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.

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