Sunday, November 16, 2008

The End

I would like to thank everyone for reading my blog over the past 9 months. Soon I will be back in the US and will not be posting anymore. It has been an adventure and I'm glad that I could share it with everyone. I hope to see you all in the following months, and catch up face to face.

Thank you and God Bless.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Air Force 42, Army 0

A few days ago we had the Air Force/Army football game here on the FOB. In the first few minutes the game looked like it was going to be a close one. However, after two drives the Air Force’s speed took over and a blow out ensued.

The PRT is about half Army and half Air Force, and at one point we even had a Navy officer on the team. This makes for some interesting dynamics in both living and working environments. At the beginning of the deployment there was a clear divide between the two, as one might expect. But as missions rolled on and we all worked together outside the FOB as well as on, the team became less an Army and Air Force team and more of an Army/Air Force team. That was until the football game. For that hour and a half we were back to being divided and playing such hard football that you would never know we all came from the same ‘team’. In the end the Air Force won (by a lot) but what was really important was that we all had fun together in the little time we have left here.

Thank you and God Bless.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Taliban

There is no doubt that the security situation in Afghanistan has gotten quite a bit worse (it’s now worse than Iraq). Places that have been “safe” in the past have started seeing different forms of violence. What you probably here about most, is the IEDs (roadside bombs) or direct contact ambushes, like the ones that killed the 9 soldiers in Konar or the 9 French soldiers. As for the locals, they face intimidation, theft and murder. What all these things have in common is that the “Taliban” perpetrated the crime. If someone attacks coalition forces… the Taliban did it. If someone gets kidnapped… the Taliban did it. If someone steals a car… you guessed it, the Taliban did it. I’m not trying to say that there is no Taliban threat, in fact the Taliban is very real, very evil and causing a lot of problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, I’m not sure that everything that goes wrong here can be attributed to the Taliban. Afghanistan is a terribly poor country, one of the poorest in the world. They lack sufficient police and military forces, they lack a stable government and they lack faith in what little services they do have. With all that stacked against them, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that there might be some crime that is perpetrated by the desperate and deranged, with no affiliation to the Taliban.

Thank you and God Bless.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


In past posts, I have talked about our local engineer. Engineer Shukrullah, or “Shuak” as we call him, is an extremely important member of our team. Aside from “hello” and “how are you” none of us speak any of the local language, Pashto. Shauk does, being that he is a native of Paktya Province, but he is also an engineering graduate from the University of Kabul, and thus an important technical advisor. He interfaces with the local contractors and government officials, translates for us at meetings, performs quality assurance site visits and helps us with cost estimates, since construction prices in Afghanistan are a little different from the States. Shauk has also become a friend, going to lunch with us (when he isn’t fasting for Ramadan), going to the gym and just sitting and talking about nothing in general. He also has felt the pain of the violence here, when his brother was killed by the Taliban earlier this year.

This week is Shauk’s last here at PRT Gardez, because in a few weeks he will head to the United States. He was awarded a special immigrant visa as a reward for his years of service to the US and Afghan governments. He has asked us all a lot of questions about what the US is like, because he has only ever traveled inside Afghanistan (aside from an interview he had in Pakistan as part of his visa process.) He is an intelligent guy and I hope he does well in the land of the free. I also hope that he doesn’t run into any post-9/11 bigotry, because he has served his, and our country honorably in a place and on a mission very few Americans will ever fully understand.

Thank you and God Bless.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


A large part of what we do here involves holding meetings with locals. The meetings for us, in the engineer section tend to be with, either Afghan government officials or local contractors who are working on our projects. The very first meeting I had here was with the governor of Logar province, Governor Wardak. We had dinner at his house so we could all meet and discuss the issues for us, the new team on the ground. Two weeks ago Governor Wardak was killed by a roadside bomb in the northern part of his province. That served to remind us that the violence here is not just aimed at NATO forces, but also those who work too closely with us.

Nonetheless, even with the constant threat of violence here, locals continue to work with us toward the common goal of making Afghanistan better. Just this week, I had a meeting with the Gardez city mayor, the Director of Power and the Director of Water Supply to discuss an in depth plan to provide paved streets, power, fresh water and sewer to a large portion of the city. Unlike many of the meetings we had, all parties came together with ideas and a willingness to genuinely work together. Like all meetings here, I left not completely sure what course this project might take. However, I did leave with an unusual optimism and hope is a valuable thing in Afghanistan.

Thank you and God Bless.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Slow Days

The days here are almost always the same. The only thing that varies is whether you go on a mission or not. If I don’t have a mission, I wake up at 6:30 to go running, then shower and head to breakfast at 8:00. After breakfast we go in to the office and work until lunch. Sometime after lunch is gym. After dinner it’s reading, watching movies, playing games and bed. It’s the same thing everyday, which can be good and bad. That routine really helped me get back into the swing of things after leave. But lately it has gotten too predictable and really boring. In fact I didn’t realize just how boring it is until I wrote it all down and read it again.

Mission days are more exciting, due to the fact that it’s more dangerous, there is more open space to cover and there are different places and people to see. However, as we get closer to leaving, nobody seems to want to go on missions, as though having something bad happen in last few months would be even worse. So in the remaining time we are stuck, not looking forward to the days that go by the fastest and hoping for boring days on the FOB.

Thank you and God Bless.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Afghan Fall

Recently I got back from a week long mission to the border region and aside from the daily missions far too close to Pakistan, it was the first time that it has felt like spring here. Where I am at, in the mountains, the weather has been pretty nice all summer long. It would usually get up in the 90’s during the day and cool off to the mid 60’s at night. In fact the weather in Gardez is by far its most endearing quality. However, over the past few days there has been a cool breeze during the day, and at night it has gotten to the point that a jacket is almost a necessity. It feels more comforting when the weather starts to get cool here; for one thing the violence tends to drop as it cools and all the fighters head back to Pakistan for the winter. For another the fall has always been my favorite time of year, so even if there are no trees with colorful leaves, it still reminds me of fall days in Vermont. Fall also means that we are getting closer to going home for good, and that above all else, is the most comforting part of the changing weather.

Thank you and God Bless.