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Friday, June 25

Here's a picture of the Lone Star House. Our offices are behind the middle and right hand side windows. The rest of the rooms are used as sleeping quarters. Ironically, none of our soldiers are billeted in this building. I know it looks nice. It's a little piece of paradise in a country that really has very little green vegetation.


Here's the courtyard in front of our office, view from roof terrace. Note the table under an apple tree. That's where we eat most of our meals.


Here's the roof terrace of the Lone Star house. It's nice to sit up there at night-- very peaceful.


Another view of our offices. Note the sand bags on the balcony. There's also chicken wire nailed over the windows inside to stop flying glass in the event of rocket/mortar attack.


More of our roses.


There's about five empty swimming pools around this compound of houses that the coalition has walled in. On Memorial Day, we filled a pool up and grilled hamburgers. There's no pump and filter so the pool was later drained.


I know this looks nice, but trust me, 95% of the Soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan are sleeping in tents and have to walk outdoors to get to a bathroom. The Air Force of course has nicer facilities.

Sunday, June 13

This is quite a few photos. Sorry if it bogs down your systems!

Afghan children during the 'Big 3' patrol.


Jingle trucks. Named so because of the elaborate paint jobs and the chains that hang down on the sides that jingle. The more jingles the more prosperous a driver you are.


Mom and pop shops along the road.


People lining the street on outskirts of Kandahar.


The gunner for the vehicle I was on, SSG Santos.


Photo taken looking over the cab of the HMMWV I was in.


Another one.


Mud houses.


Convoy stopped at ammo dump.


Ammo dump guards. Our interpreter has the ball cap on and is eating an MRE.


Several munitions piles at the dump.




The man seated is the 'manager' of the dump.


This is the patrol leader and the dump manager. He offered to let us swim in this tank of well water. It looked mighty inviting, but we declined :-)

21 May 2004

It's my second day in Kandahar. I slept in this morning till 08:30. Prior to this I've been unable to sleep past 04:30. I slept great on a cot in CPT Myers' hooch-- which is very well air conditioned. It was just what I needed.

The tent has plywood floors and walls with canvas on the top and sides. It's not too far from the airfield and you can hear helicopters and C-130s taking off and landing all through the night.

This afternoon I took Francois from Paris Match magazine on patrol with the 3-7 Field Artillery Battalion. It was their 'Big 3' security patrol. It consisted of four HMMWVs, two were up-armored and were at the front and rear, each had a machine gun on top. We were in the back of an open two seater HMMWV that had Kevlar panels bolted on the side and kevlar blankets on the floor.

The patrol took us along a dirt road at the base of the mountain closest to the airfield. We went through a lot of mud villages. Tall mud walls lined the road in the villages, which made us nervous. Someone could toss a grenade off the wall into our vehicle so everyone was alert. All the houses were also mud.

Everything is the same color here. The ground, the road, the houses, the walls-- all brown dirt and rock. Except for the children. They wear the most vibrant colors. Greens, reds, turquoise. They really brighten up the landscape.. They run to wave at us and hope we'll throw them something. The didn't have anything for them however.

We then got to the Taliban ammo dump. It was a place the Russians, then the warlords, and later the Taliban kept large amounts of munitions. Now it's guarded by some very poor looking people and they work to decommission the artillery shells, etc. I took several pictures and talked to them.

Terry, one of my soldiers, offered them beef jerky, but they spit it out. They told the Sergeant First Class leading the patrol that they always get a case of water from patrols that visit. He gave them one bottle each.

The last place we went was a police academy run by DynaCorp for the U.S. State Department. It was a fairly secure, square, walled-in perimeter. The soldiers finally had a chance to relax during our brief stop. Some DynCorp guys brought out cold sodas for our soldiers. There was nothing happening today at the academy. They said they were between classes.

They have two basic police courses. Which one you attend depends on your literacy. Illiterate recruits learn how to direct traffic and similar things, while literate recruits learn other more complex police jobs/responsibilities.

The patrol took over four hours and we were caked in dust by the end.

Friday, June 11

20 May 2004

Today I'm going to Kandahar. I didn't find out the flight leaves early until late last night-- too late to go to Bagram Air Field. We have a curfew restricting off post travel late at night till the wee hours of the morning, but I still needed to wake up at 4 a.m.

The convoy to Bagram went smoothly. We passed three ISAF (Int'l Security Assistance Force) patrols. I had been concerned that by leaving Kabul so early, we'd be the first convoy out for the day and likely the first to encounter any IEDs that may have been placed overnight.

I got to the terminal and checked in late. And then waited over four hours for the plane to arrive. I talked with CPT White, our Bagram Press Center Director, most of the time. In the terminal they were showing the movie "We Were Soldiers" which had my eyes watering at times, and others in the terminal too. I don't know why soldiers feel inclined to watch sad movies that we have so much in common with. In the movie, Mel Gibson leaves his house in the dark hours of the morning while his family is still asleep. I remember telling Melissa that I wanted to leave the kids and her that way. That I didn't want a big, teary farewell. I told CPT White about this as we were waiting, and tried to describe my last goodbye to Trey and Evie as my in-laws loaded them into the car in Junction City to take them home after we all had dinner there. I didn't get three words out of my mouth before I was too choked up to continue.
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We're all loaded up in the C-130 Hercules airplane now and the engines are revving up. My two journalists from Paris Match magazine are sitting right across from me. The Australian journalist is sitting further down and across with MAJ Bathrick and 1LT Hutchinson, both from the CJTF-76 PAO shop. 1LT Hutchinson is a Marine and genuine war hero. He was wounded several times during the original attack on Iraq, when he was a Marine Platoon Leader. He's not trained in public affairs, but he's a really good guy doing a really good job.

I could see out a port hole (there arent' many windows) of the airplane as we were taking off from Bagram. It's just amazing the kind of junk/mess the Russians left behind. It kind of reminds me of the time I went to a former Russian base in Germany. They left all kinds of broken down armored vehicles, generators and other equipment. Bagram i s littered with the same crap.

You can see destroyed/ransacked soviet tanks and APCs beside the road from Bagram to Kabul as well. It's hard to tell if they were destroyed when owned by the Russians or if it was during the ensueing civil wars between the War Lords.

We're at cruising altitude now. Everyone is sleeping. The two load masters sit in slings at the back of the airplane, peering out the windows dutifully. I presume they are looking for threats from the ground, i.e. missile launches.

Sunday, June 6

19 May 2004

I met for the second time with a crew from National Geographic. The writer named Tim McGirk also writes for Time magazine and the photographer is named Reza. They're here doing a spread for the magazine about Pashto people and culture. They've been already to Pakistan covering the assignment and now they are here to get shots of coalition soldiers interacting with Pashto people. They're also doing some of their own traveling around here without the coalition. Reza gave me an autographed photograph he took of a Pashtun wise man sitting on a bed outside in the open.

Friday, June 4

More photos. Old, but hopefully interesting to you.

Our last week at Fort Riley we took a day and went to Abilene. Here some of us are on the porch of a historic house that now serves lunch and coffee. From left to right: SGT Bolejack, me, 1SG Dyer, SFC Holt, SPC Hubbard, and then 1LT Eckart (now CPT).


Here we are on the C-17 on the way to Afghanistan. They had electrical plug-ins so everyone got out their laptop computers. Closest to the camera is SSG Harp, I'm next to him.


Here is our first our on the Kabul compound talking to the unit we were replacing. We're in the courtyard in front of the house we use for an office. The compound is a neighborhood of houses that we bought and walled in.


The first several days I stayed in the 'Goat House'. It's a house with a dining facility on the ground floor and visiting officer's quarters on the second. This is the view I had from the balcony of the room I shared with another officer temporarilly.

Thursday, June 3

17 May 04

We held our second press conference today. We did a much better job this time. After improving on things we noted in the After Action Review, I expect the next one will be pretty near perfect.

The media continue to be obsessed with the detainee abuse allegations. They care about nothing else right now. They didn't even ask any questions about the U.S. soldier killed yesterday.

I went to a meeting at the U.S. Embassy with my boss LTC De Werth today. The embassy has huge security and they are in the middle of building a new, bigger embassy. This is a weekly meeting of PAO's from key U.S. and coalition organizations.

Also today, a TV crew that we've been working with was apprehended by our Quick Reaction Force because they were filming outside our compound perimeter. The QRF confiscated their cameras and treated them pretty roughly. I had to calm both the journalists and the QRF down. I told the QRF commander the appropriate way to handle journalists that are violating the ground rules they agreed to follow. We all reviewed their tape and erased the parts that showed our compound defenses. I got their equipment back and lectured them about what's not appropriate for them to film and threatened to revoke their credentials if it happened again.

16 May 04

1SG Dyer, SFC Heusel, CPT Eckart and I moved into our semi-permanent hooch tonight. It's kind of crowded, but may get better as we get more organized. I have a bottom bunk and a built in wall locker. I also have a foot locker next to my bed that I use like a coffee table.

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