amenities, I hate being away from the guys.

I will readily admit that I have a distinct love-hate relationship with my profession at the moment. The job offers unique and indispensable knowledge and situations that you could never get any where else. On a daily basis I am often confronted with a situation that in now way I am trained to handle. For instance, providing housing and protection for over 80 soldiers in a country where building materials and resources are at a minimum. So of course you improvise. Currently my platoon is living in an abandoned school building that we renovated with electrical house wiring and hescoes for added protection. Those are the kind of problems you learn to solve.

But I will tell you the real struggle is dealing with people that really have no connection to a war while being right in the middle of one. For instance, 80% of soldiers really don't leave the wire and most spend an inordinate amount of time at a desk working on PowerPoint or sending emails. The closes thing to a fight they see is when it is displayed on a screen. Unfortunately they don't feel the day in day out misery of dealing with substandard living conditions and the possibility that something terrible could happen at every minute. And to add on this whole scenario is typical for senior leadership. They unfortunately don't see the day-to-day life of a grunt. The only hope is that they trust the guys on the ground enough to give them the space to accomplish their mission.

The long and short is that after 8 months of being in Afghanistan it hasn't gotten better or worse. It is simply a daily hellish situation that soldiers go through. I am sure it is merely the pessimism and fatigue at this point but that is what blogs are for, to disseminate feelings across the world.

But to end on a good note one very interesting situation caught me off guard a few weeks ago. We were moving through one of the hundreds of villages in our Area of Operations and we stopped to talk to a few people. One little kid looked at me kind of funny and asked through the interpreter "Are you not from America, the greatest country in the world?" I simply responded "Yes" and the kid fires right back with "well then why are you so dirty?"

I thought it was so funny simply because this 5 year old afghan kid was able to see something so basic but was so provocative at the same time. I really miss having the simple views of being a kid. Unfortunately this adult world has gotten so caught up in semantics and BS that we forget to see simple things like being dirty.