Archive for June, 2009

Lock the commodes!

Posted in In country on June 25, 2009 by jetgwot

Well, as I waited for my laundry to finish up this morning, I noticed the Army first sergeant locking down the bathrooms. Our bathrooms are basically modified containers (like big shipping containers) converted into commodes. Well, apparently someone can’t clean up after themselves and the resulting backlash is the locking of every single container bathroom on our base. There are six total — now, they are all locked down.

What’s left you ask? Well, there’s a smattering (no pun intended) of port-a-potties dotted throughout the base. I’m thinking, maybe 6-8 of them. Mind you, they aren’t cleaned often and they are even dirtier than our container commodes. Lovely. Hopefully the message will come across loud and clear, but until then, we are stuck doing our business in less than ideal conditions. Let’s just say 100 plus degree temperatures tends to marinate anything left out in the sun. As if we didn’t have it bad enough already…

Oh, the good ‘ol Army. If this was an Air Force base, we’d have a contractor that would clean the toilets every two hours, alleviating the 650 plus Soldiers and civilians from having to scout an unused John.

Anyway, enough bathroom chatter.

Last night I had the opportunity to help one of the civilians here teach English to nine Afghan interpreters. They can speak, read and write English, but they have difficulty with their pronunciation and with some of the more difficult words in the English language.

In respect to their culture, when we entered the tent, we took off our shoes and then sat cross-legged in a circle. For a little more than an hour, three of us split into groups and read through an educational book on Kabul. We broke it down into paragraphs and after each paragraph we would let them re-read it and ask questions on any words they didn’t
understand.

They are so eager to learn. We are going to be teaching the class twice a week, but if they had it their way, we’d be there every night. These interpreters go out with the Soldiers on every mission to help with communication between the villagers. Helping the interpreters understand our language and the proper words to use can help them better translate
what the local people are trying to tell us. I’ll try and get some pictures during the next class to show you “our students.”

COP Rath

Posted in In country on June 22, 2009 by jetgwot

Today, I rode in a convoy a few miles down the road to Combat Outpost Rath. It’s located next to a village, where we are working with the locals to make life better here for them. The commander at Rath holds weekly meetings with local elders and leaders to determine what they are struggling with and what necessities we can help get for them.

One of our main goals out here is to let the people know that if they cooperate with us, i.e. turn in the bad guys, don’t support the Taliban or Anti-Afghan Forces, then we will help build up their villages, dig wells for them, help them with irrigation, sewage, etc.

The concept is based off an “Oil Spot” theory. Basically, by working with a village, giving them everything to be economically functioning and self-sustaining, other villages will want the same thing and the “Oil Spot,” will spread throughout the country. The sad fact of what we are dealing with here is that the people are scared to death of the Taliban. Countering that fear is our biggest obstacle right now.

I think a big difference between Iraq and Afghanistan is our push to use non-lethal operations to help make this a better country. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that effect will take hold when we eventually leave this country.

Happy Father’s Day

Posted in In country on June 21, 2009 by jetgwot

To all the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day from Forward Operating Base Ramrod! My Father’s day meal included some cajun chicken. Pretty delicious. Tomorrow, I am going into a local village to cover a meeting with the district leader of the area. It should be interesting to finally get outside of the FOB and see how the local people are doing. I’ll post pictures and write more when I get back.

Another Ramrod kind of day

Posted in In country on June 20, 2009 by jetgwot

So, it’s hot here. Only getting hotter from what I understand. That’s alright, it’s not very humid, so it’s manageable.

I went running last night to see if my lofty goal of 27 miles was far-fetched. My goal was to run a third of the distance. I actually survived and finished 9 miles in a little under an hour and a half. Not bad. The medical officer said he’d be on hand in case I needed some IVs when I finished my marathon attempt. That’s right, I said finished! I will finish; even if I have to crawl across the finish line.

Ramrod: So, the 1-12th Infantry Regiment is in charge of the Maywand District here in Afghanistan. There job is to combat the insurgents in the area, uncover weapon’s caches and basically make it safer for the general population, who want nothing to do with the Taliban or foreign  fighters here.

Sorry to cut this short, but I have to run. Tomorrow is Father’s Day, so if you have a dad here you’d like me to pass a message on, let me know!

27 miles?

Posted in Combat Skills Training with tags , , on June 18, 2009 by jetgwot

Yep, that’s right, 27 miles. I determined last night as I jogged around our little Forward Operating Base that on my 27th birthday I would attempt to run 27 miles. Notice I said attempt. It’s worth a try. I always wanted to run a marathon, and when I leave here I just might be able to say I ran one in Afghanistan.

So, I’m throwing it out here to somehow commit myself to now doing it. Otherwise my loyal readers will forever hound me for not doing it. So, on Sept. 13, while most of the stateside population rests peacefully in their beds, I’ll don a pair of Night Vision Goggles and begin my 27-mile quest. I’m picturing myself starting at about 3 a.m., which would put me finishing between 8-10 a.m. if all goes well.

Sponsor: I figure if I’m running a marathon in Afghanistan I should have a sponsor. Mainly, someone who can occasionally e-mail me and ask about my progress and whether or not I was dropped as a child. The answer could be yes, but either way, I’ll attempt it.

Now I just need to order a couple new pairs of running shoes. I have a lot of running to do to get prepped for this. Mind you, this isn’t a simple track or smooth road I’m looking to swiftly “track around.” It’s a mixture of “death boulders” as I like to call them, soft moon-like dust and the occasional up or downhill trek.

Wish me luck. Something tells me I’ll need slightly more than that.

a little history on the 1-12

Posted in In country on June 17, 2009 by jetgwot

So, a little history on the unit I’m assigned to. They are the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Unit from Fort Carson, Colorado. If your in the mood for a history lesson, read on.

The 1-12 Infantry Battalion maintains balanced readiness to, on order, deploy, fight and win in any theater of operation while supporting the 4th Brigade Combat Team training to increase our lethality, survivability, operational tempo, sustainability, and versatility.

The History of the 12th Infantry Regiment parallels the history of our nation. The 12th Regiment was originally formed on 3 July 1798, in response to British and French aggression against the American merchant fleet. The 12th was disbanded on 15 June 1800 after the crisis passed. With the outbreak of the War of 1812, the Warriors were again activated.

The Regiment’s greatest moment of the war came during the defense of Fort McHenry. The Warrior colors were flying above the Fort throughout the battle that inspired the writing of our National Anthem. At the end of the war, the Army was reduced in size and the 12th was consolidated into the 4th Infantry Regiment. During the Mexican War, the 12th was organized for the third time and fought at National Ridge, Paso de Overjas and Plan de Rio. At the Battle of Coutreras, the Warriors spearheaded an attack against a much larger Mexican force. That attack was the turning point, which helped hasten the end of the war.

The Regiment was disbanded after the Mexican War, and was not recalled into the Regular Army until 3 May 1861. During the Civil War, the Regiment fought in campaigns with the Army of the Potomac and played pivotal roles in some of the greatest battles of the Civil War. The 12th subsequently served in three major Indian campaigns, during which six Warriors won the Medal of Honor.

During the Spanish American War, the 12th was dispatched to the Philippines where they campaigned around Manila and throughout the island of Luzon. During World War II, the 12th spearheaded the Normandy Invasion on D-Day.

From 9-12 August 1944, the Regiment engaged and destroyed the famed SS Adolph Hitler Panzer Division, then went on to win a Presidential Unit Citation during the Battle of the Bulge. The 12th deployed to Vietnam from 1966 to 1970. They served in eleven campaigns and three Warriors won the Medal of Honor.

Sandblasted!

Posted in In country on June 14, 2009 by jetgwot

My goodness! So this is what it feels like to have sand pelted in your face. We’ve been in an ongoing sandstorm for the past four hours. I thought it would subside and then, wham! It just kept on pounding. Oh well. I find myself wanting to crawl on my cot and wait it out, but it looks like it might outlast me. As I write this in a small, dirt-covered tent, I find myself periodically brushing off the piles of sand that continue to blow in on top of everything the storm can get it’s sand-filled fingers on.

The past few days have been a scramble as I figure out how the Army operates over here. The structure of the Air Force and Army is very different and it takes some getting used to. For the most part though, the Army treats the Air Force personnel very well. They understand we are filling their manning void and they work with us as we adjust to their style of operating.

For the almost 700 Soldiers here, there are only about half a dozen Airmen. There are a few Explosive Ordnance Disposal Airmen here and some Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (the guys that coordinate air strikes etc.).

Life on the FOB: To give you an idea of how things are here; we are all staying in 12-man tents. Typically 6-8 people live in each one. We all sleep on cots (which have not been nice to my back) and we each have about a 7 x 7 area to call “home.”

In a large white tent we have some of the best food you’ll find in this area. In fact, every Friday we get steak, shrimp and lobster. Which, for what we are doing out here, it’s a little taste of back home that we deserve. Internet is scarce. There are six computers which have access to sites like this, facebook and e-mail. Typically there is an hour or so wait to get 30 minutes of computer time to quickly type out a quick message home before you are booted off. It’s better than nothing and I’ve learned to quit complaining. Mainly because if I talk I get a mouthful of sand.

We have a decent gym. In fact, if Rocky 6 comes out, this gym would probably be in it. It’s basically a canopy with camo netting down the sides and all kinds of free weights. When the sand isn’t pelting us, there’s a two-mile dirt running track that circles the base, which several of us run in the evening.

Work: The rest of our time is spent doing our various jobs. Whether it’s going out on patrol, conducting a humanitarian mission or staying, “inside the wire,” we all work together towards freeing this country of the rising insurgency. I’ve been reading a book on this area and I’ll post some of the interesting facts I’ve learned about the people and this country. For one, this province has the largest opium production in the entire world.

Alright, I’m off to fend through this sandstorm. Keep in touch.