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For Those Who Don’t Know

| March 5th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Share I  did arrive safely home from Afghanistan some time ago, and I’ve got some stories to tell.   For several reasons, I found it difficult to tell them while I was in-country. Transition is always a challenge, and this one is as well.  The return from each tour brings its own challenges and has its own flavor.  Each one is different.  You can never tell what exactly you will be faced with upon return.  Usually, those challenges take time to manifest themselves. My children are healthy and doing well in school, so that’s a plus.   For the most part, my extended family is doing well, although we do have one family member, a niece, who is facing an enormous health challenge.   Personally, I’ve faced some significant blows that leave me struggling, but life goes on. It is what it is. I’ve always said, “That which does not kill you

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Normal Days; 2: The Work Of The Day

| January 23rd, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Share The Germans won’t allow your interpreters, or “Language Assistants,” sometimes referred to as “LA’s” for short, stay on the base you live on.  There are several methods for meeting up with and transporting them to the Headquarters each day so that you can get productive work done.   This means that greetings are exchanged after dismounting the vehicles at the the ABP headquarters.  Traditionally, there are handshakes and hugs.  Over time, you have gotten to know each of them and have worked with them all, but for the sake of continuity you are typically matched up with the same linguist each time you work.   Daweed, an intelligent young Hazara who studies journalism, is the LA you usually work with. Once greetings are exchanged, you head off towards the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) compound to begin the work of the day.  You’ve reviewed your notes and the progress you’ve made. 

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Normal Days; 1: The Ritual Of Movement

| July 18th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

Share The life of an advisor can hardly be called “normal.”   However, as anyone in Afghanistan can attest, there is a sameness that settles in, a point at which there is a sense of “Groundhog Day.”   It’s the repetition of the actions, the same trip made over and over again, that cause this impression.   So, what’s a daily mission with the SFAT like? I’ll spare you the personal rituals of the morning.  Wake-up, showers and the like.  Everyone does that, and having to walk a hundred meters for a shower is not that serious that it requires examination. Today I’m going to try to put you in the Multi-Cam uniform, in the turret behind the machine gun as you roll through the outskirts of Mazar-e Sharif on your way to work as an advisor for the Afghan Border Police.   In a later post I will try

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Badakhshan VI: Success!

| July 4th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

Share The average day of the 5th Zone ABP Mentor Team (the SFAT, or Security Force Assistance Team) is comprised of making our way to the 5th Zone Headquarters, near Mazar-e Sharif (MeS), and working to make slow, incremental changes to the way that the staff there works.  But sometimes we get to do some pretty cool missions that take us far afield.   My post on the unsuccessful mission to Badakhshan was an example of what we call a “non-standard” mission.  Non-standard missions are the most interesting, and the most fun.  We don’t plan them because they are fun, though.   They serve a purpose… but they just happen to be fun and interesting as well. The mission to Khwahan, Badakhshan, had been planned for weeks and the purpose was two-fold.  First, we were attempting to have a KLE (Key Leader Engagement) with the leadership of the 5th Zone

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It’s About That Time

| June 21st, 2012 | 2 Comments »

Share Each deployment is a marathon, and this is my third in five years.  I recognize the cycle.  We were even briefed on it.  Each deployment has its phases, and there is a phase of irritability, restlessness and discontent.  That has been the past month or so.  It makes it hard to write, because although there are stories of missions to tell, it’s hard to tell them in a voice that does not drip of that same restlessness and discontent.  Especially when changes to our force protection posture means that we can get even less done.   I can’t talk specifics about that at this time because of OPSEC (Operational Security), but our capabilities have changed, and not to make our work easier. One thing I noticed during our abysmal train-up at Camp Shelby was that a briefing had been added that described these phases.  I recognized them, and the

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Memorial Day In Afghanistan

| May 28th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

Share This is Jon Stiles‘ fourth Memorial Day.   I’ve already told how I feel about Jon’s passing… being taken from us on November 13, 2008.   Many of us know someone who has offered their all and have paid that price in the name of our Republic and what it stands for.   Jon is, to me, the embodiment of that level of sacrifice.   Many use Memorial Day to honor all those who serve and served, but it is not my day, nor is it likely to be.  Even when I shuffle off this mortal coil, this will not be my day.  I survived.  Jon wagered his life in the service of our country, and his price was accepted, taken, the accounts adjusted to add one more to the roll of those to whom this day belongs.  His life and all the days he may have lived otherwise

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Badakhshan 5: The Wrath Of Khan

| April 15th, 2012 | 6 Comments »

Share It had been a brutal winter in Badakhshan.   One of the hardest winters in years had descended upon northern Afghanistan, and the farthest northeastern province had taken the worst of it.  Rugged and mountainous, the snowfall had lain heavy upon the slopes and closed off the passes.  Some valleys, accessible only by foot or by donkey, had run dangerously on supplies; especially the Afghan Border Police.  Several outposts were in dire need of airlifted supplies.  With Afghan airlift capacity, their wait would be long indeed.   COL Mollosser agreed with the 5th Zone commander, a brigadier general, to try to provide some needed sustenance to one of the hardest hit outposts.  He got buy-in from the American general who controls air assets in the RC North.   Thus began a saga that would span weeks. Four previous attempts had been shut down by bad weather.   Members of the team,

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The Red In The Center Of The Patch

| April 7th, 2012 | 12 Comments »

Share This is the post that I’ve been dreading, but I knew it would come.   For the first time since WW-II,  Ohio’s 37th (then a division, now a Brigade Combat Team that includes many soldiers from Michigan) has lost lives in combat.   The day before yesterday, out in Maimana, an insurgent wearing a suicide vest approached a group of Afghan Police and their mentors and detonated his vest.  The indiscriminate violence of that act took many lives.  Among the dead were two Americans; SFC Hannon and SFC Rieck.  A third, CPT Rozanski, died of his wounds within hours.  Five other soldiers were wounded, most of them severely.  Two are still fighting for their lives. All three of our honored dead leave families behind.  Children, wives, parents and siblings.  Each of our wounded has a life.  All have a story.  Every single one of them was born into loving

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Smuggled In A Blanket Of Sand

| April 1st, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Share As mentors, we go where our counterparts go and we do their missions with them.  Sometimes we are teaching, sometimes we are recommending, and sometimes we are being supportive.  We are also sharing their experiences and taking in their world.  You can’t really advise and mentor very well when you don’t understand the world of the man whom you are trying to help develop as a professional.   The mission to the checkpoint was one of those missions.  I took along others on that mission, partly for communications, partly for security, and partly because if I didn’t, the mission would have been stopped. Another such mission was our mission recently to the Aquina Border Crossing Point (BCP).   Aquina is out west in Faryab Province, on the border with Uzbekistan.    It’s about 160 miles from Marmal.   The ABP Zone Commander, a General and the mentee of COL

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Checking The Checkpoint

| March 19th, 2012 | 15 Comments »

Share Mentoring can be a hoot. The incidents of the past few weeks, little helpful things done by my fellow Soldiers, have made life a bit more… interesting. I mean that in the Confucian sense. That being said, my mentee is a Hajji, having returned from the obligatory pilgrimage only a few months ago. He is a literate, committed Muslim. His viewpoint on the Quran burning was summed up with, “We have illiterate people in our society, too.” He assumed that such ignorance of Afghan values could only come from illiteracy. I didn’t burst his bubble. Part of mentoring is going where your mentee goes. COL Shiripir* and I were having a conversation about going about his normal business while I am with him. I was beginning to feel like he felt that he had to treat me as a special guest and that this perception was keeping him from

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