1st Day back

Mountains overlooking our camp.

Since my departure a lot of changes have taken place.  The first thing I noticed was my lounge chair was removed outside my b-hut.  Prior to my R&R, Wilson the dog was occupying it along with a donated blanket and make-shift shelter.  Not only was the chair removed, but apparently Wilson was gone too.  I also expected to see more

Looking up through turret at my gunner AF SSgt Cameron Blackmer.

snow.  But the only snow visible was a light dusting on the mountains overlooking the camp.  The weather is actually rather warm, but not exactly balmy…lol.

My room was in the same state that I had left it.  After unpacking my duffel bag, I lay down in my bed and zonked off for several hours.  It felt great to be sleeping in a bed again instead of a stiff cot.  It’s also a pleasure to sleep in a facility that doesn’t have 80 smelly and snoring men too.

I went to my office and observed several changes too.  It’s not as crowded as before, because most of our ETT team were 6 month folks and returned to the US while I was on R&R.  We had a great team while they

School supplies arriving from all across the U.S.

were here and they can all be proud of the missions and their accomplishments.  Personally I will miss my AF gunner SSgt Cameron Blackmer.  Not only was he an integral member of the team, but I got a chance to know him on a personal basis.  He was quite anxious to return home and see his new-born twins for the first time.  I wish him the best and with his future career wherever that might lead.  He wants to cross-train into another career field, possibly becoming a fire fighter.  If not, pilots can feel safe knowing that SSgt Blackmer worked on their aircraft because of his professionalism and attention to detail.

Boxes of school supplies piling up in the office.

The office was also filled with more boxes of school supplies.  My message and request for school supplies is spreading like wild-fire.  I am now working with 12 different states along with several schools and private organizations.  The money donations are still coming in which helps to defray the cost of shipping the items to Afghanistan.  Thanks to everyone involved for this joint effort.

Since our team has dwindled in numbers, we have merged and join forces with the Brigade who also lost most of its personnel due to rotations.  They are slowly being replaced, but in the interim our responsibilities and functions are being redefined.  I am excited because I will get involved with

More school supplies.

more humanitarian projects too.  Ironically one of these will be the CERP projects which I still can’t remember what the acronym stands for.  Tomorrow I have a meeting to discuss in more detail.

After attending our morning Brigade meeting, I attended a boring ANA brigade meeting hosted by the ANA general.  It’s quite different than any other high level meetings I’ve attended in the US.  There is a lot of arguing, bickering, and talking at the same time.  I felt as though I was watching a ping-pong match going on with people talking back and forth.  Meanwhile the interpreter is trying to translate what is being said.  On the surface, there were a lot of problems mentioned, but no solutions being offered.

Afterward my interpreter Omid and I drove around the camp trying to locate the ANA library.  We heard a rumor that the garrison had one.  Well the garrison doesn’t have one, but they have plans to create one.  An AF Capt from the Brigade is leading the charge in purchasing book shelves and items to establish it.  I inherited over a hundred books written in English (3rd-4th grade level) that I plan to donate to the cause too.  Purchasing books written in Dari/Pashto with FOO funds will be a little bit harder to obtain now.  The Army has added additional restrictions and layers of bureaucracy before the purchase can be made.  Oh well, I will just play along and play by their rules.  In the end, we will establish another library to help enhance the literacy program.  Approximately 4 out of 5 ANA soldiers are illiterate.

New ANA recruits.

While driving to the garrison building, I stopped to take a picture of the new ANA recruits.  Many of them are farmers, unskilled laborers, or unemployed workers.  Since the ANA and ANP were given a recent pay increase it has resulted in more recruits signing up.  Now the starting pay (approx. $250 a month) is almost equivalent to what the Taliban is paying for their recruits.  As a result, this will coincide with General McChrystal’s vision of training more troops and increasing the size of the ANA forces to combat the insurgency and in time assume defending the national security of Afghanistan.

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