Friday, June 29, 2007

Dining Facility - Under New Management

The dining facilities on KAF are now under new management, being run by Supreme, instead of KBR. My first impression is that this is a change that I will NOT appreciate. This mornings breakfast (brought to us on guard duty by the 1st Sgt, God love him) looked like 2 used tampons, a dog turd, and a pile of play-doh-yellow cat vomit, over a serving of baked beans. The bread wasn't terrible, but I only got one slice. The yogurt was also runny, although not terrible.

It was hot and humid overnight, and the skies are still thoroughly overcast. It might well rain again today. It certainly will be another sweat-factory day at the ECP for myself and Anderson. Today will be the second day of 6 on/6 off for us. Or the third, I'm not sure. It's hard to get enough rest in the six hours you get off. However, it's going to work out that we get a week of being on missions, and get to rest when we're not on missions. So that should work out well.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

It rained today

It rained A LOT. Anderson and I were on guard duty, and we're both completely soaked. Our uniforms went straight into the dryer when we got off of duty. The river next to the compound is swollen to the size of a flash flood like you see on TLC or Discovery. There was a huge mud puddle 6 inches deep just outside the gate. I know, because I had to stand in it to be able to read ID badges of incoming personnel, because of the water on my glasses.

However, about 1910, there was a rainbow in the southern sky, and the mountains to the east were glowing a brilliant red. I have several pictures of this moment of beauty.

I ask again that, if you read this, you would pray for me. Thank you, and God bless.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sandstorms and a rough week

So far, we've had sandstorms both today and yesterday. They're really not as bad as in, say "The Scorpion King," but they are very annoying and you don't want to be out in them. Visibility is reduced, and remember that Afghanistan is pretty much a garbage dump everywhere, so every blowing piece of dust probably has some fecal matter particles on it somewhere...

The dust gets in your mouth and everything tastes crunchier. All you can smell is dust, and horse manure. Even the rain (which followed yesterday's dust storm) smelled like horse manure. There was also a thunderstorm last night, which was pretty cool, although we couldn't hear the thunder. We could see lightning in the distance, and that was pretty neat.

This week is kind of rough for me, because my family is on vacation, and I can't communicate with them as much as I have been lately. I know they're having a great time, and I'm glad of that, but I really miss talking to them, and sharing things with them.

I've been getting the Crosswalk daily "clean humor" email, as well as a weekly "things that you might find handy" email. Today's "things you might find handy" included something on Singles and the Christian lifestyle, which I've forwarded on to Anderson. I think it's a good idea for people to start thinking early on in life about whether they are the type of person who can be a strong Christian and be single. If you can't (and I definitely wasn't the type for it), considering marriage is a really smart move. Better to be married than to burn with desire, after all.

Horne's wife sent more care packages full of donated stuff, which was great. I got more baby wipes and some "cracker bites" which are actually pretty good. I also picked up some "espresso candy" from Sgt. Knight, which is helping me stay awake on guard duty, so it's a good thing.

Keep praying for my witness, please. It's the most important thing. Some very challenging circumstances are coming up in the near future, and I really need to be able to respond as a Christian first, and as a soldier second.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blacked out again!

Yes, we've spent a little more than the last 24 hours blacked out, but the internet is back. Evidently there was an American KIA in the 209th corps area yesterday. I spoke with a soldier with whom I serve a lot of guard duty and he asked me to call his grandparents if anything happened to him, rather than them having to hear it from someone impersonal in the National Guard.

It's funny. Some people accept that a blackout is going to happen, as long as it only lasts for 24 hours. But with apologies to Alan Keyes, it's not how much of your internet they control, it's that you have to justify your access to them at all. The worst part is that, some day soon, we'll move into actual barracks, and have to pay for internet access there, but will still be subject to blackouts. If we had our own satellite internet, it wouldn't be as fast as DSL, but we would have more control over it, ostensibly.

Ah, well. Such are the trials of being a soldier. It could be a LOT worse, obviously, so while I'm griping a little, don't take this as being a life-and-death or even gravely serious situation. It's more of an inconvenience now.

Also, we went to the bazaar yesterday. I'm pretty confident that I'll buy my wife a nice jewelry box next time I go. I didn't want to buy anything yesterday because I wanted to be sure what I was looking for and get a feel for how much I should pay. I'm also looking at possibly buying a large piece of Lapis, especially if I can figure out how (and to whom) to sell it when I get it back in the states. I saw a fairly good quality piece yesterday that weighed about 10lbs (3.7 Kg), and the vendor wanted $220 for it. I think maybe if I got it for about $50, I could make some money off of it, but I'm not entirely sure.

Anderson and I have been talking more about our faith. He is constantly telling me about his girlfriend and how great she is, and I spend hours telling him how fantastic, wonderful, and gorgeous my wife is. It helps pass the time.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy Birthday to us!

This evening I ate dinner with the interpreters in their dining facility. The food was eggplant casserole (I think), and some kind of stew beef au jus. We also had their homemade bread and watermelon for dessert. It was all very good food. You would have to have known me through college to know just how astonishing it is that I ate foreign cuisine. Trust me. This is major.

So, then, once I got back to the barracks, I found that someone had sent us 6 ice cream cakes and some ice cream, for everyone who had a birthday in the first 6 months of 2007. So I had a slice of ice cream cake and took a video of 3rd platoons Plt Sgt leading the company in a round of "Happy Birthday."

All good morale building stuff. So far the 6 hour shifts are working out okay, although we've gone to 1 six-hour shift per day, instead of two. Which I think I can handle quite easily, although 0700 to 1300 is a very hot shift...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

4 hours on, 8 hours off? Or 6 on, 6 off?

So. Guard duty is changing. Up until now, we had been through several different arrangements. For a while, we served 4 hour shifts 1x a day. That was pretty nice. But some soldiers complained that they didn't get "days off." And besides that, we weren't running many missions during that time frame.

Then, we went to 4 hours on, 8 hours off. So essentially you worked 8 hours a day, broken up into 2 4-hour shifts. That wasn't TERRIBLE, although it does make it hard to get a good night's sleep sometimes. And some soldiers complained that they weren't getting "days off." And when the number of missions increased, there was a set group of soldiers who were always going on missions, meaning that the soldiers who got left behind and pulled guard duty were always the same ones. They didn't like that. And, add to that the fact that someone pointed out, when we start sending soldiers home for their leave, we're going to be even more short-handed, and we'll have some soldiers pulling 3 4-hour shifts per day to make up for the missing soldiers.

So it was suggested that we go to 6-hour shifts. After all, that reduces our headcount requirement by 50%. And if the missions are organized based on which soldiers are NOT on guard duty, then the soldiers going on missions will be more varied. And if we schedule a rest plan, so that the soldiers who just finished 2 days of guard duty (24 hours on, 24 hours off) only have to work 4 hours per day or less, we should be able to meet everyones needs!

Today we make the shift to 6-hour shifts. I hope it works as well as it's proponents claim it will, although I have grave doubts. The biggest worry I have is that the soldiers who SHOULD be on "rest plan," will be asked to go on multi-day missions, leaving the soldiers who are on guard duty to STAY on guard duty indefinitely. While the 6-hour shift may require 50% less personnel, it will also cause at least 50% more strain on the soldiers who work it.

Stay tuned for the results!

Daily update

To be honest, not much is going on lately. I haven't gone out on a mission since mid-may, so there's been a lot of guard duty. We hear that a chow hall is going to be built on-site, and were all excited about that for a while, until we found out that the earliest it would be completed would be 1 October. We were also excited about the idea of moving out of the barracks we are currently in, into the buildings DESIGNED to be barracks (instead of office buildings), because the real barracks are supposedly going to have faster speed internet access. That'll only cost us $140 per line. (I think we'll try to split that 4 or more ways and install a switch in the building)

I was thinking of things that we (the company) or I (as an individual) could use.

  • I could use some tuna fish. I'm down to two cans. I eat it with Saltines when I work out during lunch break (which I do to avoid other people in the gym), and miss getting a ride to the chow hall at KAF.
  • I could use some Aleve, or other long-lasting painkiller. My body armor weighs about 50lbs, and 4 hours of guard duty causes it to chafe. My shoulders, back, and feet end up hurting quite a bit.
  • All the soldiers could always use AA and AAA batteries. We all have electronics that use these batteries.
  • We really need some shower curtains that have magnets in the sides. Shower curtains for stalls, not for a bathtub/shower combo. We have six shower stalls with tiny scraps of shower curtain for each one. Some of the scraps are ragged, or curling on the edges.
  • Would you believe we could use laundry soap? We have one building that houses 4 washers and 4 dryers, and a communal laundry soap would save a lot of the soldiers time.
As I recall from a briefing, I'm not allowed to make a blanket request for anything, so please don't consider this a request. I'm just saying these are some things that I could use, and some things I know the company area / the other soldiers could use, nothing more.

Monday, June 18, 2007


So far there have been three large explosions today. I don't know what they are or how close they were, just that the first one was much closer than the second two, and the third one was at least 20 minutes later than the first two. Don't yet know what they were, although I suspect mortar gunnery at the range, or possibly aircraft bombing practice. They could certainly be IEDs on the road just outside post though.

After all, the Taliban, from all reports on the internet, are making a big surge in Afghanistan this year.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Latest goings-on

Well, lets see...

Since I last posted, we've had quite a few missions go out. They're not always convoy escort, sometimes they're "drive to here, get out and greet the locals" type missions. One soldier who went on a mission of that type the other day says that we need to get inexpensive sandals to give out to the kids (get them in various sizes, he suggests) when we go on missions like that. "Afghan Care Packages," as they are called by my section Sgt.

However, Sgt. Knight does not approve of us giving stuff like this out on all missions. Only certain missions are appropriate for humanitarian aid items. Since I haven't been on ANY missions since mid-May, I haven't had an opportunity to give stuff away to the local children yet. There are a good many small children staying nearby, and we frequently see them from one day to the next, but I have long since decided that the children who live near KAF are probably the most well-off of all the children I'll see here, and so I save my care packages for the children in the remote villages.

The last couple of days, I discovered something new. The military has a policy of cutting off all internet and telephone access for up to 24 hours if a soldier gets killed. While I think I understand the rationale behind this policy, my personal feeling is that it has a more detrimental than helpful effect. Besides which, if the military doesn't trust us to keep secret a soldiers death, why trust us to keep secret any other important details of our operations here? Maybe I shouldn't ask that question too loudly, though, huh?

We've had another company barbeque here on post. Those are fun, although the meat tends to be overdone. I guess the dry heat of Afghanistan means you have to leave the food on the grill for a bit less time than back home. But, still, the pork loin was fantastic, it's just that the steak was dry and we don't have a real barbeque sauce for the ribs.

After a month in-country, eating 2 and sometimes 3 ice cream bars a day, I discovered that I was adding fat to my belly. "This," I thought "is not acceptable." So, I have started an exercise routine, and cut out the ice cream. I figure cutting out the sugar and fat from the ice cream, and increasing even by a little bit the amount of exercise I do, should allow me to slim back down to my old size in a few months. Maybe I'll even put on some muscle and look intimidating, if that's even possible for a string bean like me. But, regardless, I've started exercising every other day and I'm trimming the old waistline quite nicely.

Friday, June 8, 2007

More updates

Well, I mentioned the other day that there was only one chapel on the post. As far as I know, that's the truth, but I was on tower duty the other day and spotted a building with a steeple on it, in a different area of the post than the chapel I know of. So, maybe there is another chapel? Or maybe it's a decommissioned chapel? I don't know yet.

The brigade commander came and visited us today. Three of our section were assigned to escort him around in our vehicle, which has just been fixed up nicely. Hopefully they are okay. If they did run into any enemy, I trust that they were able to leave the enemy sufficiently impressed with the ability and discipline of the American Soldier.

The upshot of these guys being on a mission, however, is that the rest of us have to do more of the various duties on post. Guard duties, I mean. This is not terrible, nor am I complaining. Merely pointing out that while they are gone, we work harder than while we have a full complement of troops here on post.

Anderson and I have been talking a lot about what marriage is all about. He is interested in several young ladies and doesn't really understand how to know which one is God's chosen mate for him. He also has (or had, perhaps I've enlightened him) several mixed-up notions about marriage.

Primarily, I shared with him that the best marriages are not about happiness, or love, or children. The best marriages are about commitment. Each partner is committed to the other, and that makes for much more success than simply focusing on any of the other three things I mentioned. Or anything else (except God) for that matter.

I've been playing Ultima Online a lot lately. Mostly because its free, but also because it looks the same as it did back in 1998 when I used to play it. The fact that it's free makes the PKing much easier to deal with. I just shrug and laugh it off now, whereas back then I would have been pretty tense, and even upset. I can't play EverQuest very well because of the high ping time. About all I can do is solo or go on Monster Missions, and that doesn't really lend itself to improving (or even maintaining) my skills with my class.

I've also spent some time playing Half-Life 2, which is quite challenging, and I have no idea where it's going. Far Cry is kind of on hold for the moment, just because I guess I overdid it in Camp Shelby. Halo is really tough for me to get used to, so I'm kind of backing off that for the moment. I haven't played Dawn of War any lately, either, but that's okay. I also have a book to finish and a couple of National Review magazines to read. I try to save them for when we are on missions, though, since I can't take my laptop along.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Care Packages galore!

The wife of one of the soldiers in our mortar section has been a busy lass. Despite having several children and a job, she also has arranged to have a considerable amount of stuff donated for sending to us here in Afghanistan. Two more packages arrived today, and her husband was giving stuff away to everyone on the compound yesterday evening.

Sgt. Knight even received a care package today, although it appears to have only been a desk lamp. And, of course, I'm really looking forward to the care package that I'm expecting to get from my family. Oh, and now is a good time to mention that I've received two pairs of excellent binoculars, that have already been used for Tower Guard duties and will probably be used at the Live fire exercise that is upcoming. As well, I sent a care package home on Sunday to my family. So there's been mail and packages going everywhere.

Sunday. That reminds me... There are about eight different services on sunday, because the post has only one chapel for all the different countries to have religious services. To date, I have not been able to attend any normal, scheduled services due to the exigencies of military service (ie, guard duty, missions, recovery from guard duty or missions, or details have prevented me), although the chaplain has come out to our facility and given a brief service in our "gym."

Sadly, there's not much else that I can discuss at the moment based on operational security. I try to only tell you about things some time after they've happened, and to never tell you anything specific about operations or plans that are coming up. So, be patient, and check back often!

Friday, June 1, 2007


Well, a while back, our unit made contact with the enemy. Several vehicles, while on a mission in a sector that will remain unnamed, were attacked by what we suspect was an element of the Taliban.

More than one vehicle was disabled, although multiple RPG strikes did not penetrate the vehicles armor. Windows were fractured, and the hull and turret armor of the vehicles repelled multiple small arms rounds. My understanding (I was not there) is that seven or more enemy were killed by accurate return fire from our turret gunners.

I was not present, so I will not get a CIB from this action. However, the troops who were present will be getting theirs. My congratulations and commendations go out to them. Praise God that no one was hurt, and pray that all our encounters with the enemy are as one-sided in our favor!