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Saturday, February 28

AA Supplement
Hey everyone. Want to know what's going on in Afghanistan besides what I tell you? Check out the AA Supplement (short for Aghan Adventure Supplement) link on the right margin of this page. A good friend of mine is helping to post current readings that provide a balanced picture of what's going on over there. As you probably know, the major U.S. media doesn't report much about Afghanistan unless a soldier has died. If you like the supplement, be sure to let him know by leaving a comment here. Thanks, buddy!

Wednesday, February 25

Reported to Fort Riley yesterday. We had a nice, informal send-off in the parking lot of our unit just prior to leaving. The Adjutant General presented us with a state flag that we'll try to fly on a few occasions at our various posts in Afghanistan. Several 'full-timers' were on hand to wish us well and some family members were able to make it.

Two last minute changes made the trip a challenge-- good things we were only an hour away from Riley because two of us had to take our own cars in order to get us all and our equipment here. We were supposed to have two large vans. We ended up with a large van and a mini van. The other change was that we had to send the mini van early with our M-16s and no passengers or equipment leaving us essentially with only the large van for 11 personnel and our baggage.

When we got to Riley we had our first meal at the chow hall. Pretty good food! We had a little time before our first in-processing meeting so we visited on of the museums on post. It was quite good. One of our van drivers was a First Sergeant (not part of our unit). He copped an attitude about chauffering us to the chow hall and museum since he was told to only take us to the meeting. We made him understand that he was to do whatever we needed him to do until such time as I release him. We expected to receive a hard time from some folks here, but not from our own National Guard and not on our first day. We are also having problems with our supply sergeant's 'customer service', but I won't get into that right now.

In contrast, the people at Riley, the Reserve Training Support Battalion, and the Reserve Support Group have been very professional and helpfull.

Saturday, February 21

Good, unique news article about our preparations.
----------
Reporters hammer reservists with not-so-friendly verbal fire

Sgt. 1st Class Matt Fearing has dealt with hormone-addled junior high
students. And he has dealt with pushy reporters. His approach to both, the Lawrence man says, is about the same.

Read the full story here:
http://www.ljworld.com/section/archive/story/161811

Friday, February 20

The training exercise with real local media yesterday went very well. We worked through three scenarios: a suicide truck bombing at the gate of a U.S. installation, U.S. soldiers assisting local in rebuilding a school, and the suicide of a U.S. soldier. It was very realistic training on serious subjects that we most likely will end up working with the media on.

After the exercises (the journalists were very excited to have been able to help us get ready), the media conducted real interviews of some of our soldiers. It will be interesting what kind of TV, radio, and newspaper coverage about us they publish.

Later in the day we had a classes on rules of engagement, suicide prevention, and working through an interpreter. No specific rules of engagement for Afghanistan were discussed-- we'll get that when we arrive. We just basically discussed what ROE are: directives that delineate limitations and circumstances for when it is appropriate to initiate combat with hostile forces. The instructor boiled it down to this: we have well-thought out rules about using force-- that's what seperates us from the terrorists we're fighting.

We'll be working very often with interpreters, so that training will come in very handy. Suicide rate per 100k soldiers is on the rise due to stresses. Interesting point however is that the rate is still significantly lower than the U.S. per capita suicide rate for each age group. Needless to say, taking care of soldiers/watching your buddies 'back' is our number one priority so the training was very worthwhile.

Everyone heads home today to spend their last weekend with their friends and family before we report in to Fort Riley for certification activities. My co-workers at the U.S. Coast Guard, neighbors, friends, and family have all thrown very nice farewells for me and generously offered their support to my wife. It really means a lot to know most people care about soldiers and support the job we do. It's also an ease on our mind knowing that friends and family will be here to assist our families while we're away. Thank you all so very much!

There is a good chance we'll be able to have a ceremony/family event at Fort Riley shortly before we 'fly' and that will probably be our last time together for quite a while. We'll be at Fort Riley for 3-6 weeks-- can't say for sure as the logistics haven't been completely ironed out by the army and because of operational security policies designed to protect the soldiers and our families.

Tuesday, February 17

Well, we've been working very hard for over a week now at our 'home station' in Topeka. We've got all the equipment checked, inventoried, and packed into a truck for transport to our Moblization Station later in the week. We've completed mandatory training in terrorism awareness, operational security, safety, soldier common tasks (i.e. first aid, chemical defense, land navigation), Combat Life Saver training for six soldiers, and some other canned required training.

We had a wonderful Professor of History out from KSU to give us a country/cultural briefing. It was fantastic. We learned about Islam, Afghan history, and Afghan culture- things that can keep us public affairs folks from sticking our feet in our mouths when dealing with the locals.

This week we also trained on our new, state-of-the-art digital still and video cameras and editing software. Today and tomorrow we're learning more about media facilitation-- how to run a press center, do press releases, run press conferences, and escort media on the battlefield. Some local TV and newspaper media will be coming in later in the week to help us with some practical exercises.

The soldiers from Oklahoma and Kansas have come together quite well over the past week. While the leadership had met on a few occasions, the unit had never trained together prior to this mobilization. We have an excellent team with diverse skills, knowledge, and experience. Half our soldiers have already experienced a deployment as members of other units. I am confident we will do a great job in Afghanistan.

Today, some local family members cooked some soups and brought them in for us for lunch. That was a fantastic morale booster. Not only did it taste great, but it was also a nice change of pace from the MRE's we've been having for lunch and the contracted restaurant food we've been having for supper.

Wednesday, February 4

This is my first blog entry-- ever!

Hey guys, I have two more days left on my civilian job. Then it's almost a year and a half in uniform.

Drill this weekend, then straight into Annual Training in Topeka, then straight to our mobilization station for 4-8 weeks of training, then 1 year in Afghanistan!

I think we're ready and going to do a good job over there. I'm spending a lot of time right now trying to finalize the manning roster of who will go with us. Lot's of volunteers. Just need to pick some with good heads on their shoulders and will represent the Army well with the media.

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