Memorial Day in Afghanistan

A U.S. soldier holds the dog tag of 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte, from Ladue, Mo., during a Memorial Day observance ceremony at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, May 25, 2009. On Monday the U.S. forces based at Camp Eggers gathered wearing khaki, camouflage and blue blazers to salute their latest dead comrades, Schulte, or Roz, and Shawn Pine from San Antonio, Texas, a former Army ranger who was working as a contractor to train Afghan army soldiers. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A U.S. soldier holds the dog tag of 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte, from Ladue, Mo., during a Memorial Day observance ceremony at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, May 25, 2009. On Monday the U.S. forces based at Camp Eggers gathered wearing khaki, camouflage and blue blazers to salute their latest dead comrades, Schulte, or Roz, and Shawn Pine from San Antonio, Texas, a former Army ranger who was working as a contractor to train Afghan army soldiers. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Memorial Day 010

Today Memorial Day is being recognized in the US and I was hoping to post something special.  However, here it’s just another day, although some energetic members are trying to come up with something respectful for the fallen that made the ultimate sacrifice.  In the DFAC, a dozen pictures of deceased heroes hang on the wall as a reminder of the sacrifices that former camp ETT members made while out on missions.  Heroes tableTonight, a small POW table was set up in remembrance for those who can’t attend the festivities.  The camp was treated to some grilled steak, chicken, and ribs.  In addition, about 10 AF personnel who are leaving soon were awarded their Army Commendation Medal.

*****

This morning I was supposed to meet the Kandak SGM at his office before going to the 1st ever ANA Corp SGM Symposium.  I waited for about 15 minutes.  Perhaps something got lost in the translation.  My translator Hanif and I walked over to the conference building and guess who we find.  Apparently the Brigade SGM told him to accompany him, so he could not meet me.  He was a bit apologetic to me for the confusion.  Memorial Day 002The symposium did not start on time and even after it did, guest speakers were rotated out of schedule.  I sat with an earphone implanted into my ear to permit the translation.  After 4 hours of translation in a room with no air conditioning, my head was beginning to spin, but at least it was lunch time.  A special meal was prepared and they even provided us SPOONS!!  The meal consisted of rice, red beans, lentils, some vegetables and a poorly cooked lamb.  Not wanting to embarrass my hosts, I eagerly dug in and various people put food on my plate…eat..eat..eat…they repeated.  This is when I observed this was like a big family meal.  They would eat off their spoons and then use the same spoon to serve more food on their plates.  SGM SymposiumThe Nan bread is passed through several hands and each person tears off a large chunk.  Since I was hungry, I tried not to pay attention to the cultural practices and ate my food.  However, the cooked lentils and greasy lamb just wasn’t agreeing with me.  About an hour later, my stomach could not take it any longer and I had to relieve my stomach of its incompatible contents…..black..yak….you get the picture.

It’s interesting to note some of the topics that surfaced at the SGM meeting.  Over 70% of the ANA casualties are caused by driving accidents vs. those inflicted by the enemy.  Driving is relatively a new concept here and untrained soldiers are having fatal accidents.  This is partly due to their low literacy rate.  I believe the country’s literacy rate is about 35%.  This is one of the many challenges the ETT mentors face.  This also helps to explain why the enemy can exploit its followers, because they can’t read the Koran and the Taliban has a different interpretation of it.  The students or followers don’t know any better and believe what the religious teachers tell them.
Some SGMs voiced concerns about the high AWOL rate, food quality and equipment shortages.  Some soldiers are still wearing open toe sandals instead of boots and many of the soldiers are not receiving their pay in a timely manner.  Pay is a sensitive issue because the soldiers depend on their $150-$600 a month income to support their families.  These were some of the root issues that the Symposium was designed to provide resolution too.  A new ANA uniform was also unveiled.  This uniform will be unique to the ANA.  I have included a picture of a soldier modeling it.

ANA New Uniform

ANA New Uniform

Note from SMSgt Temple’s wife: Your notes of appreciation on Twitter on this Memorial Day are very deeply appreciated. But due to the extremely limited Internet access my husband has he cannot respond to you individually. But he says “Thank you.”

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4 Responses

  1. Rex,

    We read all of your entries, and we are so proud of your service. Your take on the problems of illiteracy is right on – I wish more schools (would have to built and protected like fortresses) could be built and education was made mandatory. Alas…. your writing gives us insight we cannot read about in the newspapers. Thanks so much.

    Be careful, we know you are

    Love,
    Angela and Dan Ruth

  2. I am equally inspired by your writings and appreciate the time you take to provide us with the rest of the story! Thanks so much.
    Prayers are with you daily,

    Be safe,

    Valerie Richardson
    Investigator

  3. Sir,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I wish for nothing more than to be able to help out our men and women at the tip of the spear. I’m hoping that your observations and insights help me to do so. Thank you for serving. God Bless.

    Very Respectfully,

    Philip J. Hartlieb

  4. Dear Sir, I wish to know of your need for VSAT in your camp and if I could help you out in procuring it. I am Sales for Nashita LLC in Afghanistan and we are now well know in the region after carrying out many projects in Iraq. Please let me know of your requirements so I can proceed faster. Thank you.

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