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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Short and Sweet

The past month has been a blur. Not only is it physically getting hotter here, but the pace is simply heating up. The Taliban, soldiers girlfriends,disease, most Afghans, my chain of command, the dog have all decided to band together to make life an unending rollercoaster of excuses, lies, and overall chaos.

But then, what other job lets you manage 240,000$ in benefit projects while coordinating the drop of highly lethal and accurate artillery/aircraft fire? HAH take that Dairy Queen.

Sorry for the sarcasm, but I have to point out that humour really is the only release out here. Now for the sake of children and descent people out there I won't dive into the debauchery that is combat infantryman humor, but I really have to express to the world how necessary it crass humor can be. To think of the absurd situations that have presented themselves in anything other than an un-serious context would lead to an unending maze of psychotic behavior.

Back to keeping this thing short. Once again I am only here online for a few minutes so I simply wanted to get the word out about the imbed reporter that has been with us for the past month, Jim Foley, who is a freelance journalist that has written a much more intelligent blog on how my platoon has been operating for the past few weeks. His blog is:

I highly recommend you read it, not only since it is about my platoon, but also because I feel it is the closest thing that people can read without extra-political-sensitive-whatever crap that comes with all our media outlets these days. His point of view is direct and raw. He sleeps, walks, and jokes with my guys day in and day out, and I think he gives a unique perspective to what real soldiers do in the field. And it is not the usual tripe you hear, it is the dirty foul in your face kind of writing we like out here.

Anyway, check it out for yourself.

Also, DUKE sucks. It had to be said.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Go Pack

Well I don’t know how the rest of the world perceives this fight to go down, but we are making headway. And by headway, I mean tiny little advances that are measured in conversations and perceptions
I am currently on my second full month of deployment and the days seem to blend together as missions, people, and events blur together into one crazy rodeo. Now my day is usually spent organizing a patrol, adverting a small local crisis, or losing horribly at spades. Spades if you didn’t know is the unofficial game of the deployed soldier. I have made small headway into learning the game but as of now, I remain a novice who will require many months of training before I will be declared proficient
I have also been brought into supplement-laced world of lifting by one of my squad leaders. Now I have always been a fan of the natural method of physical fitness that includes plenty of water, exercise, and stretching. Apparently out here soldiers try to get “prison big” where a series of supplements, proteins, and artificial muscle stimulants are used to achieve large gains. Currently I am benching 230 and enjoying the small pleasure of just keeping up with my more motivated soldiers. My goal is to bench 300 while maintaining my run which is difficult because I only have access to the treadmill back at our main base only once every 8 days or so. I am also currently reading “Stones Into Schools” a sequel to Greg Mortensons “Three Cups of Tea”. Both my mother and a friend Alyssa Moore sent me the exact same book at the exact same time. So I gave one copy to my boss and began reading the other. So far I am a few chapters in and I will tell you it is pretty wild to read a book that setting takes place often only 10 miles from where you a reading. In fact an old Lt Colonel is in the pictures of the book with one of the locals when he built my unit built a school in one of the districts of Afghanistan
The best thing about being deployed is the amount of support that comes to my soldiers. I know it is not the most popular war, but I am really proud that our nation has learned the lesson of previous fiasco’s were criticism is required but not at the cost of the soldier. I am really proud to have a chance to serve with my paratroopers. Everyday I learn something different, and I continue to be inspired by the simple truth and honesty that comes with working with soldiers. Now I won’t lie to you either. Soldiers have some of the dirtiest/darkest humor on the planet (which is most often the truth and hysterical) and political correctness is practically non-existent. But it is the guys out here that make the boredom and bullets worthwhile
I found out that NCSU will play UNC on my birthday and I can’t be more excited to hear about the tarholes ultimate demise. I mean come on if there was ever a day for a State victory it has to be my birthday. Go PACK!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Serious Support

I have only been in Afghanistan for a month and I really cannot be more appreciative for all the support. It is such a gift to get back from being out for a week or so to find the occasional letter or email that keeps you connected.

In fact it is amazing/shocking when I hear the stories from soldiers as they reconnect with their family and friends. So far in just one short month my platoon has experienced new pregnancies, engagements, divorces, and deaths in their families. I find myself in this awkward position where I have to help guys several years older than I am in order to get their life on track. But despite the strange situations, I would not trade it for the world. I know that I am lucky to have a strong family that (despite our faults) raised me to be at least a positive force in a conflicted world. My guys experience everything, and they take it in stride as they continue to serve. Even when people back home try and take advantage of them, you should know that our soldiers don't complain and continue to go out and make a difference in the world.

Now I know I am just ranting, but it has been an important for me whenever I get depressed or resentful about my own life and situation to take a step back and see the problems of others around me. It just requires a little perspective. I can at least say that I am glad to be here, at least for my guys sake.

Now its time to head back out....