Saturday, April 21, 2007

First Farewells

Today was the start of the hard part. I have grown very close to the Afghan officers that I have worked with daily over the last seven months. COL Hashim-hahn has literally become an uncle to me, a friend and wise elder that is closer than blood in many ways. COL Amin as well has been a big brother. Brigadier General Wardak, pictured here as I served up the Afghan soup, has been an incredible mentor himself. Since he assumed command of KMTC 18 months ago, it has grown at an extraordinary pace. His leadership has provided so much positive change to take place here in this institution and this country.

I have a picture that show vain smiles attempting to hide sadness.

It is personal but shows our mutual sense of loss. I hope to come back here again and reunite with them. We will bid our formal farewells here soon. I have a last date for Chai with them on Monday, where I will bid them a fond "Hoda-Afez" one last time, but this afternoon was tough.

From Kabul

-out here.
This is me with my Afghan Uncle, Colonel Hashim-Hahn.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dwell Magazine


After approaching the Editors of Dwell Magazine ( in late summer of last year, I heard from them regarding my interest in contributing an article to them about life in small spaces. Their current issue, May 2007, is out on stands now and features an article about my past year of living in an eight foot by eight foot room.

It is a real pleasure to be a featured contributor to one of my favorite magazines. Please pick up a copy if you see it. It is nice to draw attention to the living conditions that so many volunteers for overseas service and to recignize that, no matter the size, it is home.

-From Kabul

Friday, April 13, 2007

Relief in the wake of the Flood

After about a week's worth of deliberate planning and organization, a team of the Training Assistance Group worked this week to provide some much needed relief to the victims of the first flood in fifteen years here in Kabul. Cleared by a local Chief of Police of District, we were able to assist 100 vetted families with their basic needs.

We departed in the afternoon, departing in several movements to get to our distribution site. Near to the Kabul Stadium where less than six years ago, the Taliban routinely and publicly executed women and men they had deemed uncommited to their cause, we set up our security and our distribution point as we had planned it. The operation was actually planned by our JAG and our intelligence officer, Capt. Scott Delius, of Atlanta, and Maj. Steve McLay, of Corvallis, respectively. Steve had coordianted with local police chiefs to properly vet out those that were in the most dire need. When we arrived, the Afghan Military Police security team, mentored by fellow Oregon National Guardsman, Maj. Chris Graves, had cleared the parking lot and cordoned off an area for our trucks to set up for the distribution of supplies. In one truck, we had bags of clothing. In another, we had bags of cooking basics, oil, salt and dehydrated milk. In the final truck was the big Hefty-sized bags of rice, flour and sugar. The unfortunate part of that was that these bags weighed about fifty to sixty pounds each and we were distributing them to families that were mostly women, old men and young children as most of the able bodied men were either at work or looking for work. Thus, we carried the bags for the citizens from the truck to the end of our distribution point, approximately 50 meters from the back of the truck. While it was a U.S. planned event the real heroes were the Afghan National Army Military Police and the Afghan Police Officers of the downtown district, as they were the ones that established the security, helped to hand out the supplies and managed the victims of the flood.

As this was downtown Kabul and an area of potential threat activity, we were fully armored at all times, a point I only mention because it was about 85 degree Farenheit that afternoon, a sign of things to come this summer and did we ever sweat...?!! It was a cooker. After the final truck, we laid out a collection of other supplies within a flannel blanket. A shovel head, a hammer, a saw, work gloves, a tarp, and a shovel handle (wooden pole). It made for a serious load of kit to cart away across the open Buzkhashi Stadium for certain. That said, we made it as easy as we could to those that needed relief the most.

Within an hour and a half, we had distributed over eight tons of food, clothing, shelter and supplies to help victims of the worst flooding in Kabul in the past fifteen years.

Most impressive to me was the ten year old boy leading a blind man through the distribution points. He carried each of the small bags himself, he led his father or uncle (it was unclear) to each point. At the final, before loading the sixty pounder myself, I wrapped up a bag with the supplies and handed them to the blind man. Cloudy blind eyes staring into the distance belied the joy he seemed to feel. He muttered something quietly in Pashto. The boy then said to me, "He say thank you, America Friend."

We made a difference and that is what we are here for.

From Kabul,

-out here

photos by Tech Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo and 1st Sgt. Don Weber

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Independence Day Parade...practice

Every year the Afghanistan National Security Forces, whether Army or Police, conduct a massive parade ceremony to commemorate their independence for Soviet occupation and independent rule. The parade practice takes a lot of time and effort as the officers, sergeants and Soldiers, want to make as positive an impression as possible to their country and to the world. COL Jim Lyman and I were invited by ANA Brig. Gen. Wardak to witness some of the rehearsal for the event downtown, alongside the senior leadership of the Afghan National Army. It reminded me of the parades we used to perform in the Berlin Brigade, whether U.S., British, French or Communist. Designed to demonstrate to the world our power and discipline. It was an incredible thing to see, thousands of Afghans marching downtown, proud, disciplined and organized. The actual parade will be within the month. We have also been invited to witness the event live. In the picture above, you can see the moon setting beneath the "Great Wall" of Kabul, high along the peaks surrounding the city. Built in 425 CE, the wall was built by Kabul-Shahan, as a defensive perimeter around the city to prevent eventual eventual Arab attacks. In the image below, the reviewing officers salute the Afghan National Colors as they pass in review.