Sunday, March 30, 2008

Busy Week

I followed up my rather slow last week with an awesome trip to the eastern part of the province this week. I had made it almost a full month in Afghanistan without seeing very many trees, if any at all. However, when I got east of the FOB here in Gardez, I saw flowering cherry trees, green terraces and forests. It was a refreshing site to see, after all the wind and dust of the last month.

I had a chance to look at few interesting projects while on my site seeing vacation. We saw a clinic that was built in a river bed. Most of the rivers here are only completely full a few months out of the year, the rest of the time they are small trickles, some only a few feet wide. Now we are trying to figure out how to divert the water during the wet season.
Some of the other projects we looked at were a school near the Pakistan border whose roof has been blown off and a future bridge across a stream similar to the one I just described.

It has been a good week and with things picking up, I will try to write more as I should have more news to report. I will try and post pictures tomorrow.

Thank you and God Bless

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter…

… and greetings from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Today marks my first holiday in Afghanistan (unless you count the Afghan New Year that was Friday). Things have been pretty quiet on the FOB this week, with construction season still just starting to get in to swing. Next week will prove to be far busier, and busy makes the time go faster.

This week we have been mostly talking to contractors on the FOB, doing paper work and tending to frantic requests. The most interesting event of this week (aside from painting Yankee pinstripes on our B-hut door), was when our local engineer brought in pictures from the national archives in Kabul. These pictures showed an Afghanistan of 40 years ago before the Soviet invasion, civil war and Taliban rule. Parts of Afghanistan looked very modern, with Kabul resembling any modern city of the era. It’s hard to believe the pictures as you are looking at them, knowing that just outside the gates there is very little, if anything, that resembles a modern city. If anything, the pictures gave me hope that, if they were so close before, peace and prosperity may be just around the corner.

Thank you and God Bless.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thumbs Up

I’m not sure where the children of Afghanistan got the idea, but it seems every town we drive through, the kids run out to the side of the road to give the American convoy the thumbs up. Sometimes it’s just a thumbs up, sometimes they yell too, and most of the time little children are running over each other to get out to the road. All to give a fleeting convoy of Americans a thumbs up.

I’m not sure at what age they stop doing this, but there are definitely no adults giving us the thumbs up. However, whether people wave or do nothing but watch us go by, everyone seems to stop what they are doing to see the convoy. I would have thought that with having the coalition forces here since 2001, most people would be used to seeing military vehicles and think nothing of them. It doesn’t seem that way. One of the guys here said “it’s like we are the newest show on TV and everyone wants to see.”

Most of the time I wave and smile, but I never get used to everyone in town stopping what they are doing to watch us. Hopefully someday soon there won’t need to be military vehicles rolling through their towns, and when there are, they will look at them with bewilderment, just as Americans would if a convoy of humvee’s came rolling down our streets.

Thank you and God Bless.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Day to Day

The turn over with the guys we are replacing is going well, and what seemed overwhelming when we first got here, is quickly becoming the day to day. I have now gone on some missions, done some paperwork, sat in on some briefings, seen some local construction, ate some local food, met with some local political leaders and gave some kids a few pens. I haven’t done it all by any means, but I have done enough to know that this reconstruction mission is both noble and extremely difficult.

Just like my first night in Afghanistan, there are still events that remind you that it is not “all quite on the western front”. Today we had two children playing outside the gate get blown up by a land mine. One of the kids died as a result of his wounds and the other had to be airlifted to another medical facility. Interestingly enough this came off the heels of talking to our local engineer about how poorly the Soviets treated the Afghans. He also brought up that the coalition forces respect the people; we build schools and roads and MEDEVAC the locals when they are in need. Knowing that we can do some good helps on days like this.

Thank you and God Bless.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Settling In

After a little while here I am starting to settle in to my “new home.” Part of making this feel more like home is that I currently have internet in my room. As a result I have added a link to pictures on the right hand side of the blog. I will try to add new photos as I post a new entry.

I had mentioned in the last post that the living conditions on my current FOB are not as nice as some of the others in Afghanistan. With that said, and running the risk of sounding like a whiner, I will give some of the highlights and the low lights of my current situation. I live in a 20 foot by 10 foot room, which is quite large on a FOB where space is at a premium. In my room I have a twin bed with my own linens, a TV with DVD player, a mini fridge and as I noted internet. I can hold a conversation with my neighbor, through the wall with out raising my voice. But we get along quite well so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is a lot like a college dorm room, only made entirely out of plywood. The walls are plywood, the floors are plywood, the desk is plywood, the shelves are plywood… you get the picture. The dinning facility is alright, not good, not bad. The food is actually pretty good with a fairly plentiful selection. In fact the more I think about it and the more I write, the more realize it’s A LOT like college dorm living conditions, except for one large difference. The nearest bathroom is 160 steps away on the other side of the FOB. This is not that bad until 2am, and you have to quickly throw clothes on and dance your way over there.

With all that said it is pretty decent here and I really can’t complain. The hard work ahead should prove to be rewarding and I look forward it.

Thank you and God Bless.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My New Home

After a few more days of travel mixed with a few days of waiting, I have made it to Gardez. I was glad to get here and settle in, even if the accommodations are far less lavish than what I had been getting accustom to. However, guys we are replacing are far happier to see us than we could ever be to see Gardez. I had one of the Army Staff Sergeants tell me that we were “the best looking people they had seen in a year.” I'm sure I will feel the same way when the time comes to leave.

The trip down here was far more interesting than our trip to Bagram Airfield (or BAF as it is known in the acronym crazy military), mainly because we were in smaller military aircraft going to more remote parts of the country.

We left BAF for a FOB (forward operating base) in the Afghan country side. Knowing we were going an Army FOB, I had prepared myself for a considerable lower standard of living than we had at BAF. However, to my shock I personally found the FOB to be nicer than what we had left in Bagram. There we fewer people, better dinning facilities, nice gym/athletic facilities, much better showers and more MWR (morale, welfare and recreation) computer access. I found myself getting pretty comfortable even if I was sleeping in a circus tent, on a cot, with 30 other guys.

After a few days there we loaded in to helicopters and headed to our final destination, Gardez. It is here that I found out that all FOBs are not created equal. I wouldn’t say that Gardez is bad, especially knowing that a lot of the Army lives worse than this in Afghanistan, but you would never find more than the few Air Force guys that are on my team in a place like this. However, my room is large and I plan on making this place as much like home as I can for the next few months.

I’m looking forward to getting out on some missions and helping with the reconstruction of this beautiful country. Feel free to email and will respond to those as I can, in the meantime I will continue to post.

Thank you and God bless.