Friday, September 30, 2005

Ramp ceremonies, ISAF, and playing ball

Over the past week I have been to three ramp ceremonies. One was for a French soldier who was killed right before the election. Soldiers from all the militaries on KAF lined up and rendered a salute as a coffin draped with the French tricolor was placed in front of the ramp of a French Armee de l’Air (Air Force) C-130. An officer read in French and English a tribute to the soldier and then a Chaplin recited a prayer. After that he was loaded on to the aircraft and headed home.

Next a CH-47 went down and five soldiers were killed in that crash. Over at A Storm in Afghanistan writes about the ramp ceremony, since the five soldiers killed were from his unit.

Then we one more soldier who was killed in a TIC and I was back on the ramp doing the right thing and paying my respects in a military fashion. When I go to a ramp ceremony I will spend a few minutes in silence at parade rest with a few hundred other soldiers from all the coalition nations that are waiting to snap to the position of attention and salute the fallen comrade in arms one last time on his or her way home. During those minutes I do a lot of thinking: am I a good soldier, husband or father? How will I be remembered if I buy the farm? When I make it out of here what will I do? Where will I go? Seeing a coffin pretty well drives home the message that I am mortal and have to make the most of the short time while I am here on terra firma. Most of the time I think I am doing good- but when I am away from my family, friends and country, while reading the newspapers online, sometimes doubts creep in to the back of my mind. Those thoughts are erased when I go into an Afghan village and the villagers tell me about the horrors that they suffered under the Taliban. That is another blog entry there.

This is a spot on report on Afghanistan coming form all places Parameters! It was written by a Canadian. What is the world coming to? The article is polite but tells of the problems that ISAF has. Unity of command is a problem, being cheap and not being able to bring enough personnel and equipment to do the job. Some say ISAF want to avoid casualties and just drive around with their national flag for display.

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Playing ball with a boy.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Election

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How and why to vote in Pashto and Dari

What have you done to advance democracy? Did you run for office? Did you vote? Pass out flyers for a cause or candidate? I am right now waiting for a mission and typing this little monograph while millions of Afghans are going to vote tomorrow. I and many soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen of the US military and coalition forces (CF) have helped create an environment for the Afghans elect their representatives for the Wolesi Jirga or Afghan Congress. For many of us, this is the highlight or main reason of our tour here. Many soldiers from the US and Afghan armies have died or have been wounded to ensure this election despite the actions of the Taliban and al Qeada. The elections will be held and life will go on or as one of the interpreters said “Allah wills it even if the Taliban are fools.” Then he said “Tashakure” or thank you in Pashto as he left last night to go home so he could vote tomorrow. That is what I and my brothers and sisters in arms are doing for democracy.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Reason, flag, posters and Freedom Watch

This is why I and many more are here in Afghanistan. I want to make sure that my children do not have to make this decision.

Today I was one of many raising the US flag above the Taliban Last Stand (TLS) building. Many of the flags will be going back to friends and families in the US. It is sobering knowing that where I was raising the US flag the Taliban used to walk around. Now we have the Taliban on the run and the election next Sunday will be another nail in their coffin. Rumor has it that they are making deals with drug industry to survive. What a surprise.

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This image shows all the posters for the 200 plus candidates running for office. The candidates are pressing the flesh around here to win.

Do you really want to know what is going on in Afghanistan? Read this. Many of us here from all the different coalition forces read it.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Katrina and Afghan notes and interpeter conversation.

This is why it takes time to move an Army unit to a natural disaster. Logistics.

Here is a view form the Air National guard in New Orleans.

The 82nd Airborne in NOLA.

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Afghan Gastation

This is a sure sign that life in Afghanistan is returning to normal. When refugees are returning, this means that they feel that they will arrive to a stable area that they can start living life again. This is progress that I bet will not be in the newspapers in America.

This will never make the media and will show how big the hearts of American soldiers are. God bless the child and the medical professionals who care for her.

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Camels on the side of the road.

I was talking to an interpreter who grew up with the Taliban in Kandahar. He told me from a child’s perspective of the insanity of the Taliban – how the Taliban trashed public women’s toilets and banned women from going to school or working under pain of death. Also the Taliban stole money from people to buy expensive cars then raced the cars around Kandahar air field since no flights from other countries landed there. They killed off most of the airport staff. The Taliban lived the high life not the religion they preached and if anybody who questioned them, it was then time to head to the football field to be executed. As a boy he went to a wedding that played tradition Afghan music, so the Taliban raided the wedding because music was banned and the Bride’s father and the Groom both went to jail for a few weeks. He was glad that America came and liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban and told me about the Taliban fleeing to the mountains to avoid the wrath of the people. He said that he and most Afghans do not want America to leave or tribal differences will tear Afghanistan apart. Becoming a true nation will take a few generations to over come tribal differences.

When I told him that ISAF or the European and Canadians will be arriving to help soon, he just smiled and said that he did not trust the Europeans. “It was the Americans who liberated us-not the Europeans” he said. Americans were not afraid to die with the Afghans to free Afghanistan of the Taliban- that is how you could summarize the next five minutes of our conversation.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Driving, book, background and quote.

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Image by CLS

A few days ago I was driving around Kandahar and it was not like doing the same around home. You know the drill: walk out to your car, start it up and drive to your destination. Not so for us here in sunny Afghanistan. Our little jaunt started about two to three hours with an intel brief on our route. We were told that an IED was found on the road recently- so a few of our team were nervous, but others felt relieved, since that was one less IED to worry about. Then a briefing for all members of the convoy was held right before we left to spell out duties if we encounter a specific event such as an IED, RPG and machine gun fire or a blocked or unblocked ambush. Everybody knew the drill. Basically it was straight out of the Ranger Handbook.

Then we prepped radios and weapons, pulled maintenance on the vehicle and other equipment, and talked about what we do if we had a flat tire.

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It was nerve racking for a while, not because I thought we might get center punched by an IED or have a RPG start off a TIC, but the local Afghan drivers make New York cabbies look polite. We were on a two lane road that is a major highway in Afghanistan, but it was no bigger than the street I live on in America. There were farm tractors, semi-trucks, bicycles, farm animals and camels on the road with everybody passing the slow pokes. Afghans just shrug off traffic accidents as divine act or “Allah wills it.” The driver of our vehicle was smiling while driving and I asked him why and he said “I’m getting paid to drive like an a$%^@# with weapons and nobody gives me s%^& about it.” Asked where he learned how to drive like a bat out of hell, he replied “GAT-SA.” That is gamer talk for the video game “Grand Auto Theft-San Andreas.” So I had a professional wheelman driving me around. I felt better and went back to scanning my sector.

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I will not go into detail on our mission other than it was successful and we were not hit by an IED or hostile fire. Children waived to us and we waived back. If you are going on the on the town you will meet children; so carry pens, candy and Pepsi-those are the most requested items by children in Afghanistan.


I will be reading Mr. Peter’s new book. He might be a little too right-wing for some, but as a retired MI officer, he knows his “stuff” in most soldiers’ eyes.

Some background of the fall of the Taliban.

Quote: "I think I lost my faith in Atheism."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hot, election and sunglasses

It is hot outside for the Taliban. So hot for 16 of them, that they are going collect on their virgins real soon. This confirms what we hear outside all the time: the constant sounds of helicopters and CAS flying in support of operations.

Guess how the Taliban deals with those who are involved with the election? Behead them.

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One of the icons of WWII was the Ray Ban aviator sunglasses. Remember the Life Magazine cover with Douglass Macarthur? Guess what he was wearing? Those sunglasses set the standard of cool. Now we are in the 21st century and the US Army issuing Wiley X ballistic eye protection to all soldiers in the CENTCOM AO. Earlier version of ballistic eye protection was butt ugly. Who wanted to go into battle wearing safety glasses that were dubbed birth control glasses by the troops? With glasses that ugly nobody wore them. Then regular Army soldiers saw the Special Operations Forces looking cool wearing the Wiley X optics . Cool like Neo out the movie "The Matrix." Now all the troops want to wear their new safety/ballistic eye protection. Even the Coalition Forces and the ANA want them. Fifty years from now when you look at videos and images on how we won the war on terror and defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda you will see you a US Army soldier with his or hers WileyX sunglasses.

Postscript: I just found out that Oakley just got the contract for ballistic eyewear. I will be trying to get a new pair for myself.