Friday, December 24

Merry Christmas everyone!

This is a photo from a Christmas party I went to at the U.S. Embassy. Standing with me are some ISAF Officers I've worked with and LTC M, the American PAO I used to work for. They're all great people and it was spend time with them outside of work.

It’s pretty much just another day of work here. We’ve been doing little things around here to make it special. Many of you may have received the intelligence spot report on Santa’s latest movements that I forwarded. There was Christmas caroling last night. We had a Christmas Eve poker party. One guy I work with wrote a casino supplies distributor in Vegas about the planned party and that we needed chips. He sent an aluminum briefcase full of casino quality chips to us. I went to a Christmas party at the U.S. embassy the night before that was thrown by their Director of Communications. It was a nice get together with good finger food—no booze of course. For the past two months I’ve actually been filling the role of Senior Watch Officer at the Joint Operations Center. It’s pretty neat to have my finger on the pulse of everything happening here and to help direct our responses to situations. The JOC has people from Army, Navy, AF, and Marines (no Coast Guard) representing various military disciplines/specialties and elements in the country. It’s a pretty fun group and time passes quickly. I’ll be home for two weeks of leave in January.

About ten days ago I had an opportunity to go to a USO show at Bagram Air Field. It was an extra special show because they were also here for the ground-breaking ceremony for the new USO lounge at the Bagram military terminal to be named after Pat Tilman. Plans are for the lounge to be completed in time for the Super Bowl and they’ll televise live several times during the Super Bowl from the lounge where some Soldiers will be watching the game. Here are some photos. I got some autographs too!

John Elway talking to the crowd at the ground breaking.

Robin Williams surrounded by Soldiers. He was fantastic. Not only funny, but plain good with Soldiers. He might be the next Bob Hope.

Robin Williams performing in a show after the ground breaking. Look in the top row of the bleachers, second from the right. Recognize anybody?

Blake Clarke. You make recognize him from the movies Waterboy and 50 First Dates (and others). He was also hilarious, and he had a special connection with the crowd. He was an Infantry Platoon Leader in Vietnam.

Saturday, December 11

Time for another update. This one won't have any photos, just commentary. You may have heard a couple of weeks ago about a plane crash in Afghanistan that killed three contractors and three military personnel. The Army has contracted out for air movement of some supplies here. This was one of those flights and it went down on a mountain at nearly 16,000 feet above sea level. It took a couple of days to mount a rescue/recovery operation due to the special personnel and equipment needed to work at that altitude and due to snowy conditions. As the Senior Watch Officer at the Joint Operations Center, I was coordinating for and tracking the operation closely. It wasn't until after the remains and sensitive equipment were recovered and the remains repatriated to the U.S. that I found out that I knew one of the deceased. While I never met him in person, I had several phone conversations and emails with him. Several of my soldiers from Kandahar had worked directly with him. He was the Commander of the 3/4 Cavalry. If you saw the movie Apocolypse Now, he was a lot like the Cav Commander that Robert Duvall played-- down to earth, confident, approachable, and competant. He talked straight, which is why the soldiers and the media liked him. He was the first person I've quasi-known here that has died and he was known to be a good man. It was a dose of reality for me as I had started to take things for granted and become accustomed to getting reports during the past seven months about Soldiers, aid workers, and civilians being killed and wounded.

The other thing that has happened lately that I'm sure you caught on the news was the Afghan Presidential Inauguration. It went very smoothly, which is a huge compliment to all the agencies and security forces involved in setting it up. While I can't say exactly what we did for security and transportation of all the VIP's that came, I can tell you that the Afghan National Army, police, coalition forces, International Security Assistance Force, Secret Service, special forces, and many more entities came together to provide near seemless security of the airspace, Province, City, site, and of the individuals themselves. We also had the Vice President, SecDef, numerous U.S. Generals, and their huge entourages fly in by plane, need to be moved by helicopter, and then by convoy, to and from the ceremony and other activities. You wouldn't believe the work and headaches involved in some of the last minute changes to itineraries of the VIP's or a mechanical problem with their aircraft. I wish they understood the financial costs and huge effort involved when they decide to leave an hour earlier or later than planned. One example is that we had to retask three helicopters that were on another mission on extremely short notice in order to accommodate one itinerary change. We caught a couple of groups of bad guys in Kabul that wanted to disrupt the historic event and deterred numerous other groups with the strong belts of security around the city. There was a spike in attacks that day, but they were carried out far from Kabul, we feel because they realized they would get caught trying to infiltrate the city. They did not inflict much damage in those attacks either.

Well, I just want you to know you can be very proud of what our Soldiers are doing here and how they're doing it. And it's not just Soldiers, Sailers, Marines, and Airmen. It's a successful partnership between the military, international organizations, the Afghan government, and Afghan people. The unique cooperation has been a recipe for success that we hope continues through the National Assembly elections next summer. If it does, then I don't think there's any way that Afghanistan will slide back to the way used to be after those elections are successfully completed.

Take care, friends.

Thursday, December 2

Here's a photo of me with a bunch of other Majors that I work with. Most of them come from the 25th Infantry Division based out of Hawaii-- hence, the Hawaiian Lei's around our necks. One of the Majors is from Turkey and the other from South Korea. We're standing in front of the Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan logo outside our building.

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