Archive for the 'Afghanistan' Category

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My Thoughts and Concerns With the War, Economy, and Election

I was recently asked by a beloved Aunt what I though about the elections back home, and about the two wars we are participating in. As usual I began typing something off the top of my head with every intention of emailing her a quick, yet direct response. About halfway through I began to get frustrated and started to do a little research in an attempt to support my opinions.

The beauty and curse of political citations is that the opponents typically undermine any references denouncing their beliefs as being fabricated through the use of imagination by their polar political opposites. That is, if you start regurgitating statistics that make the War in Iraq look unfavorable, conservatives will call into question the accuracy of the numbers and will typically bring to light that the research or funding was handled by Liberals. The same holds true on the other end of the spectrum. When liberals call for Health Care or Education Reforms conservatives quickly bring to light there perceived financial or planning flaws. In turn Liberals denounce those claims as being weighed by political agendas. This is one of our quirky ways of life, and in a way identifies us as a country as much as any other single trait. It really cannot be too surprising with such a diverse melting pot of people living within the confines of our borders.

I suppose the most valuable asset I can offer is the insight gained by being in theatre. Many armchair critics are quick to make claims one way or another without ever even researching things much less visiting the area in question. I have done research. I can and will utilize statistics, analysis, and profound thinking by all walks of life. It will not matter though. Odds are you already have had your mind made up for you.

Continue reading ‘My Thoughts and Concerns With the War, Economy, and Election’

A cold front approaches hell

I am back home now from my adventure up North. The trip back was relatively uneventful with the exception being when a 10-ish year old Afghani kid pointed a rifle with a laser attachment right at my forehead as our convoy made its was through a choke point. I was looking out the window keeping a watchful eye on the street vendors when I noticed the kid raise the weapon and walk the mounted laser from the front of our Humvee to my forehead. Granted I did not feel threated at the time, as I was wearing every kind of armor imaginable in an up-armored Humvee. Honestly, I am glad that the driver, passenger and gunner did not hear my report on the matter, as each confessed later that they would have shot and killed the kid. I kind of chuckle to think the only time I have ever had a gun pulled on me was by a kid.

In other news I have been sick lately. Being sick here really isn’t that bad. In between all the wonderful things that come with having the flu I have been updating my gallery. I am happy to say it is now entirely up to date. There are a ton of additional pictures from Afghanistan. On the down side, EmbedVideo is still taking a crap on me so I was not able to upload the videos into my Gallery2 from Google Video despite spending a good 3 hours reading up on the problem tonight. Nonetheless they are viewable via Google Video.

The following are some of the more notable additions:

In addition the following videos are now available:

Peanuts

I feel a bit like Snoopy. Only here I do not sit up on top of my red dog house and write. Here, I sit up on top of a dusty bunk bed and write. It was one of those things I couldn’t pass up. I suppose the urge was spurned by so many events taking place in the last couple of days. It might have something to do with my absolute adoration of my wife, and missing my kids. Whatever the reason, I felt compelled or even obliged to take the time to sit down, sweat out the 90 degree heat, and put some of my thoughts on chips.

Have you ever thought you may enjoy something while simultaneously fearing that you will fail catastrophically in making an attempt to try it? I think that may be a common thing. I think adventures are enjoyed more if the completion of them means one eluded dire consequences of failing the attempt. Traveling to new places has always ranked high on my list of things I enjoy doing. I think like many people that it is mostly due to the unfamiliarity of being in a new place. When you are taken out of your element, and dropped off somewhere where you do not know anybody, do not have a place to sleep, do not have transportation, and on top of all of that you have things that need to get done, simply finding food or shelter becomes a notable and celebrated achievement. It could be just that, that anything accomplished in such an environment, makes one feel like they achieved something; like they lived life a little. That is just the situation that I find myself in right now.

I had some work to accomplish up in North Afghanistan. I was excited by the opportunity to ride in a Hilo for the first time in my life. I sat around the track on my base, in full battle-rattle awaiting my ride. After waiting about an hour on a hot day, I saw the Chinook come flying over the mountains to my south. We all wobbled over to the landed area and watched in awe as the huge vessel approached and lowered itself. Immediately a wall of dust and soot flew in our direction. We all turned away for about 30 seconds, as debris ranging in size from a dust particle to gravel pelted the back of our helmets and necks. Once we were in the Chinook I wrestled out my digital camera just in time to film the take off. The ride was loud and bumpy, but I loved every minute of it. I was able to capture video of most of the ride. I intend to upload it soon.

Once I arrived here, I quickly noticed that I was on my own. I was at a terminal with about 100 pounds of gear during the heat of the day. I began walking north after asking a few persons questions in an attempt to get my bearings. I should backtrack a little while and take the time and effort to describe how friggin large this base is. There are literally bus routes across base. From what I can see this place is larger in are than Naval Station San Diego. After walking for a little bit, I met a person driving a Gator (6 wheeled utility ATV). I asked for a ride and he was able to take me clear across base to where I would be staying. There I waited for about 3 hours for a conex box worker responsible for overseeing the whole check-in process for visitors. Finally I had luck and somebody showed up. I met a few cool people, dropped of the items that needed to be locked up, and went to pick out my rack. There were about 100 beds in a tent, and the bottoms of each of them were all occupied. I settled in on one in the southwestern corner of the tent. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do to pass time so I watched Lady in the Water.

Like many other M. Night Shyamalan movies, Lady in the Water had a very clever, yet entirely fantastic plot. As each minute of the movie passed I wished more and more that Ra was sitting next to me watching it. It reminded me a lot of the Village. After the movie, I played with Ubuntu for a while and settled on passing my time by playing some sort of English Premier League Soccer Management game. By 4:00 in the morning I was pretty damn good at it, and a bit tired. I decided to get some shit eye. Throughout the night I was awakened by the sound of F18/22’s landing on my forehead. At some point I even heard rockets. I sat in my bed dumbfounded with one of those “did I really f#$%ing just hear that” moments. After about 10 shots/rounds/rockets/missiles/midgets/ whatever, the firing stopped, and I was able to resume my dreams of slowly running away from some formless monster.

I was awakened by a little spark plug of an army Sergeant who must had been a boot camp instructor at some point of time. I really got a kick out of the whole scene. Here we were 100+ soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines all on variations of R&R or vacation lying in our beds trying to focus in total confusion on a little Sergeant running around the tent yelling at everyone to wake up and clean. Not a word was said by anyone, yet for a moment we were all mind readers. What the F%@#? Are you kidding me? We are in an R&R tent and we are getting yelled at to get up and clean and sweep. Though I only had a few hours of sleep I obliged and in all honestly found myself more awake and alert than I should have been.

After cleaning up my area I sat out on a mission to find a shower. I eventually found one with amazing water pressure, something I do not have where I presently call home. I enjoyed every minute of it. As I dried myself I peered out a window to my West saw my first snow-capped mountains in Afghanistan. I took it as a sign of the impending weather change and my mood was immediately lifted by the sight. Afterwards I sat out to accomplish my mission (literally the work I came to do). I was informed by some of the associates that I was working with that I needed to come back a while later. I decided to take the opportunity to run around base and check some things out. I went to the BX to purchase a Monster and sat outside for awhile. Though it was 10:30 in the morning I opted to give the little Burger King Trailer thing another shot. Once again, at no point during the ten minutes that I forced the Burger down, did I get even a morsel that resembled Burger King from the states. Despite that failure I found myself in a good mood. I sat outside for a while longer just for the sake of observing social interaction. The ‘summer of 69’ was blaring over the loud speaker. Somehow I felt completely relaxed and at ease at that moment.

I looked over my left shoulder to see a local Boutique. Local turned out to be from India. There was a manikin Laura’s size, and it even had Laura’s cute short haircut that I drool over. On it was one of the nicest/cutest outfits imaginable. I imagined that somebody literally stole an outfit off of Natalie Portman. I must have spent an hour imagining it on Laura. She could totally pull it off. I am smitten by that damn skirt and blouse. I even went so far as to take pictures of them for Laura. I love that about my wife. This may sound shallow, but how many other people have a wife that has popped out 2 children, and can still pull off ridiculously cute little pixie outfits? I suppose in a way she is my very own Natalie Portman that I sometimes get to dress up. I am not going to spend all day talking about how much I like shopping for her (there goes my manhood), I just do. Unfortunately she rarely enjoys my finds.

So here I sit writing. I still have a little over a day here and I hope to find someone to play volleyball with. I even contemplated making a “my base whips your bases ass in volleyball” poster to secretly post. Who knows? Check in a couple of days for pics and vids of the entire trip. I swear I will post them this time.

Live from Afghanistan it’s Saturday night

kankleIt has been a long time my friends. For that I apologize. I have been busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest. Actually, presently, I am a one legged man looking for an ass kicking contest. 10 Days ago I rolled my ankle again. It didn’t feel too bad this time compared to the situation I had in 2000. Somehow though I just found out that I may be out of sports and everything else I enjoy (Dancing With the Stars) until about Christmas. Honestly, I am a bit bummed by it but what’s a one legged guy gonna do?

Back to more important items. We had a sandstorm shortly after I wrote my last entry. That was kind of fun. I saw the dark gray clouds coming and thought that it was a typical rainstorm. As it got nearer I noticed that it was awfully dark and ominous looking for a simple rain shower. It began sprinkling and a couple of minutes later the sand came, and came, and came. I felt like one of those worms in Tremors. We got some good pictures of the event. Check my Afghanistan gallery in a couple of days for them. I am also going to upload a video that shows the clouds of sand flying over the mountains nearby. Pretty crazy stuff.

A couple of friends from Riley and I have randomly become popular here. I suppose we most of our friends through playing volleyball. It seems that we hang out or chew the fat with at least 5 people nightly. Last night we spent time with 17 different people in a couple of hours. It is kind of getting weird, but we feel like we know everyone on base. We are to this base what Tom is to MySpace. Where do we pick up our awesomeness medals?

One of the reasons why people may know us is because we have already begun brainstorming and even following through on crazy ideas, and stunts. For instance, Doty grabbed his wooden sword that was left to him (you have to see this thing in the Afghanistan gallery) and a wooden trash can lid, donned my volleyball helmet, and perched himself up on our roof to protect our hut from dragons one night. This went on for a while before somebody called the base police suggesting that some drunken dude in a medieval outfit was going to jump off the roof. The irony of that situation was that the cop that was dispatched was our friend who found the whole thing really funny. Doty then proceeded to burst into the cafeteria and eat some ice cream like that. The puzzled looks were priceless.

One of my closest friends just so happens to be a Special Friend. See my previous post for what that means. We have been spending a lot of time together, even though he is smitten by our local Lucy Lu physical therapist. It all started when he took Jared and I to their compound to show off all of their weapons and to show us the bullet riddled Humvees that were involved in the battle that claimed the lives of 10 French Soldiers. Again, for the two blog fans I have out there, the pictures will soon be posted in the Afghanistan Gallery. Unfortunately we are in a wonder years situation as many of our closer friends will be leaving to get out of here soon.

I finally had a suit made here. I cannot recall a better deal than a custom fitted quality pin striped suit modeled to look like an Armani, a custom fitted undershirt, and a tie for 65 dollars. Needless to say I am a very happy customer. Pictures will be posted soon. I plan on getting a couple more.
So it seems as though my military career is coming to an end soon. Only one year left. I have already begun thinking about jobs in central Texas. I am still kind of torn on that situation. No matter how much I love central Texas I still feel that I belong in a cold piney environment. That seems to be when I am most happy. I suppose I will just go with the flow and see where we all end up.

I just finished the last class of my Grad school. I cannot believe it actually happened. I have to admit it came and went so fast. I can honestly see myself pursuing another graduate degree and perhaps, eventually, a post grad degree. I am happy to have my own time now to explore and pursue the random things that I find myself exploring or pursuing.

Oh yes, one other side note, is actually a bit of a disappointment for me; we had an earthquake here a little over a week ago. It registered as a 5.9. I do not know how I did not feel it. I was walking to my office when it happened. I remember everyone in the shop looking around confused as I entered through the doorway. I heard “what the hell was that?” from a few people and by the time I realized what they were talking about the whole thing had come and gone. I might chalk that up to the helicopters that fly overhead and shake everything on base. Who knows? Somehow, someway I missed my first real earthquake.

I know why I sing

I now know the ropes here. I have settled into my pattern of daily activities just fine. The only exception to the rule is a bazaar, massage, funeral, or nearby attack here and there. We are really in kind of a funny place here, where we hear stories of loss, and hard fought battles, and we sometimes even here them or see their remains yet, for whatever reason, we are typically untouched here. My friends come in and go, and the stories come in with them. Just a few days one of my super friends (that’s Special Forces to you non-military types) was in a heavily contested battle that was responsible for more UN deaths in one fight than any battle since 2005, and more total deaths than any since the operation began. He and his buddies were okay as they were kind of out of the game for a while, and by the time the insurgents found and surrounded them it was time to call in the air strike. Apparently the conversation went something like this”

Pilot: “Jesus you guys are surrounded. You want me to just drop them now?”
Super Friend: “Uh, yeah that would be nice thanks.”

All in all I believe we lost 13 or 14 allies in that battle. The French were hit very hard losing ten soldiers. It was a day of mourning for many people here on base. The whole battle occurred about 25 miles from here.

Me? I just pass time by playing volleyball, working out, doing schoolwork, watching movies, reading books, or growing out my mustache.

I had my first experience outside the wire recently as my job required me to take a two hour round trip. At first I was pretty nervous and looked at every passing truck with cautious eyes. After a while I was desensitized to it all and even found myself getting pretty pissed off that one of our gunners found it necessary to point his rifle at every truck driver he thought was too close. I can assure you if one of those Jingle trucks (see my Afghanistan/Random gallery for pics) was filled with explosives, it would not matter if the damn thing detonated 10, 25, or even 50 feet away, even in an up-armored Humvee. See that’s the thing here, that’s the depressing part. Yes there are insurgents, yes, they are killing more of us daily, but the battle we are losing is with ourselves. We have won over about 20% of the country and about 30% loath us. That means that 50% are somewhere in between. Pointing weapons at everyone you fear on the road will not go far in winning the undecided over. It is just plain stupidity. If we pull out and Afghanistan collapses in our wake it will be mostly due to the thoughtlessness of some of our heroes here. It is sad but it is true. It really screws with my head sometimes. I’m reminded of the flight over here from Ireland. We were flying over Kyrgyzstan and a few people noticed some villages down below. All of the sudden there were cries of “towel heads”, and “those little f’ers are laying bombs down there”. We were nowhere near hostile territory. That is the issue here too. Everyone is Bruce Willis from Die Hard, everyone is a bonafied badass, and every Afghani is our enemy. I have alienated myself a bit from many of the army people here because of my open thoughts on the matter. In a nutshell, we don’t have qualified people here. We need educated people that can flip the switch from kill mode to ambassador mode and back without anything in between. We may have bitten off more than we can chew here.

I got fitted for a suit today. Some of the Afghani locals can make amazing suits from scratch for about 60 bucks. I printed out a picture of an Armani I was drooling over and took it to the tailor. I am anxious to see how that comes out. School will be out for me soon. I can’t believe I am finishing my masters. The time came and went so fast. Unfortunately I may be forced with the epic decision of playing on the Navy Volleyball team, or attending my graduating ceremony, which is only held once a year, and which I missed this last year. I cannot wait for the cold weather to come roaring in here. Many people think I am crazy or retarded or both, partially because the mustache, but I feel alive, and happy during the winter. I think it is partly from memories of being at Texas State University on some November Saturday lying around in my dorm room when a beautiful mid day storm blasts through. The downbursts are chilling to the bone; the entire sky is gray and dark blue. I think to date that feeling is one of the best I have ever had. I think that is why I like Halloween so much. Anyways, winter should be a doozy here. Apparently the huts get down to about 30 degrees so I should be nice and hunkered down in my cold weather gear and zero degree-rated sleeping bag.

If any of you are interested check out my Afghanistan Gallery. It is password protected for obvious reasons. If you feel like checking out some of my pictures, including a crazy (blurry) picture of an Afghani riding between the grill and engine of a Jingle truck going 60mph, then call my wife or mother and ask for the password.

I should be able to post regularly now that I am all settled in. Keep all of us in your thoughts. There are a lot of young people here in Afghanistan that are in more danger than you care to know.

Off on an adventure

I have not written in quite some time. For that I apologize. I have been roaming around the world the last few weeks, so it took me a while to get settled down enough to think about writing. I finished my training in Kansas and flew home to spend some quality time with my wonderful wife, and children. We all had a good time. Upon returning to Kansas I graduated and flew out. The plane we flew on was ridiculous. It had the capacity to seat well over 400 people, had 10 restrooms, and about 14 stewardesses. It was easily the largest plane I had ever flown on. I slept pretty well on the plane after eating a couple of really good meals. I awoke right in time to witness our flight in to Ireland. Let’s just say I now have an Irish vacation high on my list. The place was beautiful, and the beer was great. I also bought a cool hat. From there we continued our flight around the world and landed near the Caspian Sea, surprisingly close to Iran in Baku. We were on the ground shortly and headed off to our temporary post at Kyrgyzstan. The people there were very beautiful. They resembled Mongolians in that they had a distinctly Asian appearance yet spoke Russian. I really loved it there. Snow capped mountains surrounded our post, and I could just imagine riding off with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman. It was there that my friend informed me of my final destination in Afghanistan. I was so excited I could hardly keep it in. After staying for a while it was off to Afghanistan. When I first saw the plane we were flying in on I kind of laughed and wondered where the others were since there were well over one hundred of us each with about 500-600 pounds of bags. To my disappointment that was the only plane to take all of us in. We were so jam packed in it that you could not get up or move, or barely see any part of the plane at all since gear was stacked everywhere. That was the first time I flew courtesy of the Air Force and I hope it is my last. We landed late walked around groggy eyed, gathered our gear and waited to convoy into Kabul.

Once in Kabul I realized the gravity of the situation. The base was not out in the open with casual roaming guards or anything like that. We were surrounded by walls, very large walls. I was still in some sort of high from the excitement when I laid my head down that night on a mattress that a dust mite would find dirty. As soon as I reached the pinnacle of sleep, I heard a person singing fairly close by. It was in Dari or Pashtu, perhaps some sort of booming religious song. Shortly afterwards about 4 other people chimed in and began singing. It was about that time that I realized we were all sleeping right on the other side of the wall from the city. I quietly wondered if this was common or meant anything and then fell asleep to their monotone voices.

The next Day I woke up and walked outside to be greeted by a C130 flying overhead while shooting flares. That was interesting. We had class every day for a few days so we spent most of our time catching up on any sleep we missed during out 29 hours on a plane. After a few days we were transported to where we work and we got to meet our temporary bosses and workmates. They were all very nice, and it seemed that we had struck gold with both our jobs and the base we were staying on. Many others in our tract were sent down south wear the temperature is, no kidding, 130 degrees. I also failed to mention they did so in long sleeve gear wearing 80 pounds of equipment. So I would be stupid, naive, and ungrateful to say I didn’t luck out.

Here we play volleyball with all walks of life every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It didn’t take long for us to prove our worth on the courts, as it seems now, that we are the one group of alpha dogs that play. I was presently surprised to see about 5-6 other guys that were descent though. The food here is wonderful. It is actually kind of scary good. There is so much variety; they have cake, ice cream, cookies, snacks and all kinds of other crap I should stay away from. One of the first things I noticed was the crates of bottled water just lying around. Of course there is no acceptable tap water here so every little bit we drink it straight from a bottle. Combine that with the heat, and I cannot imagine the cost of providing so much of it. I know in the first week I knocked down about 40 bottles. We will soon be moving into our huts. I cannot put into words how much we are looking forward to that since we have been living out of bags in a dirty tent now for about 10 days.

Another interesting thing here is all the nationalities that work or reside here. Aside from Americans and Afghans there are tons of other countries, militaries, and civilian and clandestine organizations that I correspond with daily. This really is a melting pot. I have made friends with a volleyball player from Fiji who is super cool, along with a group of guys from France. That reminds me, for all of you who hate France for whatever reason, I will say this; they are here fighting hard, where are you?

I got to go to my first Bazaar here a few days ago. That was very interesting. They have all kinds of crazy stuff for absurd prices. I bought some stuff for Laura and the fat one, and myself an old Russian belt. They sell old British rifles there that were made prior to 1898. I look forward to purchasing one or many of those.

The SUV’s here piss me off. Why do we have the lamest vehicles in America? Everything here is jacked up and trail ready, and most of them even have snorkels. I suppose to the credit of the US they actually need such capabilities here to get around. I am especially jealous of the Belgian vehicles. Also, who has heard of a Ford Everest? I should be receiving a package from Laura soon. Hopefully it will contain a camera so I can begin taking my thousands of pictures I want to share with everyone. Despite my apparent safety here I have seen bodies loaded into the morgue on two straight days now. The fighting is getting intense and even local routes that were formerly safe have become dangerous.

I have to run now. Work calls. I have descent communication capabilities here so feel free to write. Who knows you may even receive a call from me some day.

PS-Sorry my thoughts are so scatterred. It has been a long time since I wrote and I had a lot to write about. Hopefully my thoughts will be better organized next time.

Saildier Boy

I wanted to take a few minutes to illustrate my recent life in the narmy hooah? First I have overcome my original snafu of misunderstanding the rules and regulations of army lingo hooah? Apparently it is required to replace the period ending every sentence with the word “hooah”, hooah? It should also be noted that despite the contents of the sentence it will be spoken as a question hooah? An example: “That dog over there is big hooah?”, would translate in normal English to, “that dog over there is large wouldn’t you agree chap?” An important side note is that the word “hooah” may be replaced by the word “tracking” to render the same effect and meaning hooah? Typically army types prefer to do this when giving specific or complicated instructions, or when giving mundane advice that a hyperactive black lab with Down Syndrome could follow hooah? An example of this would be, “When you get to EPA (extraction point alpha) and there has been a FFI (friendly fire incident) call in a medivac, fill out form 1187a, radio into your CBH (combat head-quarters), disrobe your IBA (individual body armor), and provide CLS (combat life saver) techniques tracking?” Another example on the other side of the spectrum would be, “If you see a rattlesnake crawling in front of you on the field, do not lean down and try to kiss it tracking?”

For those of you who are thinking about become a ground-pounder, but have not established the mental image of what one would do I offer this advice:
1)Put on the hottest long sleeve shirt over a dark, moisture soaking, cotton T-shirt.
2)Put on long thick pants over your choice of boxers.
3)Put on hot, thick, knee high socks and blousing straps to tuck in your pants.
4)Put on the most awkward belt you can find that will not stay tight.
5)Put on incredibly uncomfortable, shin high boots, and lace them up as tight as possible.
6)Strap on a ridiculously crappy gun holster and handgun to aforementioned, sagging belt.
7)Put on the largest knee and elbow pads you can find anywhere.
7)Take the largest backpack you can find and fill it with about 80 pounds of bricks and have it sit directly on shoulders.
8)Strap everything in your house sans the kitchen sink to the front of your backpack.
9)Attached a gallon of water to the back of your backpack.
10)Find a 5 pound helmet that give you headaches and strap it so tight to your chin that you talk like Mohammed Ali.
11)Grab an 8 pound rifle with about 5 pounds of ammunition dispersed through 7 magazines and strap them to the front of your backpack.
12)Wait for a 100+ degree day and run around out in the woods, duck-walking, squatting, climbing hills, and speed walking for 6 hours.
13)Follow that by running though every room of a 32 story building as fast as possible while pretending people are shooting at you.

That should give you the gist of it. Hopefully it is for you. I could see how most people would find it fun, and would volunteer for it. Me, I like the shooting, but I think I would be just as happy messing around with legacy software in a 65 degree, classified environment on a rolling ship. Maybe that’s just me hooah?

A wet dream

Wow. I experienced one of the most exciting events of my life this last Monday. Earlier that morning I checked the weather as I always do and saw a descent chance of severe storms. We had been in class for about 2 hours when the first wave hit. The rain came down like crazy and we were hit with nickle to quarter sized hail. We played around in it, and walked out and about and collected and ate them during a break. It looked like the worst was well passed us as the skies began to clear. About 20 minutes or so later I looked out the window to see a black low-lying sheet roll in. I was gazing at it for a few minutes when all of the sudden a huge hail storm began to pound down on the classroom. It sounded like 100 mile per hour bricks. My immediate thought was that we would not be able to hear the tornado sirens among all of the noise. I brought this to the attention of our teacher who shrugged it off. I couldn’t help but to think hail that hail that big almost always accompanied some sort of rotation. Sure enough a few minutes later a teacher came bursting in and told us all to promptly make our way to the storm shelter. On our way out I heard the tornado sirens.

We all cramped into a huge cement tunnel that usually served as a training aid for a missile silo. Cops were running around with bullhorns, lightning was striking everywhere, and the hail was still coming down, though it was now much smaller. After about 5 minutes in the shelter we began to climb out when the noises subsided. As soon as I stepped out I instinctively looked to my north east to see an absol-freakin-lutely huge funnel spinning around fiercely about 1/4 to 1/2 a mile away. It was an amazing green color, and the sight made the hair on my arms stand up. Low lying clouds were being sucked up into it and rocketed back over our heads. I am not sure I will ever see a sight like it. Apparently it touched down right by us, out in a field, and the damage from the tornado was limited to downed trees throughout the praries outside of base. The irony of the situation; I am almost positive that we ran to the shelter as it was over us, or possibly even after it past us (most likely since massive tennis ball hail had stopped falling).

Later that night we left base and drove a couple of mile to the airport. I had read reports that they received softball size hail and that all of the rental cars, and short and long term parked cars were demolished. We were all amazed by the destruction. Practically every car there was totaled. All said and done, the hail storm only hit 3 miles of scarcely populated city, but 1000+ cars were demolished according to the Daily Union. Pictures of the destroyed cars at the airport are located Here

matchbookAlso on the same day the ongoing war between chief and I regarding the merits of Georgia and Texas continued. I struck hard by handing him the matchbook shown to the left, unopened. He slowly opened it expecting something to fall out or something, and almost died laughing. So far Texas 3, Georgia 0. I also have several pictures of chief modeling his Texas T-shirt or should I say a picture of Sheehan and one of our friends holding him down after he jokingly put on his Texas shirt. I will post more pictures of that later.

Sheehan and I plan on visiting Texas next week. This will be the first time he will spend real time there. I am presently attempting to plan every meal, and every layer of entertainment. Let me know if y’all have any ideas.

WHAAAAAAAAAAT???????????????

I'm BatmanA lot has happened in the last few days. Unfortunately I do not have time to give all of the details, but I will try to give you a super concatenated run-down. During our M4 qual, I shot a round after shooting about 30, and all of the sudden, my left ear stopped working. It has been a few days now, and though I can hear noises, I still have a terrible ringing, and it rattles when I talk. I have an appointment with the audiologist tomorrow sometime.

Today I was cleaning up my computer when I found two unposted blog entries I made while in New England. Actually they are probably the most entertaining of all my entries so I cannot believe I forgot to post them. So I added them today and backdated them to their respective dates. You can read them further down below, or by clicking on their links immediately below.
Boston Entry
Rhode Island Entry

I will post more information, pictures and videos next week.

A new mindest

Most of you know I am in Kansas now training for my deployment to Afghanistan. Thus far we have spent the majority of our time learning about culture and the languages used over in Afghanistan. The tactical insight demonstrated in our training changed my mind about the Army and the thought process of our military as a whole. I heard things I never thought I would hear, and though there is certainly the possibility that is is all too late, I feel confident that we at least now know how best to conduct operations over in the middle east. In a nut shell we now openly admit several things;

  1. Our tactics in both wars were horribly flawed and needed drastic revision.
  2. Though we have ousted both insurgent governments we are still technically losing the war.
  3. We presently foresee the necessity of maintaining a presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan until 2013 and likely longer.
  4. What we are doing in Afghanistan is good, that is the intentions are worth the fight. However it will take a ridiculous amount of commitment from both the Afghani citizens and ours to suffer through the long process of rebuilding a country.
  5. Bush and his military advisers as a whole are completely moronic and continue to damage the campaign to this day.
  6. General Petraeus knows his stuff.

The majority of the training hammered home the idea that our priority over in Afghanistan is not to gun down Taliban and other insurgent groups, but to build rapport with local tribes and to assist in developing the security of the country by advising the ANA and ANP. Through this, the ANA and ANP will be able to police their own countries utilizing proven tactics, and eventually we will be able to pull out of the country. Since the ANA and ANP are allies with the US and essentially UN projects it is important to put an Afghani face on and policing or security issues that take place. This helps reinforce the ideal that the Afghani’s are in fact progressing and are responsible for providing security.

This new approach completely surprised me. Gone are the days when we strap on our weapons before gathering the necessary intel and accessing our goals and methods of achieving them. I could only think if this had been done to begin with we would already be much more successful than we are presently. That being said we are making a difference. I can assure you that. Unfortunately for us (UN Troops) that means we must interact with the Afghani people consistently without weapons and armor since it is important to be seen as peace-keepers and not the aggressors we had originally been thought as. This necessary tactic puts us in more danger than we would have been in the “fire at anything that moves campaign”. That being said the danger is worth it. The Afghani people are a beautiful and cultured people with a uniqueness and history unlike any culture I have ever experienced or read about. My only goal for my augmentation is to associate a positive face with America to at least a handful of Afghani’s.

I have created a gallery for training so you guys can check out our picks located here. There are several in there of our training including our interaction with real Afghani nationals and of course our humvees. I have been laying low here, and thus far my only real job is a humvee driver. They are not as fun as one would think. They are gas guzzling pieces of shit that are responsible for about 60% of combat deaths in Afghanistan! Apparently it is much safer over there to travel by foot or even by four wheeler, than it is to utilize even an armored humvee.

The language and culture classes have been amazing. I have met many native Afghani’s including a Dari translator that looks exactly like my dad, exactly. Kind of scary actually. Check out the image here. While I am on the subject of the gallery I want to mention/explain the pictures of our chief . I decided early on in training that he looked a lot like a built Flavor Flav, so that is why that picture is in there (thanks Alan for bringing my idea to life). After that he began to give me a bunch of shit about being from Texas, so naturally we made him a cowboy and hung his invitation throughout the barracks. Typical boredom shit.

For those of you that are interested in the crazy balancing act that is the War in Afghanistan, check out my video gallery here There are many very educational and informative videos. This war has changed a great deal and I think the most upsetting thing to me and I would imagine to other troops is that it has almost been forgotten, pushed back into the shadows during the time of the great crises in Iraq.

Update: I am still trying to figure out why embedvideo is taking a dump on me thus not allowing me to post my Afghanistan videos to my site. They are however posted on Google Video and can be seen by clicking the below links:
Counter Insurgency Tactics
Taliban PR Tactics
Democracy And Elections In Afghanistan
Bin Laden Video
Taliban Dynamics
FOB Life

I will fix the problem and post more images/videos later. For those of you who are really interested, I recommend watching the movie the Kite Runner.




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