Archive for August, 2009

Random stuff, camel spider — kid’s videos

Posted in In country with tags , , , , , on August 15, 2009 by jetgwot
mmmm, camel spider

mmmm, camel spider

So, I had heard about camel spiders here, but had not seen any until I was walking back to my tent tonight and saw this cute little guy crawling around. Finally, a camel spider. They are crazy little devils. This one kept trying to get under the rocks as if that would somehow protect him from the behemoth trying to get it’s picture.

Moving on, the next shot is of me in an MRAP while out on patrol. Awesome, I know.  Lastly, and what will probably get me in trouble with a lot of the Soldiers when I tell you this; I finished a mural today for a program the chapel hosts called, “United Through Reading.”

On patrol

On patrol

Basically, the chapel has children’s books, a video camera and until I finished the mural — a white “interrogation wall” as a backdrop. So, if you didn’t know about this program, e-mail that loved one of yours over here and tell him to make a video for you and the kids. Even if you don’t have kids, you can still record a message for your “special one” and the chapel will mail off a mini-dvd, free of charge. It’s a cool program and now it’s got an even cooler backdrop!

United Through Reading Mural

United Through Reading Mural

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It’s all about the kids

Posted in Combat Skills Training with tags , , , , on August 13, 2009 by jetgwot

DSC_0166It’s a side not often seen in the media — but I couldn’t help but smile yesterday as Soldiers passed out candy and played with the Afghan children in a village about 15 minutes from Ramrod.

While Soldiers from Charlie Company and members of the Human Terrain Team (HTT) were conducting a village assesement with the village elder, Afghan children began coming out of the compounds, shy at first, but soon they were laughing and playing games with the Soldiers.

Some of my favorite pictures were taken yesterday as the children curiously examined their reflections in my camera lens. Little did they know I was actually taking their picture. Other children played copycat games with the Soldiers and one boy asked to have a snake drawn on his arm, “just like the tattoo on one of the Soldier’s arm.”

Others gave high fives and some showed the kids how to arm wrestle. I have two small children and being with these kids helped fill the gap I feel everyday being away from my prince and princess back home.

Overall the village assesment went well. The goal of C-co and HTT is to figure out if the Taliban are living in the village or to find out where they might be. In addition, HTT will work with villages to get them wells, electricity and other needs they might have in exchange for keeping the Taliban out of their villages. A win-win situation for everyone involved. Or so we hope …

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Mostly work; some play

Posted in In country on August 10, 2009 by jetgwot

So, while life here at Ramrod is rough, we still make time to have some fun. Whether it’s a “friendly game” of flag football or soccer, or kicking back and playing poker or watching a movie. We do what we can to pass the time and keep our morale high.

In front of the chapel is a nice dirt field (recently grated) which makes for a nice playing field. Next to that is our Rocky-style gym. We have an “MWR” tent, but we are waiting to get AFN hooked up and there is no AC — which makes for quite the sauna.

People have asked what they can send Soldiers here. Honestly, we all enjoy the simple things. Granola bars, twizzlers, some toiletries, but typically those are well-stocked here.

Internet: We have seven computers for about 400 some odd Soldiers. Thirty minutes per person and then you can rotate back in. Sometimes the wait can be several hours. Typically, later at night is better — less people — but that means less sleep. Depends on how much that Soldier really loves you! 🙂

Living quarters: We all sleep in tents with cots. Each Soldier has their own “room.” Whether or not they put a door on is up to them. They can decorate it as they see fit. Some people have gone as far as ordering fridges and microwaves to make it a little more like home.

Mail: Mail is hit and miss. It averages between 3-5 days to get here from Kandahar. We can only mail letters out. No packages or anything like that. Sometimes we’ll get stuff in a week. Other times, a month.

Food is pretty good. Ask any Soldier here and they’ll tell you Friday night is what we look forward to. Steak, Lobster and Baskin Robbins Ice Cream! Delicious. My favorite is the caramel/praline combination.

When it’s not Friday night, our next favorite is the mango sorbet popsicle. I grew up in Kenya, and honestly, it’s like someone picked one off the tree, blended it and froze it. For five minutes, it flashes me back to my homeland and nothing could be better — well, I could be home with my family. Anyway,

I hope everyone is doing well. Keep in touch! It’s always great to hear from family, friends and even perfect strangers.

One final salute

Posted in In country with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by jetgwot

Today we held a ceremony for the three Soldiers from our battalion that were killed Aug. 1 by two roadside bombs. The pictures didn’t turn out as well as I liked, but the service itself was very emotional and you could tell these Soldiers left a lasting impact on everyone that knew them.

Soldiers pay final tribute to fallen heroes

FORWARD OPERATING BASE RAMROD, Afghanistan– The sound of “Amazing Grace” twanged in the air as a lone bagpiper solemnly walked up to the three rifles, helmets and combat boots. Below one pair of boots, a picture of a father of three; another of a Soldier engaged to be married; and below the last pair of boots, a picture of a Soldier dedicated to his country.

As the music continued playing, hundreds of mourners paid their final respects to the three fallen Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, who were tragically killed by two roadside bombs Aug. 1.

CPL Jonathan M. Walls, 27, from West Lawn, Penn., PFC Richard K. Jones, 21, of Roxboro, N.C., and PVT Patrick S. Fitzgibbon, 19, of Knoxville, Tenn., were part of a four-day battalion operation in the Kandahar Province, clearing an area of insurgent fighters deep in enemy territory, when they were killed.

“They chose to stand and volunteer when others remained seated,” said LTC Reik Andersen, 1-12 IN commander. “They did things that most people considered too dangerous; but most importantly, they were foot Soldiers – salt of the earth infantrymen.”

Seven Soldiers spoke of their lives; paying tribute to the men they had grown to love.

“Jon [Walls] goal in life was supporting his family in any way they needed, or ever wanted,” said PFC Andrew Lawrence, 1-12 IN. “He was a fun loving guy with an off-the-wall goofy personality that everyone loved. Jon will live on in the eyes of his wife and children.”

For PVT Steven Fitzen, 1-12th IN C-Co First Platoon, he will always remember PVT Fitzgibbon as anything but an “average infantryman.”

“Patrick had dreams of becoming a police officer,” he said. “His dream was to go to Knoxville and become a police officer and to start a family. Fitzgibbon was an excellent Soldier and an even better friend. Words can’t describe how much he will be missed.”

Charlie Company’s First Platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Kennith Hicks, remembers PFC Jones as the “ … type of guy that everybody loves and the Soldier that ever leader wishes they could have.”

“He was always willing to go above and beyond his job to make himself better and the squad and platoon better,” he said. “He would do anything for you.”

The 1-12th IN Charlie Company commander, CPT Duke Reim, spoke of the endearing qualities he would always remember his three fallen Soldiers for.

“Love of family, selfless and dedicated service, friendship, courage, patience and a passionate desire to improve are all qualities these warriors displayed on a daily basis,”  Reim said. “They are the very finest of America’s sons and we will always remember them.”

The service ended with a 21-gun salute and taps. Digital pictures of the victims flashed on a screen before the memorial and as music played, hundreds of mourners moved in a long line in front of each set of symbolic remains to pay their last respects.

“Let us never forget the contributions, triumphs and sacrifices of ‘Jon, Fitz and Jonesy,’ and the other Heroic souls of our fallen, who chose to put service to others ahead of themselves,” said Andersen. “Rest in peace fellow Warriors.”

Operation Tora Arwa V

Posted in In country with tags , , on August 5, 2009 by jetgwot

On patrol

Well, most of the battalion just got back from a four day mission to an area we haven’t been before. I’ll be posting an article with photos on Friday (I don’t want to get into the details now), but three of our guys were killed by roadside bombs and several others were injured. It’s been rough on all of us. A memorial service is being held on Friday. I’ll be covering the service with photos and will be sending back photos immediately. Please keep the families of those killed and wounded in your prayers. One of our fallen heroes is pictured in the photo of six guys sleeping below. He is second on the left. The photo was taken the day before he was killed.

Not an exciting job, but someone has to do it

Not an exciting job, but someone has to do it

Delicious Afghan grapes

Delicious Afghan grapes

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I think she had mascara on...

I think she had mascara on...

A Soldier with a mortar tube sticking out of his assault pack pulls security during a patrol

A Soldier with a mortar tube sticking out of his assault pack pulls security during a patrol

I really wanted to hitch a ride on this camel for some reason

I really wanted to hitch a ride on this camel for some reason

On patrol
Tank alert
Catching a nap, whenever possible
Always on the move; you sleep when you can

Always on the move; you sleep when you can

On patrol

On patrol

Posted in In country on August 4, 2009 by jetgwot

Here are a couple pictures from a patrol we went on the other night. I went with Soldiers from 1st platoon, Alpha Company. A good group of guys.