Pictures and Cigars

I got my hands on some nice cuban cigars yesterday.  It was really good.  By the time I finished one, the buzz was on par with a few beers!  Then I fell asleep, lol.

I also added a few new pictures to my flickr account (which is almost maxed out now).  Enjoy!

Pictures 015

Happy Election Day!

Today is the Afghan Presidential Election!  This is what we have been here for so long for.  There are definitely still challenges, but the Afghan people today get to decide for themselves who is going to lead their country into the future.  Personally, I don’t give a damn who gets elected.  The only thing I care about is that they get to choose.  There is no doubt about the fact that there is a lot of terrorist activity trying to prevent people from voting, but I don’t think it will deter many.  I hope to see a lot of blue thumbs tomorrow.

Happy Election Day, Afghanistan!

In Hindsight

I’m what they call a “short-timer” around here now.  By this time next month, I’ll have returned to the land of the living.  Its been quite an experience here.  It’s not been at all what I expected.  I’m not even sure what I thought it was going to be like.  How can you even guess what something like this will be like?  I’m not sure.  Either way, I have learned a lot.

This has been the single biggest growing experience of my life.  I feel like I have learned a lot about being a soldier and an officer.  I believe (well, hope) that I’ve earned the respect of the seasoned NCOs around me.  I can only imagine what I looked like to them when I first came on board.  A young, green lieutenant added at the last minute who hasn’t even cut his teeth yet.  Its funny looking back.  I have to admit the learning curve has been pretty much vertical.  I was tossed into the thick of it and had to learn as I went. I’ve made a full lieutenant’s share of mistakes here but I’ve learned from them all.

I’m happy with the progress we have made here.  When we first arrived everyone told us not to get too ambitious and to have patience.  Afghans don’t learn really fast and changes seem to take decades.  Of course we thought we could do it better and change the world in our time.  Eventually you realize that you’re pushing boulders up hills.  Its been overwhelming and more than frustrating at times.  Sometimes you even want to throw your hands up in the air and quit.  I can say that I’ve done everything I can used all my skills and knowledge to try and help develop this army.  If anything I taught them sticks, I will never know.  But I’ve created something from nothing here, and that is something to be proud of.

RIP Darren Tate

A friend of mine at FOB Alamo has died recently.  He was a young sailor nearing the end of his tour.  I remember talking to him the night before he was taken from our FOB to a medical facility.  He said he wasn’t really feeling good; something fairly common in such unclean conditions.  The next morning he went to get checked out because he still was sick, and was soon evacuated for medical care.  Only a few days later, we learn that our friend and brother-in-arms has passed away.  Darren was one of the youngest kids on the FOB and always full of energy and in good spirits.  He was like everyone’s little brother on the FOB.  He will be sorely missed.  Please keep his family and friends back home in your prayers.

Rest in peace, Brother.

http://www.salem-news.com/articles/july102009/war_casualties_7-9-09.php

http://www.wvec.com/news/topstories/stories/wvec_local_070909_iwo_sailor_dies_afghanistan.2395478f.html

If you’re wondering…

what its like here, it seems they made a movie about it:

Life as a Deployed Soldier

Settling Back In

Its been about 2 weeks now since I got back and I’m starting to get back into my old routine.  I really miss everyone, especially my lovely wife, but it was much easier this time than when I first arrived.  About 5-6 months to go then I am home for good!  I saw an article today in my google alerts hopper here about members of the 48th Infantry Brigade getting ready to ship out.  These guys are our replacements!  Woohoo!  It will take some time for them to geta ll trained up and final over here, but their movement has already started, and that is a great feeling.  It makes home seem that much closer.

In other news, I’ve posted a few new pictures on my flickr account (click on a picture on the right) if your interested.  My bandwidth is pretty limited so they are low rez and I cant add a ton of pictures.

I’ve started a new workout routine with a friend of mine which is quite a bit more advanced than our previous, and it is kicking my ass!  I haven’t been this sore in a long time!  Taking a month off from lifting while on leave and travel didn’t help much either though, I suppose.

That’s all for now, have a great day!

The Weekly Standard – Growing the ANA

The Weekly Standard.

Here is a good (but long) post from the blog for The Weekly Standard.  It has numerous talking points that I agree with about how we need to grow the Afghan National Army.  Although I appreciate Sen. Lieberman’s support for the increase in support for the mission in Afghanistan and the growth of the Army, things look much different through the windows of the Capital Building.

He calls for an increase on the Security Forces to 450,000, at least 250,000 which should be from the Army.  For those who don’t know, we are about at 80,000 right now, and don’t plan to be to the current goal (of 134,000) until December 2011.

As many of you have learned through my writings, things move… slowly here in Afghanistan, to say the least.  To grow the Army by 500% would not be an easy task.

There are inherent difficulties with rapid expansion of any organization.  Just ask Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.  With the challenges of literacy and competence in leadership, creating such a vast army would leave a void in which corruption, laziness, and unpreparedness would run-a-muck.

Currently we train all Non Commissioned Officers and Officers to a certain standard.  They must be able to read and write, the go through several basic schools and Officer Candidate School, and they get specific branch training before being sent to serve as new Lieutenants.

As a LT myself, I can say these guys are just barely ready to head off on their career.  They are young, inexperienced, and in some cases don’t yet have the confidence to lead in battle that can only be gained through experience.  Growing the Army that fast will obviously mean that these young leaders with be thrust up the ranks to run platoons, companies and kandaks.

I know that the key to victory in Afghanistan is an Army and police force able to protect its own people.  I know that is going to take a lot of boots on the ground, but I don’t want to see corners cut and balloon  expansion to try and reach a goal set by someone who has never met an Afghan person before.  One of the things that I admire and appreciate with Obama so far is that he listens to his commanders on the ground and lets them command.  He has not tried to command wars from the White House.  I hope that he continues this and listens to the people who know.

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