Coming home

At home at last.

Despite delays caused by regime overthrow in Manas, a volcanic eruption in Iceland, a refueler strike in the Azores and delays caused by aircraft maintenance…. After 60 hours of sleeping in chairs – I am home at last! Warmest thanks to my wife Liisa’s former teaching assistant Sarah Wilson for this homecoming video. (If you are looking for information about the “School Supplies for Afghan Children” project, please click on the tab at the top of this page.)

Female ANA General

From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: Rex is on his way home and may not be able to write today. So he asked me to post this video about one of only two Afghan women who have the rank of General in the Afghan National Army.

On a mission

From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: Rex is on a mission and can’t write. So instead I am posting this recent video from the NATO Channel about the challenges children in Afghanistan face when they want to advance in their studies beyond high school.

Happy New Year

Soldier singing karoake on New Year's Eve.

About 2 dozen people gathered in the MWR center for the New Year’s Eve party.  We had a couple pans of chicken wings and snacks from the DFAC.  Prior to the official countdown, the entertainment was being provided by camp personnel singing karaoke.  I don’t think you will see any of these folks auditioning for American Idol, but they were having fun crooning their favorite songs.  Then at midnight, we had an official countdown even though everyone’s watch in the room varied by up to 12 minutes apart.  Unfortunately we aren’t allowed any alcohol and had to settle for some bubbly grape juice in a corked bottle.

I returned to my room around 1230 am and woke up 5 hours later to prepare

Dirt road to shooting range.

for our mission.  I don’t plan to make that a habit, because I was a bit tired today.  But since we were only going a few kilometers outside the camp, the effect would be minimal.  The newest members of our merged Brigade team wanted some practice on the crew serve weapons and some additional shooting of their personal weapons.

AF Capt shoots his M-4 rifle.

So we convoyed out to the range.  I drove an MRAP and was followed by several up-armored Humvees.  For some of my passengers, this was the first time they ever rode in an MRAP.  The road leading out to the range was clear, but the surrounding mountains still had a little bit of snow on them.  Since the range is still littered with anti-tank and anti-personnel mines from the Soviet era, I had no desire to get any closer to the snow.  A few months ago, one of the mine clearers was killed trying to defuse a mine.

We positioned our targets and vehicles mounted with various weapons.  Meanwhile, some of my teammates practiced shooting their M-4 rifles at targets located 100 meters (330 yards)

Lots of ammo.

away.  The weaponry we use is very accurate.  Individuals were given a chance to shoot the M-240 machine gun with the aid of a bipod while lying down on the ground and then also while its mounted in the turret.  I chose to practice shooting the M-240 while standing up.  I did this once before and my teammate created a video of it.  I don’t recommend this position because the weapon is heavy and rises up in a hurry due to the firepower it emits.  But if needed, we can detach it from the turret and use it for

Mark 19 shooting explosive rounds.

shooting up at steep angles.  We also shot the Mark-19 loaded with high explosive rounds.

The M-2 nicknamed Ma-Deuce or better known as the .50 caliber machine gun was another crew serve weapon used today.  We were shooting at targets over 1200 meters away.   The thundering crack from it is deafening and it echoed throughout the

Soldier shooting M-240 machine gun in prone position.

mountain range and down into the nearby valleys.  These echoes are the signal for the villagers that we are shooting and their chance to collect our brass casings.  They collect the casings and sell them for scrap metal.  It took about 2 hours before the first villagers arrived.  They were two young boys around the ages of 7 and 8.  They came prepared with empty feed sacks in hopes of making some money from collecting the spent casings.  By the time we finished shooting, 8 boys had gathered.

Normally the crowd is much larger, but the ANA soldiers have become greedy and beat the kids and take the brass for themselves.  We were determined not to let to let this happen and ensure the kids would get the brass today.  One of

Target practice with .50 cal machine gun.

the smaller boys was no older than 4 or 5 years old.  I put my helmet on his head and posed with him for a picture.  Some of my teammates also took turns in trying to entertain the kids so they wouldn’t get near the shooting area.  These kids have no fear and often they are only 20 yards away or sit off to the side on hilltops while we shoot.  Trying to

Afghan boy collecting brass casings.

chase them off has become a futile effort too.

One of my teammates, an Army National Guard Lt (who is also a school teacher) gave a boy one of his pens he had secured on his uniform.  This almost started a fight among the other boys and they held out their hands demanding a pen too.  The Lt only had 4 pens and he gave 3 of them out and kept one

Me posing with the Afghan kids at the range.

for himself.  I used this as an opportunity to detail about my school supply drive.  As a result, he is going to contact his school and conduct a supply drive.  Coincidentally, we will be working jointly on other humanitarian projects in the future.  One of our future plans is to purchase desks, chalkboards, etc. and then supply the school with the school supplies that have been donated to me.

After we were done shooting, we moved the vehicles away from the mounds of spent brass casings.  Then we gave the Afghan children permission to pick up the brass.  Our Sergeant Major made it conditional that they didn’t fight with each other and if they found any live rounds to give them back to us.  If they didn’t obey his orders, he would make them leave and the 2 ANA soldiers standing nearby would get all of the brass casings.  Surprisingly, the boys followed his instructions.  Their only problem was they collected so much brass casings; it was too heavy for them to carry.

We let the boys collect what they could carry and watched them depart.  It was 2 pm and we missed chow.  The rest of our day we spent stripping down the weapons and cleaning them.  I feel very confident in all of our gunners and look forward to going out on future missions with them.

Blue moon shining on Tajbeg Palace.

Note:  I could not locate my camera instruction booklet.  So I never did figure out how to adjust my camera settings.  My picture of the blue moon illuminating the palace didn’t come out as planned.  Also, I forgot to wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope your resolutions come true.

Two video reports from ABC News

U.S. Marine battalion trains local forces in this ABC News video report by Miguel Marquez.

ABC News: Marines in Delaram

Here is another link to a piece by Martha Raddatz  about what the new additional troops will do once they arrive and how long it will take to get them into Afghanistan.

ABC News: What will extra troops do in Afghanistan?

Miss America joins school supplies drive

Nicole C17

Nicole Johnson with her fellow Miss Americas on a C-17 in the combat zone. Nicole is in the left corner with the pink diabetes pump on her hip. (Photo courtesy: USF)

From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: Rex has departed on a multi-day mission and asked me to update his readers on a couple of wonderful new developments with our school supplies drive.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to meet with Michael Hoad, University of South Florida’s Vice President of Communications who is also Associate Vice President of Communications for USF Health, the health/medical research and treatment arm of the university where I have taught since 2002. With Michael came USF grad and Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson who now works with USF’s Diabetes Center.

Nicole crowning

Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, is an international diabetes advocate. She travels extensively promoting awareness, prevention, and intensive management of the condition she has shared for fifteen years.

Michael organized our lively coffee break to introduce us two ladies to each other because Nicole had recently returned from Afghanistan. What stories she could tell! And she had even been to Rex’s old camp at Camp Blackhorse and seen some of the projects Rex’s team worked on. It was an absolutely amazing hour of great stories and friendship and brain storming with the end result of Nicole joining forces with us for the school supplies project for Afghan children.

More about Nicole trip to Afghanistan here: USF\’s Nicole Johnson visits soldiers in Afghanistan

Or watch this video WFLA-TV: Beauty queen\’s combat travel

You can also read more about this special trip six former Miss Americas went on to support U.S. troops in the combat zone at this link:

Lowe at Benedictine-Chris Murray-WSAV

Spc. Christoper "Kit" Lowe stands with Benedictine Military School principal Deborah Antosca during a presentation in which Lowe gave his Purple Heart Medal to his alma mater while encouraging the current students to collect school supplies for Afghan children. Photo courtesy of WSAV-TV in Savannah, Ga.

And one last fun development. USF Bulls will have a military appreciation game on Nov. 21 at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium (they play Louisville and it’s also Homecoming). I will have the honor of taking Rex’s wounded teammate SPC Christopher “Kit” Lowe to that game and Nicole said we might be able to sit together. I would love to see these two very dynamic and positive individuals meet each other, share a football game and also their thoughts and goals for this school supplies project in Afghanistan.

As Kit’s mom Sandi would say – this was a JOY-filled week.

If you would like more information about the school supplies project, please click on the special tab at the top of this page.

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