Phelps, Jason, and Full Moon Heroes
Anyway, if you missed it, you missed quite a lot. All our Olympic kids have just been the best in every way, just like our soldiers. Which should give us all the more reason to throw the bums out in Washington DC..(the whole lot of them) and start finding people who represent the champions that we truly are...
So, thanks to Army Mom...a champion in her own right...I present another letter from Jason..my favorite line being "Winning hearts and minds by being kind to the people."
That you are Jason, and they will not soon forget you.
Anyway, it's a full moon...everywhere tonight...China, Iraq, and my little ol neighborhood in Missouri...and that's a good thing.
Letter from March, 2008
Well hello everyone. Yes, it is CPT Cxxxxx again but this time a week late with my weekly e-mail. This is because I have been very busy since I last wrote. Would you like to hear my exciting stories of Afghanistan? Shall I begin?
Last time when we left off, we had just finished putting the satellite system up. Well, guess what? That night we had a lightning storm and lightning struck the satellite system. It got knocked out of whack and the surge suppressor is shot but after buying another one and getting the satellite back up, we make the trip back down to Gardez to drop the commo people off, get our mail and then leave bright and early the next morning. That is the plan.
Well we get ready to go and guess what? If you guessed vehicle trouble, you are correct. Yes, the serpentine belt has broken and the air compressor is shot. It just so happens that there is one in Phoenix and a guy is coming in on a Chinook from Phoenix that morning. Well, he comes in and he gives the part to us, the only part in the whole 203rd CORPS and it is the wrong one! I’m telling ya’ this is a new $150,000 humvee and they are a lot of trouble.
The first week we got it, we had a flat tire and the AC tears up and it is not even a month old yet. It has less than 700 miles on it too. Well, we hook the wrong compressor up so that we can run the serpentine belts and then we leave Gardez 5 hours late. This is before a 4 ½ hour drive too.
I do not mind because some Navy buddies of mine are leaving tomorrow and I get a chance to say goodbye to them. (On a side note, there was a car bomb in Kabul today and all the roads are closed. The car bomb hit this convoy taking my buddies to Kabul International Airport (KIA) to take them home to the US. No word on US casualties but I do not think there are any as of yet).
When we get about an hour into our convoy back to Jaji, we run into coochies. Remember them? They are the nomads that travel to and from places all year long. These are coming in from Pakistan since the winter has lightened up and it is good to see them again. They travel with everything they have. It is not much but they put it on a camel or donkey and just walk to another place to live. I still like seeing the camels. They are so funny to see. They are so common here just like a cow or horse in the US. As with all roads in Afghanistan, we have to share them. Not only with cars and jingle trucks but also camels and sheep and goats! We pass several herds of them and there are hundreds of these little critters everywhere! We share the road with them and continue on our mission to FOB Herrera in Jaji.
When we get to Herrera, we stow our gear and it is shower night so we get a good shower that night too. We have several missions to go on the next few days. This is Friday and since we have not had a down day and we have a long week ahead of us, we take Saturday as a down day. I use that day to pack some of my gear and clothes to mail home.
Mom and Dad, there are several boxes headed your way. I promise I’ll go through them when I get home. Linda, there are some headed your way too. On Sunday, we have to go to BCP 12 and start to count the soldiers there and take attendance. The last time we did this; we collected everyone’s picture from every OP and stored them on a hard drive. This hard drive ‘mysteriously’ got erased. Yeah right, so we are doing this job again. This is at 8300’ elevation and although we can see rain back West towards Jaji, is snows and hails where we are. We are right on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is so pretty, if there was not a war going on here, tourism would be a nice business to be in.
Well, we are here and we get our information and then head back to Jaji. We take that information that we get and plan our next trip.
The next day, we plan to go to Spina Shegha and do the same thing as well as look at their force protection. You know, we put up concertina and barb wire the week prior. Well, they have improved the place a lot. They put up a lot more wire and pickets around the front side of the building as well as build trenches for them to fight from. There is still more work to do there but they have a good idea of what to do. We eat lunch with them and then once we get our information and pictures, we train them some on weapons safety and they have a fun time with this. That afternoon, we go back to Jaji. Another convoy yet tomorrow.
Ok today is a short convoy, we just have to go to the ABP HQ in Chawney to get the same information. While they are taking pictures, I take a look in their connex to inventory heavy weapons and crew served weapons. Ok, heavy weapons does not mean they weigh a lot (well, they do) but it is the higher caliber weapons. RPG’s, RPK’s etc. I inventory the RPG’s (Rocket Propelled Grenades) and RPK’s (I do not know what that stands for if anything). I make them open every box and we count by serial number every weapon in there. After telling me that there are only 12 RPG rounds, we open a box and find 7 more rounds. Another box reveals 7 more rounds as well as five 80mm recoilless rifle rounds. Again forgotten by the ABP. Well buried in the back is another box on the very bottom. They open it and lo and behold what do you think we find? We find 18 brand new RPK’s still in cosmoline and a piece of paper in the muzzle to keep dirt out. The ABP did not know this was in there either.
After we write the serial number down, they put all other boxes on the bottom of the pile and put the RPK’s on the very top. Let me say this. An RPK looks a lot like an AK-47 but with a bipod. It is fully automatic only and is a well built weapon. I’d like to have a few for my house. Hahaha I take a look at the other weapons in there. They look like they have been in a fire. They have. I find out that they were in the room when the propane tank exploded and burned and melted. There are 11 weapons that are just scrap iron now. One RPG is melted so bad, I cannot even get the serial number off the weapon. The men are still recovering from their burns but still have a long way to go on their road to recovery.
While here, we see some curious children outside our gate and I take my terp and go outside to talk to them. One girl is in a wheel barrow and there is another girl and boy with her. The girl in the wheel barrow and the boy and girl are brother and sister and the older girl is their cousin. I wonder what they are doing there alone but I find out that the mom and dad were in the clinic. The mom is pregnant and she was getting a check up. I wanted to ask what the matter with the one girl was but did not. I am so glad that I did not. Her feet were pointing outwards from each other. It became apparent that she can not walk. She is 10 and the medic said that surgery would not even help her. Poor child.
I take the opportunity to give them each a toy. A football for the boy and stuffed animals for the girls. A little bit later another girl comes up and I give her a stuffed animal too. Having a daughter myself, I have a soft spot for girls. I know what kind of life they will grow up in and I just feel sorry for them so I try to make their childhood memorable by kind United States soldiers. They are the future of Afghanistan. Winning hearts and minds by being kind and nice to the locals. If it just makes 1 person realize that US soldiers are really nice and not mean animals like they have been brought up to believe.
Well, we are still not through the week yet. We have a dismounted patrol scheduled for this morning. We are going to go to the town of Chawney and visit the shops and buy things and spend money in the town. This mission has several effects.
First, we are seen in the town making our presence known and not just staying on the FOB all the time. Second, we spend money in the local populace and third, it may help with the intelligence for this area since there is none. We last did this back in August before the suicide bomber killed 3 Americans at the bridge site in town. We went with the ABP as escort. It is very important to see them there. It lets the townspeople know that this is a combined operation and makes the ABP commander look good by bringing Americans into town to spend money. There were 10 of us and we each spent close to $40 each. Some of us spent a lot more than that. That is a lot of money for a town of only a few hundred people.
We leave around lunch time and go to the ABP to eat lunch with them. For 30 soldiers to eat, it costs $95 US dollars. Not too bad for drinks, potatoes, kabobs and bread for everyone. I love the Afghan food. While we are eating, the ABP commander tells us that the town really appreciated us going into town spending money and by nightfall, the local towns will know what we did and that will be a good thing. There are a few more villages that we plan to spend time in. The Major wants to be able to go into Ali Kheil (bad guy town) and do the same thing there. That is not going to happen soon but by the end of summer, he hopes he can do that.
We finish up eating and come back to the FOB for an AAR (After Action Review). We discuss what went well, what went wrong, if anything and how we can improve next time. We do this in the shade of our satellite system. After that, we are dismissed for the rest of the day. I still have work to do so I do that.
During this brief, I find out that our sister unit, the ABP in Chamkani led by Maj Cxxxxx, an Alabama guy and good buddy of mine, got ambushed yesterday going to Chamkani. (They got stuck in Gardez for 4 days because of a broken flywheel on a humvee. Go figure.) They were fired on by an RPG team. They returned fire and vacated the area. No US casualties. This area is South of us and is getting a lot hotter. It is a 4 hour drive to Chamkani from Jaji. We have to leave here, go back over the pass in Ahman Kheil and then another 3 hours to Chamkani. Not really that far but it is rough driving the roads.
All in all, the past two weeks, although very busy, have also been very productive. We sort of fixed our humvee. (It works but no AC), visited 3 ABP OP’s, took pictures of the soldiers there, got serial numbers off of weapons and found some that were forgotten about. We do a dismounted presence patrol in Chawney for the first time in 8 months and we all came back to the base safely.
The pictures are ok me and children in Chawney, 3 Bama boys in Chawney, a dress shop in town and some destroyed weapons that I mentioned earlier. Also are pictures of coochie camels, sharing the road with sheep, a Care Bear on a .50 cal machine gun (Ashlee, which one is it?) and me and the rest of my team after a mission to the Afghan/Pakistan border along with some gear and cigars that a buddy of mine sent to our team.
I’ll talk to everyone later! 62 days left in country on my 15-month tour. Woohoo!
APO AE 09354
P.S. If any of you still wish to send packages, please do so but start to stop around the first of April as I will be starting to out process and return to the United States. Mail will reach me but it will take a few extra weeks or months.