Friday, December 30, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - 1 year later

Wow...I can't believe it's been an entire year since I started this project and amazing adventure. Last year on New Year's Eve I remember riding the escalator down while watching fireworks explode through the windows of the Dubai Airport.

So far it's been a fantastic journey. I have learned so much and met so many incredible people. I understand what it means to go to war and why we as a country need to support our military more than ever. I don't understand why stating this fact always gets me in hot water with politics. Supporting our men and women in the combat zone has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with respecting what someone has chosen to do. They are risking all for what they believe. YOU have to respect this no matter what your politics.

As I sit here in Viet Nam, with mixed emotions I salute all who have served...of course I can't actually salute as I'm not in the military, but I think you get the point.

I do believe that war is not the answer...especially after touring Viet Nam. The juxtaposition makes my head hurt.

But regardless...Afghanistan continues.

To all...have a great 2012. Make it count.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don't forget the military at the holidays!

The holidays can be joyous and depressing depending upon your situation. Most of us, no matter how dark our lives can be are able to find something to be thankful for and to see some beauty in our lives.

But being in a combat zone is one of the most difficult situations. Especially with how seemingly close your family is because of technology but how far away they really are.

Let's put politics aside. Our military is over seas risking their lives everyday. Think about that. Everyday when they wake up it could be their last. While most of us appreciate this, we cannot sincerely fathom how this affects you.

It's not too late to show your appreciation by sending out a package to the military for the holidays. There is  so much they would appreciate.

Here are some of my favorites: Nice lotion (there are women in the military also), good instant coffee, like Starbucks, a harmonica or yoyo, fun entertaining toys that take time and skill to master. Nonfiction books, biographies and books about war, people in the military love to read about the history of war. Home baked cookies or brownies, it doesn't matter what condition they arrive's the thought that counts.

Go to Google and get ideas, there are plenty of sites. Here's one: p://  If you know someone over there, ask them, they will tell you what they need and if they say nothing, send them a gift card to Amazon...they can order from Amazon!

It's easy to mail. Try and use a Priority Mail box as you want to mail it Priority. The post office will tell you all you need to know.

NOW GET OUT THERE AND SEND YOUR PACKAGE TODAY. I cannot tell you how much it will be appreciated.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Karzai

Does Karzai really represent Afghanistan?
This is the question of the day when determining if the US Military should continue their drawn down.

Another question I have is why is this solely about the US Military? There are other military factions throughout the world that are representing ISAF...after all it is the International Security Armed Forces.

 I'm confused. Today on NPR I heard that Karzai wants us out as do the Elders that attended the jirga held a few days ago in Afghanistan. Of course the attendees at this jirga were Karzai supporters. Supposedly the Elders that support the US Military did not attend out of protest...or perhaps they want the US Military out too and in agreement did not attend.

I also know that there is a student movement to oust Karzai. But we're not sure what this faction wants regarding military support.

What to believe?

Why don't we look at history. Afghanistan is a tribal country, meaning one tribe will want something entirely different for their country. The only time Afghanistan has rallied as one is when the country is being attacked. This time the attack, the Taliban is coming from an Afghan in a sense this is a tribal war. We must not forget that we backed the Taliban with money and guns and so in effect escalated this whole mess and then turned in the middle because of the Taliban's treatment of women. It's still odd to me that the US didn't know about this treatment before we backed them or maybe it was because of greed by a certain oil family who has had their finger in Vietnam also...but that's another story.

Now that China is in the picture it seems there will be a is inevitable and that those nations involved are leaving the Soviet Union and the US in the proverbial dust of Afghanistan.

Time to tell your elected officials how you feel.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - WREI Conference 2011

Speaking at the WREI Conference was amazing. I was so impressed with all the women who attended. I could probably write a book on each one. Their bravery, courage and advocacy for women in combat was astounding.

Photo: Maj Peter Shinn

My presentation went really well. I spoke about the question: If women should serve on COPs? (Combat Outposts). Once the policy to allow women to be assigned to combatant positions is changed this will be a probability.

Right now only 1/2 to 1% of the US population is on active service. This is down from 9% during WWII. We NEED women to serve, otherwise we will not be able to fulfill the missions. Both Brigadier General Rebecca Halstead and CSrgMaj Andrew Spano agree!

Photo: Sgt Mark Burrell

My other issue is that regardless of where women serve in the military the issue of consensual sex needs to be addressed. This was a HOT topic! The women who were speaking 'on record' denied this, but the women in the audience agreed! No one wants to talk about this. We talk about sexual assault, which is very different, but with women assigned to important positions where there is no one to take their place if they become pregnant this is a real issue.

Photo by Sgt Poppe

I thought it was interesting how no one wants to talk about it. Let's ignore it is dangerously passive-agressive behavior when it can be easily rectified. I don't understand how you can take 18 and 19 year-olds who are probably having sex to begin with and then expect them to be abstinent in a combat zone when their adrenaline, hormones and anger is making them all extremely agitated.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - More Women In Combat

Going over all the studies about women in combat I'm not sure if I should smile or yell! Especially after reading the Executive Summary for Diversity Leadership for the 21-Century Military.

This Diversity Commission was established in 2009, has 20 recommendations and a new definition of diversity, but...a big BUT recognizes that presidential and congressional guidance and support are necessary if success is to be realized.

Photo by Doug Lindner

The crux of my frustration comes because in 1948...1948...Harry S. Truman, then President issued the Executive Order 9981 that called for "equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services".

So here we are.

Here is where I agree with Justice Clarence Thomas (I never thought I'd be writing this). He believes there should be NO segregation when implementing laws or criteria. There should be no deliniation of race, color, creed or gender. This is how the Constitution was written and meant to be interpreted.

Photo by Pete Shinn

There is enough paperwork, (63 years worth at least) to support this. Can we move on!

Photo by Mark Burrell

Friday, October 7, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Women In Combat

I don't really even like this title as I believe there should be no gender recognition in combat. You are a warrior and until the military treats all it's warriors with the same standards we are going to have problems.

In my book: Bullets In My Pocket, that my agent has yet to read the proposal on, I do not have a chapter dedicated to women. This is because a warrior is a warrior.

However I am honored to present a paper at the WREI Conference on Women In Combat focusing on Women at COP's (Combat Outposts); so women are on my mind.

Here are some of my favorite photos of women.

I hope everyone out there has a safe war there is no weekend.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Military VS Civilian Friends

A FB friend posted this and I had to take put some of the highlights in my blog...I have never met so many wonderful people as I have with the US military. This just sums it up.

Civilian Friends: will listen to your relationship problems and hope it works out.
Military Friends: will listen to your relationship problems over a long hard march and will help you straighten it out better than Dr. Phil

Civilian Friends: know a few things about you.
Military Friends: could write a book with direct quotes from you.

Civilian Friends: might try and hit on your girl behind your back
Military Friends: have spooned with you in the field more than your girl has, and would never even think about doing that

Civilian Friends: will wish you had enough money to go out with them
Military Friends: will share their last dollar, drag you along and try to work free drinks all night

Civilian Friends: Want the money they loaned you back
Military Friends: can't begin to remember who owes who money after taking care of each other for so long

Civilian Friends: will tell you they'd take a bullet for you
Military Friends: will actually take a bullet for you.

This footage is pretty's hard to shoot a camera and a gun at the same time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

I've been writing about Afghanistan for over a year. A place that I used to just read about, now has a special place in my heart. A day doesn't go by that I don't think about the US military and other military factions from around the world fighting there.

The first time I went through Abbey Gate in Kabul, I was on foot, lugging my 85 pound duffle bag. I remember distinctly the cold biting my exposed face and hands as I tried to negotiate with the Dutch guards speaking English with their thick accents. I was better at understanding their body language and gesturing with their loaded guns...get back and wait out past the first check point.

It was as if it was yesterday, even though it was 0600 January 1, 2011 and I had been traveling since December 30th with nary a layover and not a wink of sleep.

This was another check point in my adventure as I stared up at the crescent moon and star pinned in the sapphire blue sky as a reminder of the Russian occupation 35 years ago.

What was it going to be like inside? Abbey Gate was a vortex, a gateway into a combat zone. It's boundaries definitive, unlike the blood spilled within.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - 9/11 in Afghanistan

What was it like on September 11, 2001 in Afghanistan?

Most of Afghanistan was in the dark...there wasn't any electricity in most places so there were no televisions or radios to bestow the news.

The photos we saw of children rejoicing by firing guns into the air and shouting death to American's were most likely taken in Pakistan.

Word of mouth spread the news like wildfire, but was it believable to think that al-Qaeda had accomplished such a mission, flown planes into the Twin Tower skyscrapers in New York City killing thousands! Living in Los Angeles it was hard for me to believe and surreal to watch. I kept wondering if this was some kind of crazy Orson Wells like stunt Hollywood had done to promote a new film.

Afghanistan is a tribal country and most Afghani's didn't realize what was going on until the first fighter jets strafed the sapphire blue sky searching for something to destroy. Who was this new military faction invading and what did they want? Didn't they know there was nothing left to destroy...fighter jets were no threat against the roach like insurgents scurrying into hiding.

The real poison for al-Qaeda and the Taliban would be of their own making. The people of Afghanistan have been battling against invasion for over 3000 years...they only put up with so much before they make their stand. They are now equipped, thanks to ISAF to fight against RPG's (rocket propelled grenades) and IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices).

When ISAF leaves, the soldiers of Afghanistan will take off their boots, cry their battle cry and fight how they know how to fight. Taking no prisoners.

Remember the words of Rudyard Kipling:

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
   An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Afghanistan is being brought into the 21st Century...but remains the same. A small chunk of real estate that has caused a lot of fury.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - what it's like to go to war

Every single person that's met me asks me, "What's it like?"
There are a myriad of answers depending on who's asking and what they want to hear.

It's like going to the moon!
It's that foreign to someone like me who has never been in the military. After dealing with reams of paperwork and then going through several checkpoints including a retina scan they let you in. It's like being the most VIP in a VIP world.
The language is foreign, while English it's full of acronyms and everyone garbles their language as if holding marbles in their mouth.
The landscape is khaki. Everything is khaki from the dust covered concertina wire to the vehicles and the dress.
It's military Alaska tent after another, the only difference is the number, if you're lucky and there is a number.

Everyone carries weapons.

But if you don't get hurt, a combat zone the MOST exciting place on earth. It's life on the edge and you feel alive every waking moment.

There are jobs to do that are important to everyone's well being and survival. You are important and needed.

People care about you from the moment you introduce yourself. Friendships are fast and life stories are told over coffee.

It is also the most terrifying place on the planet.
The juxtaposition is crazy wild.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - 30 Marines Who Gave Their Lives

These are the names of the 30 men who lost their lives in the Chinook helicopter that crashed in Wardak province. Click on the link and look at their face and read about their dreams. 

Tomorrow some of these men will be laid  to rest at Arlington. Take a moment to honor them and ALL of the others, both men and women.

1 .Navy Lt. Cmdr. (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall - Honor the Fallen -
Age 32, of Shreveport, Louisiana. Enlisted with his best friend Robert James Reeves.

2. Navy Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis Langlais - Honor the Fallen -
Age 44, of Santa Barbara, California. He received 4 Bronze Stars with V for Valor.

3. Navy Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff - Honor the Fallen -
Age 34, of Green Forest, Arkansas. He died defending those he loved and those who loved him.

4. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers - Honor the Fallen -
Age 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii. He is remembered as easy going.

5. Navy Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Brian R. Bill - Honor the Fallen -
Age 31, of Stamford, Connecticut. He is remembered as athletic and driven.

6. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas - Honor the Fallen -
Age 31, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He earned 3 Bronze Stars with V device.

7. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston - Honor the Fallen -
Age 35, of West Hyannisport, Massachusetts. He was born to be a SEAL.

8. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason - Honor the Fallen -
Age 37, of Kansas City, Missouri. He was an avid runner and athlete.

9. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills - Honor the Fallen -
Age 35, of Ft. Worth, Texas. He served aboard a destroyer.

10. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null - Honor the Fallen -
Age 30 of Washington, W. Virginia. He had 2 Bronze Star Medals, 1 with V for Valor.

11. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves - Honor the Fallen -
Age 32 of Shreveport, Louisiana. He died with his childhood friend, Lt. Cmdr Jonas. Kelsall.

12. Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson - Honor the Fallen -
Age 32, of Detroit, Michigan. He won 4 Bronze Star Medals, 3 with V for valor.

13. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson - Honor the Fallen -
Age 28, of Angwin, California. His decorations include the Bronze Star with V device for Valor.

14. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell - Honor the Fallen -
Age 36, of Jacksonville, North Carolina. He is remembered for his determination and fearlessness.

15. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day - Honor the Fallen -
Age 28, of Taylorsville, Utah. He won medals for valor.

16. Navy Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara - Honor the Fallen -
Age 26, from South Sioux City, Nebraska. His decorations include the Bronze Star with V device.

17. Navy Cryptologist Technician (Collection) Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange - Honor the Fallen -
Age 25, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He had won numerous medals.

18. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson - Honor the Fallen -
Age 35, of Rockford, Iowa. He was a dedicated athlete.

19. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn - Honor the Fallen -
Age 30, of Stuart, Florida. He was remembered as a tough warrior and a gentle man.

20. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jason R. Workman - Honor the Fallen -
Age 32, of Blanding, Utah. He didn't become a Navy Seal by chance, he made it happen.

21. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman - Honor the Fallen -
Age 27, of Willits, California. He was a 6 year veteran of service.

22. Navy Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Nicholas P. Spehar - Honor the Fallen -
Age 24, of St. Paul, Minnesota. He gave 100% to our country.

23. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John W. Brown - Honor the Fallen -
Age 22, of Tallahassee, Florida. He was Rambo without the attitude.

24. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell - Honor the Fallen -
Age 26, of Long Beach, California. He knew how to make people laugh.

25. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe - Honor the Fallen -
Age 28, of York, Pennsylvania. He wrestled and played football at a small Pennsylvania high school.

26. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 David R. Carter - Honor the Fallen -
Age 47, of Centennial, Colorado. He was his hometown's American hero.

27. Army Staff Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger - Honor the Fallen -
Age 30, of Lincoln, Nebraska. This Guardsman wanted family to be at ease with his deployment.

28. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan J. Nichols - Honor the Fallen -
Age 31, of Hays, Kansas. A reservist, he had no enemies.

29. Army Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett - Honor the Fallen -
Age 24, of Tacoma, Washington. He relocated because he wanted to be with his unit.

30. Army Spc. Spencer C. Duncan - Honor the Fallen -
Age 21, of Olathe, Kansas. He loved his job, but he missed Kansas.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Col Sharon Bannister

I met Col Bannister at Manus. I was eager to meet the females of the military as they were a juxtaposition of being woman and being a warrior. They had a tough exterior that made them unapproachable. I didn't want to mess with them, but I was a person on a mission so I had to force myself to crack their exterior. In most cases all it took was a simple smile and an introduction. There were a few who didn't want to talk to me no matter what. I have my own idea of what that was about.

Col Bannister made special time for me out of her busy schedule being Chief Medical Officer at Manus Base. This is a demanding job that she seemed to handle with ease and grace. I found those to be traits of hers. Her job Stateside is just as demanding, but entirely different. Col Bannister is the officer who calls the orders during a dignified transfer.

We talked equally about her job at Manus and at Dover. Her career couldn't be more fitting given her history with the Military. At the young age of six she was indoctrinated into the side of the military that deals with death. On March 7th, 1972 three days prior to her sixth birthday her father's F4 was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. What followed was the circuitous route that fate sometimes takes us to find where we belong and can do the most good.

Col Bannister is an amazing women for her grace and courage. I can't help but wonder what her thoughts were a week or so ago at Dover during the dignified transfer of the 30 Americans who could not be separated for identification.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

As I write this post various emotions pass through me. I have just turned in my book proposal for Bullets In My Pocket, to the agent. Writing a book proposal is almost as difficult as writing the book, as it outlines the book in its entirety. I only opened the sealed fed-ex envelope once to add something. It's very hard to let a work that has encompassed your life for an entire year go. It was just last July when I had the idea to go to Afghanistan to hug warriors and let them know that they are not forgotten and are appreciated. It's the first step in the process of getting my book published and out to you.

My mixed emotions come from the news of the helicopter that was shot down on Friday killing all on board. NATO Crash: Team Seal Six Members Killed in Afghanistan - ABC News

 I wonder how this conflict in Afghanistan will end. I can not help but bring to mind the fall of Saigon in 1975. I wonder how many of us remember or even know how this conflict began. It began because of our incessant need for oil. The US backed the Taliban as the safe keepers of an oil pipeline to run through Afghanistan...a country that has been at war for 3000 years. After learning of the atrocities against women the Taliban purports we did a 180 degree turn to protect the people of Afghanistan from them.

It is a strange day and age. The US credit rating has been lowered. Our elected officials seem to have very little idea of what life and economics are like for the average citizen or have conveniently forgotten and are advocates for huge corporations and no longer their constituents voice. They don't even finish their job...a work ethic that is an embarrassment.

We need to pull together and stop placing the blame and solve the issues. One step at a time, the first always being the hardest.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Schofield Barracks

Being deployed out of Hawaii with the 25th Division, Tropic Lighting, Broncos, I was at Schofield Barracks for one night.

When I went out to the local shopping center on base I was surprised to see so many people out of uniform and not carrying a gun. It may sound obvious because I was in the United States, but I was used to the military in uniform carrying their weapon as another appendage.

Waiting to deploy was one of the longest days of my life. I tried to put myself in the soldiers frame of mine. It was probably one of their shortest days. Full of anticipation, angst and sadness. For many going off to war the first time is an exciting moment full of romanticism, patriotic duty and a chance to prove their metal. For others it is a job and requires separation from their families for a year. For all it is the unknown of if they will return...or not.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - deployment Manus and Bagram

Writing about deployment brings so many feelings back. The first deployment you have the anxiety of what the war is going to be like. Of course you've seen pictures and heard stories, but nothing captures the reality and you know this. War is different for everyone. It's not only about the visuals, but about the sounds, the smells and the taste. These sensory perceptions will stay with you forever.

The second deployment you face the boredom. It is unbelievably boring and tedious to deploy. With an itinerary designed by the government it generally takes one week to get to your base "in country" where it takes a civilian about two full days. It's not because of the circuitous route and security issues, but because of the waiting. "Hurry up and wait." was definitely coined in the US Military.

Manus...waiting...notice the silk pillow.

Stuck in Bagram and making the best of it.

A troop knows what to expect during their deployment and it's almost unbearable. But a second deployment has it's advantages. You know more about comfort. Being in a foreign country where people want to kill you a person definitely wants to make their down time as comfortable as possible.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Red White & Blue Veteran's Farm - Jacksonville

The other day I had the privilege of being at the Red White & Blue Veteran's Farm in Jacksonville.

This farm is the brainchild of Adam Burke a wounded Veteran of Iraq. With the help of his wife, Michelle they've organized funding and volunteers to create this sanctuary of 8.5 acres for wounded veterans to farm.

There will be a total of 15,000 blueberry bushes. On this day 1,500 were delivered. Here are the guys that unloaded the bushes and worked on the irrigation system. 
It wasn't easy getting these guys to pose as they had a lot of bushes
to unload, plant and irrigate before the day was over.

The bushes are planted in raised planters so the veteran can maneuver easily down the rows to pick the berries and tend the bushes.

It was a great day at the Red White & Blue Blueberry Farm. Everyone has worked really hard both physically and spiritually to make this happen. Click here to see more and how you can help.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Afghanistan - 4th of July

NANGARHAR PROVENCE, Afghanistan – As Americans prepare to celebrate the country’s independence this July fourth, one should take time to think about the men and women who protect and defend that independence.  Think about the men and women who lay down their lives, and think about their loved ones who sacrifice along with them.

No one understands sacrifice better than the friends and family of US Army 1st Lt. Dimitri Del Castillo. 

Del Castillo was killed on June 25th when his unit, the Hawaii based 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, part of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force Bronco, was conducting a massive counter insurgency operation in the Watahpur District of Kunar Provence, Afghanistan.

He was just 24 years old, a newlywed, and just starting his career as an infantryman. 

The news reached his bride just minutes after his death.  She was just a few miles away at a Forward Operating Base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

Within hours of being notified of Del Castillo’s passing, Pulliam was on her way back to the United States where she will spend the next several days preparing for the arrival of his body and making arrangements for his memorial.

So as you prepare for your picnics, parades and fireworks this 4th of July, remember Katie Pulliam and Dimitiri Del Castillo’s story. 

They are just two of the thousands of brave Americans whose lives will forever be changed because they chose to serve a greater cause. 

Their story is a one of sacrifice and love, not just for each other, but for the country that affords you the liberties you enjoy. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

afghanistan - CSM Spano and Col Kim

What is amazing to me is how accessible the Commanders are. In books you read about them sequestering themselves in tents with maps and bottles of whisky. Now, if they see you they come up and chat awhile and ask you how you're doing.

CSM Spano is a poster boy for public relations. He is sincerely concerned about his soldiers and wants them to know about it. I was Kunar during the TOA when everyone was crazy busy, but he always took time out for people and looked them in the eye to make sure. I guess that would be what a leader does, access you within a few seconds. He wants to know if you're combat ready because he's leading the team.

Col Kim is a bit more serious, but I did manage to catch a shot of him with a hat presented by the Afghanistan Army. It is a tradition that all the men in the family wear the same hat and it designates what your profession is.

Team Kim and Spano: tearing up Kunar Province.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes-Eastburn & Robinson

In Jbad Major David Eastburn and SSG Robinson run the show, the Public Relations show. Maj Eastburn doesn't dress like this all the time, just when he's going to the shower and the FOB is on Delta Alert. This was actually April 30, the day before Osama bin Ladin was killed. 

SSG Amber Robinson is always ready for anything. This is on our way to Finley Shields and my first ride in a Blackhawk.

These two were great hosts and I really liked working with them.
Even though there is a lot of fun on a combat base it can get serious real fast. You gotta grab life when you can, just like sleep.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes-Fenty

Walking around the base I am always looking for a standout photo. Not being a photographer I usually miss the 'Amazing' cover story photos...sometimes because I don't want to be in any one's face. Being in a combat zone is hard enough and I think having someone taking your picture to capitalize on it without your permission is rude.

I walked up and down Fenty a lot. I was living down in 8 mile, no man's land. But still I found something I thought was interesting.

What you are looking at is a birds nest made in the air tower with a Queen of Clubs from a card deck. The significance of this is the 101st Airborne who left while I was there were 'the clubs'. How this card got up there, at least 30 ft. high, I'll never know.

This is an old abandoned bathroom in the middle of the base. Probably passed a thousand times a day with no one paying any attention, but I though the mottled paint and colors were really pretty.

Having gone through tough times and hardship in my life I try and find the beauty everywhere. It's there, sometimes it can be as simple as the blue sky or the breath you just inhaled or the sound of reveille.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The First Memorial Day

But for the earliest and most remarkable Memorial Day, we must return to where the war began. By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops. Among the first soldiers to enter and march up Meeting Street singing liberation songs was the 21st United States Colored Infantry; their commander accepted the city's official surrender. Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war. 

Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children's choir sang "We'll Rally Around the Flag," the "Star-Spangled Banner" and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible. After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. 

Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite. The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders' republic. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

I was at the Gorge in George, Washington for Sasquatch Festival during Memorial Day. I was struck by the fact that none of the people there seemed to remember it was Memorial Day. In fact the opposite was true. During the Bright Eyes performance the lead singer, Conor Oberst made a personal point of talking about his pacifism and how horrified he was at the murder of Osama Bin Laden. The young crowd whistled and agreed...or did they?

I was standing next to a music reviewer and he asked me not knowing that I had just returned from Afghanistan what I thought about his statement. I told him I don't appreciate performers using an entertainment venue to make their personal opinion of a political nature. I'm there to be entertained. I also added I thought Oberst's statement was a sign of immaturity. The reviewer agreed.

The philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote, "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

What did you do this Memorial Day?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Afghanistan - Jalalabad

While the US was celebrating the death of Bin Laden, the soldiers who had just begun their year  in Nangarhar and Kunar Provinces were bracing themselves for the retaliation.

News from Afghanistan tells me that the Afghanistan Taliban is using this opportunity to retaliate while the world is looking at them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes-At Ease

Not being a combat photographer or really a photographer at all I saw the war in a different way. The Army and Military strives to have everyone be the same. You dress the same, look the same, act the's about being a team. On the mission you must be a unit, the unit of a platoon going out and accomplishing a task or goal to the big mission which you are a small part of the whole.

Life on the FOB is generally status quo...from one day to the next...if you survive, but your chance of survival increases if you're a synchronised team; think like a team and react like a team.

These photos were taken on FOB Joyce during the TOA (Transfer Of Authority) from the 101st division to the 25th division.

I was grateful to see moments when even in a simplistic way one could be an individual.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes-Montoya, NY Yankee Fan, Trapani & Sankbeil

On our C-17 from Manus into Bagram Senior Airman Bryan Montoya from NY out on the flight line caught my attention wearing a NY Yankee hat. Nice to see the yankee representation so far from home.

SRA Gna Trapani of Skaneateles, NY was also part of the fight crew, she's studying to be a pilot.

Tyler Sankbeil from Stoughton, Wisconsin was having a lucky day. He got to sit up with the pilot on the flight deck for the trip.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes-airplanes

There are many different kinds of airplanes in Afghanistan. When deploying from Hawaii, the 25th Division flew on a regular commercial charter DC-10. The service was nice and the crew changed everyplace we landed. The absolute best part of the trip was the hot towel service. It was almost as good as first class except of course the seating was too cramped even for me at 5'3" and 110 lbs.

When we got to Kyrgystan I took a few photos secretly.

I'm not sure what airline this is, but glad I wasn't flying it.

Then of course there is the country's airline: Kyrgystan Air. Little known fact...we are pouring millions of dollars in aide into Kyrgystan.

This is more like it. Our C-17 from Manus into fabulous place to another.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Afghanistan - FOB Joyce

While the FOB I was at was on Delta Alert, Joyce FOB was hit hard. I met a lot of great people there who make a difference everyday and hope that none of them were wounded or worse.

PFC Monqueze McKinney – a smiling face you see when checking into the DEFAC

Manning the Gunline with a Howitzer named “Cherry Popper” Left to Right: Cpl Jeffrey Furr, Tennessee, PV2 Matthew Rutter, New Jersey, Cpl Michael Box, Texas and Sgt Adolph Lemos, California 

Stuckey: Always moving Suckey who along with her crew in the DEFAC bought the TV and managed to get a Christmas tree sent to Afghanistan

PFC Corry McGriff – possibly the Army’s best story teller

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Afghanistan - TOA

Today was the final Transition of Authority Ceremony, here at FOB Fenty in Jalalabad. The last of the 101st leave to go back to the US today. It has been the deadliest deployment for the 101st since Vietnam.

This is the TOA at FOB Joyce.

As I sat in the clamshell tent listening to speeches I couldn't help but hear the gunfire outside wondering if I'd have to run for a bunker. Being the kind of person I am, always looking for the way out of a bad situation, I settled on the large covered trash can instead.

After the ceremony there was the first 'hero send off' for a fallen soldier of the 25ths deployment. It couldn't have been a more poignant day for the 3BCT 25th Division.

The war has become real for a whole new battalion.