Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Afghanistan Adventure APR08

Hello from Kabul, in the 'Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’. I hope all of you and your families are doing well.

I just clicked past four months in country- the time is going quickly. The weather here has been beautiful for most of March and April; 60s and 70s every day- a famous king I can’t recall once commented on the moderate weather of Kabul.

picture above- Team Wolfpack at historic site; Balla Hissar. Belowr, Ceremony General I work with.
My job and the situation here in Kabul continues to go well. My Afghan groups (Presidential and Ministry of Defense Ceremony and National Band) have been practicing for the biggest parade of the year, the Islamic Revolution parade. Picture our Presidential groups getting ready for our 4th of July parades in D.C. I am in the capitol here and it is a very iconic event for this ‘newer’ military and government standing up. Just like ours, these groups represent the best the country has to offer, and also to help build confidence/ pride/ identity in its soldiers and citizens. My team will not be able to make the main event due to space and security but I did make it to a major dress rehearsal with the Afghan Chief of Staff group. The parade was quite impressive.
My position has shifted to an Event Coordinator, Band Promoter, and Tour Guide in addition to mentoring duties. Oh, and don’t worry.. I do more than this also; Team Counselor (it seems), Motor Officer (trip tickets and convoy briefer/ planner) and assistant Signal Guy (electronics operation/ security). Being a band mentor but not a musician I’ve had to play the creative card.. I am actively trying to get a full time US band mentor to work with the ANA, but for now I connect the US ‘in-country’ band (101st Airborne- Bagram Air Field based) and the ANA a few times per month. I plan events for each of them in the Kabul area; concerts, promotion ceremonies, luncheons, and at various bases dining facilities.
Doesn’t sound very tactical or military-like? Well, I still have to get around to all of these places and still always on patrol and on the lookout for Taliban. Not heavy tactical though and this is good because I’m not a ‘Ranger’ or tactical type of guy. We travel around in armored Humvee’s with windshields 2” thick, radios, headsets, full armor gear/ helmets weapons, and a gunner up top. We rotate positions; Driver, TC (Truck Commander- Navigator), and gunner. Aside from the responsibility of creating a ‘bubble’- pushing traffic aside- the best job is gunner – you get to see all around and be out in the fresh air.

I had some adventure this past month taking a night flight in a BlackHawk helicopter- ‘Black Ops’ as they call it- no lights as the pilots fly with NVGs (night vision goggles). I swear I could have reached out and touched the Mtns we were going over. Awesome military might in these machines- something to be proud of.. However-- Only in the military can you be sent on a medical appt [for a bum ankle] to a distant base only to be dropped off and expected to walk a mile with 150 lbs of gear on..!

Kabul Security? We are going through the ‘Spring Offensive’ period right now and their haven’t been many SIGACTs (Significant Actions) fortunately- except the explosion of an IED about a mile from our base that went off while I was talking on the phone to my -- wife! U.S. Humvee’s are armored, tough, and manned with 240’s/ 50Cal’s, and can withstand a massive blast- but you should see what the French and German’s roll with.. If I was the Taliban I wouldn’t duck my head out either.

On a serious note, security is very good here in the Kabul area, and the rest of the NW. There are ANP (police) and ANA soldiers everywhere as well as many NATO coalition forces patrolling and keeping tight security. Kabul is and has always been a more liberal and democratic city where there are many professionals working in Ministries, schools, radio, TV.. From what I hear from my counterparts and news is that the biggest problems remain in elements in Pakistan’s govt/ tribes and drug warlords/ Taliban in the East and South (Kandahar). A complex problem because you have farmers that need to feed their families and 10x the amt can be earned growing drugs- however drugs are against Islam- so what’s going on here?

If you desire some ‘off the beaten path’ history try this country and region. Type in history of Afghanistan, Kabul, ancient Persia, or Bamiyan into Google and you should find some items to go on. Related to this mission try Task Force Phoenix, ISAF, or NATO. What I have found is that Afghanistan is really an ancient ‘melting pot’ of Asian’s to Macedonian’s with great historic accounts from Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan, and many other empires. Buddhism had a large boost from an Afhan king, and from I read, the actual Buddha ‘stupa’ or statue as we know it got its start here- previously just images were allowed.

A great book I’m working through now is Afghanistan- Companion Guide. Taliban is also great book that covers the extremist group and how they got started (including help from US) as well as much other historic info on the region. I hear very good things about The Kite Runner, Three Cups of Tea, and The Lone Soldier but haven’t made it through these yet. Rory Stewart’s The Places In Between- he is a reporter type guy that is here presently rebuilding historic Kabul; see:
Ok, last book: Understanding Arabs; Afghanistan is not a Arab country (nor is it Middle Eastern) but the culture is very similar- it is a quick read and will give you great insight into the culture of this region of the world.
picture at right and below- the Turkish House; conference center on MoD grounds a.k.a. MAJ Mowers office from my team..

Movies to get acquainted with the area; Osama, Kandahar, and Afghan Stories. Others are Children of Heaven, Breaking the Silence- Music in Afghanistan, and In This World. Searching Amazon I’m sure you can find more.

Overall for me, I like it here, I look at it as an adventure- I do wish I could go downtown to interact with the city and culture. I have the opportunity to meet very diverse people from Afghanis to European and Asian coalition forces to hired help from India and Pakistan. I have made an artist friend who comes to our base on Friday’s for ‘bizaar day’ – I hope to have a basic exhibit on his stuff when I finally get home. My family are all doing well- we are able to talk and email a few times a week- even at times with a webcam.

Thank you for your support and correspondence- aside from all the hoopla I wrote above it still is a great day to get letters and pictures from the great United States.


Add'l Photos; puppies at MoD. Gardener friend.
More gardener friends. Wool 'killim' rug. Kids at MoD daycare. More rugs. Kitchen help at band complex.

1 comment:

Bruce Oksol said...

Outstanding site. Keep it up. Good luck in all you do.