Thursday, April 28, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Out and About Day 3

I wish I could post some photos, but they'll have to wait until at the earliest tomorrow when I leave this FOB and am able to use my computer.

Yesterday, just as we were leaving for a day mission it began to hail. Since I was sitting in the back of a LATV with the gun turret open I pretty much got soaked, but not as soaked at the gunner. Water was dripping off of his helmet, machine gun, bullets everything. The hail was the size of a dime.

Our mission was cut short when Lt. Mossberg made the call to cut it short because of the torrential river we'd have to cross. As it was we were slipping and sliding in the mud and rocks. I didn't say anything, but was glad, being the shortest I figured the river would be coming up to my thigh and it was rushing so fast I was concerned I was going to go down.

It was unnerving walking out on patrol amidst the mountains and hills surrounding us. There really is no cover and I can see why the 101st lost so many soldiers. You are vulnerable, but the soldiers I was with scanned the hills in unison looking for anything that moved. We were as safe as you could be.

Being here is a total 180 degree turn from being down in Helmand where it's flat and you can see for miles.

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Day 2 Out and About

This morning I went to a brief and then off to meet the ANA counterparts of our team. We had the ubiquitous green tea with dried corn kernels, dried raisins and some almonds. After the PO had left the ANA loosened up a bit and were talking and joking among themselves as the US military were. Neither of us could understand each other as our interpreter was called away.

The ANA were very nice and were not offended when I spoke directly to them. I was a bit inhibited as I didn't have a head scarf on and my arms were bare. I was invited last minute to the meeting and I couldn't ask the US team to wait on me. I taught them the word 'delicious' for the almonds.

Later on I'm taking an interpreter up to the ANA FOB and interview some of their soldiers. They are much more receptive to me than the ANA were in Helmand. Perhaps it's because more journalists have come through here and they understand what we do.

I've been meeting lot of soldiers: I met with Team Steel 37 FA Hardcore Gulf and Gladiators on their way out. I wish them well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Out and About

I left the comforts of the FOB I was at in Jalalabad...that smoothie everyday was really addicting. The FOB I'm at now is more my speed. It's much smaller but still has some creature comforts, showers, great DEFAC and electricity.

I'll be here for a couple of days and won't be able to access my computer with photos, but at least I can use the MWR. All the main buildings here are built out of thick concrete walls and have high ceilings to catch the heat near the decoratively hand pressed tile.

Outside it's hot. There FOB main street used to be "the deadliest street in Afghanistan". It reminds me of High Noon. At the end is an Evergreen shipping container.

For once I arrived at a FOB in the daytime! I spoke with a soldier on his way out of here back in Jalalabad and he told me to maker sure to pack my flashlight as there are little ditches all over the place for the run off that everyone falls in.

The helicopter ride over here was again, so peaceful. The Nangarhar Valley boasts lush green fields near the Kabul River all the way to the desert where the land turns brown and dry. The contrast is unreal.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Jews In The Army

Yes, there are Jews in the Army...the proof is in the picture.

Last night I attended a Seder for the last night of Passover here on the FOB. Pictured here are: Specialist Joshua GuimarĂ£es, Barcelona, Spain, Specialist Michael Lucka, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, 1Lt Alex Johnson, Chicago, IL and Chaplin Moshe Lans, Ft. Hood. Not pictured are: 2 Lt David Prewitt, Howell, MI, Anna Mussman, Dept. of State and Jodi Rosenstein, USAID.

It was awesome to me that we were sitting in the middle of Afghanistan in Nangarhar Province celebrating our Judaism. If anyone is ever in doubt of what the US Military does here is a perfect example. It protects our religious freedom.

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - 1st Day Out

It’s a warm spring day with a dry desert breeze. In the distance is the brutal snow covered Hindu Kush mountain range. Wafts of grass, earth and water from the Kabul River hitch a ride on the wind and the blades of the chopper I am riding in beat the air as if they were whipping a meringue.

Inside the Blackhawk helicopter, Voo Doo, I am flying to a TOA, Transfer Of Authority, with Col Kim, Col Harris and Cmdr Sgt Maj Spano among others. There is another Blackhawk in the distance flying parallel with us in case of threat.

Pictured here is Col. Harris of the 101st Airborne after the TOA with Lt Col Seizemore in FOB Finley-Shields

Like a hummingbird, we lift off gently and zoom toward our destination, gently turning left and right affording us glances into the Afghan peoples lives. Gardens are planted in the pattern of the Greek key design and co-mingle with a firing range.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Hitchin a ride on a C-130

Finally, flying into the FOB that I’m going to be based at. I had to take things into my hands and fly the C-130 myself…

Actually, Maj Kevin Thompson the aircraft commander was the pilot, Cpt Jason Pool was the co-pilot and Lt Nate Kaley the navigator. It was a full on National Guard crew based out of Texas and they invited me to sit up front along with GSG Kresasidy McKinney. She’s from Florida and has a sister living in Jacksonville.

Sitting in the cockpit at night, the aircraft commander, co-pilot and flight engineer, MSgt Monny Mosser, (not pictured) wore night vision and had gloves with little dots at the end like ET. Flying into the blanket of stars mixed with the hillside village campfires you felt as if you were in outer space. The crew intensely scanned the sky and earth looking for threats.

The National Guard is an amazing faction that we must also thank for their time and effort. This Crew leaves their job in the US and goes to war for months at a time, then back to their home as if they were on a holiday. There is no support system in place for them to help them with PTSD or the other affects and problems of combat.