Friday, April 15

I was able to catch a flight to Manas, Krgyzstan, just a couple of hours after I arrived at Bagram. I was expecting to have to wait a few days at Bagram. Six of us traveled together in the first wave, six others caught up last night, and the others will catch up soon. They're still training our replacements. The bad news is, we still need to wait for our scheduled rotator flight several days from now. Manas is a staging area for troop and equipment air movements destined for Afghanistan. They won't fly civilian aircraft into Afghanistan so they fly us charter into and out of Manas, then military aircraft in/out of Afghanistan. Manas is 1.5 hours ahead of Kabul, so I guess I'm 11 hours ahead of Kansas now.

It's nice to be out of Afghanistan. Manas is fairly civilized from what I can tell. We are sleeping in tents, but it's better than Bagram. It's strange not carrying my pistol around with me. Wednesday and Saturday nights they serve beer: two per person. We made it in time for beer last night. It was strange, as motivated as the six of us were to get our beers, most only drank one and left the MWR tent early. They had a pretty good band from LA playing and there was a good crowd. The Air Force sure knows how to have a good time. They really take it for granted. To talk to some of them based here for big '3 month' tours, you'd think they were serving with Marines in Ramadi, Iraq. The armorer replied when we asked how he was doing "If I didn't have a family I'd have killed myself by now." This from the guy babysitting the transiting Soldiers' weapons! Other people have similar attitudes here. Well, after being here a couple of days now, I know that while we fight Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the enemy here is boredom. The base is very small with a very simple mission of pushing people and materiel through to Afghanistan. They don't get to leave the base at all.

Well, it ought to be a slow, relaxing few more days here till our flight. I've been reading a book that I brought twelve months ago and hadn't had the time to read till now. The sun is finally out today. I went for a real run for the first time in a long time. Usually I use a treadmill. The air is much cleaner here and there is more room to run. I found about a 4/5s of a mile loop to run. Not much else new. I hope to be in my own living room within two weeks. Oh, that will be nice!

Tuesday, April 12

I'm leaving Kabul today. It's a mixed feeling of excitement and sadness. You get to be quite attached to the work, the people, and the surroundings after spending a year of your life here.

This is the OMC-A public affairs team that I worked with my last few months. I have truly enjoyed my work with them and the Afghan National Army while at the Office of Military Cooperation.

Another Major and I with some ANA Soldiers manning an observation post on a mountain overlooking Kabul.

Standing in the ruins of the building used as an observation post.

Creative gardening idea-- using spent shell casings as edging for your garden!

The old King's palace built in 1922 and destroyed during the civil wars in the 1990's, now home to a flock of sheep and kids playing. The palace was built by a German firm and is an exact replica of a palace in German, but I haven't found out which German palace. There's a movement to refurbish the palace and make it into the Afghanistan House of Parliament. That's some serious refurbishing needed, however.

Monday, April 11

We recently held a meeting at Afghanistan's National Museum. The museum is right across the street from the old King's Palance, which as you can see was destroyed in the civil war after the Soviets left Afghanistan.

This is a wooden carving from Ghazni Province that dates back to Budhist times.

Watching one of the museum workers cleaning and reconditioning artifacts. Many of the artifacts had to be buried by museum workers as the Taliban were moving into Kabul. Those that couldn't be buried or otherwise hidden were destroyed by the Taliban. Many of the wooden statues where chopped to pieces.

A huge ancient bowl at the entrance of the museum.

This plaque in front of the museum says "A nation stays alive when it's culture stays alive" and is matched by one written in Dari on the opposite side of the sidewalk. It's an obvious lesson they want people to keep in their minds after so many pre-islamic artifacts were destroyed by the Taliban.

This man was sitting in front of the museum and, as most all Afghans would, sat there nice and happy to be photographed.

Sunday, April 10

Here are some photos from a hike I recently went on with some coworkers at the ANA's Kabul Military Training Center. The base of the mountain is well over a mile high. One of the guys had an altimeter in his watch and figured it was about a 700 meter climb. It took us a little over two hours from start to finish. It was great exercise. You have to be off the mountain before 9 a.m. when some of the firing ranges open up. The mountain forms a back stop to several of the ranges.

This is the group halting for a photo about half way up.

I am the second guy traversing this ridgeline that leads to the actual peek of the mountain.

Sgt. C and I enjoying the view from the top.

Macho me :-)


Another view from the top

Cool clouds in the mountains along the way.

Cherry blossoms are in bloom. You can see my room that I share with three others on the second floor behind the sand bags.

At my desk.

At the barber shop. This is a one-barber shop in the same building where I live that is run by an Afghan man. He's a great guy and very interesting to talk to-- just as a barber should be :-)

Monday, March 28

Here's the last and possibly the best story I've written here.

Sunday, March 27

A few weeks ago I had the priviledge of attending an ANA Kandak (battalion) basic training graduation. This was another of those events that really brings home why we're here and makes you feel real good about what's going on. The ANA is a very proud army. Every Kandak is ethnically integrated in proportion to the demographics of the country. Historically, military organizations here were tribally or ethnically organized. These soldiers really bond and are effective together. They also recognize how important it is for Afghanistan to become a strong nation rather than being decentralized and tribally oriented. It's a cultural barrier they appear to be breaking. Just look at their faces. The pictures are worth a thousand words. It is now customary after they are called forward to receive an award that they face the unit and shout "I serve the Afghan nation!" Allegience to nation over tribe and ethnicity is the key to a peaceful Afghanistan and an Afghanistan that participates responsibly in the international community.

Here's the color guard marching forward at the start of the ceremony. The base mosque is visible on the hill in the background.

Here are the soldiers marching past the reviewing stand.

Here I am with the formation of soldiers in the background.

Most ANA ceremonies conclude with what we affecionately call a 'man dance'.

Here I am with the old man that played the drum for the man dance. He's normally the base barber.

Post-graduation celebration.

The soldiers are holding flowers after the ceremony to give to their instructors to show how happy and appreciative they are.

Here I am assisting with an Associated Press Television News interview of the Colonel in charge of the OMC-A team that assists at the Kabul Military Training Center.

The KMTC public affairs team invited us to stay for lunch at their dining facility following the ceremony.

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