Sunday, April 20, 2008

“I like the Night Life, God likes to Boogie”

The nightly display of fireworks of the sky and the music of the jungle has been extraordinary. Two nights ago, we watched as the sky lit up with a display of Thor’s magic, rolling through the evening clouds. Thunder echoed its brother’s lights, and then the rain came down in misty waves I blending seamlessly into their fraternity. Lt. Col. Ed Tanguy, Capt. Pete Aguilar and stood on the Lanai (balcony/porch) and watched enrapt with the Godly display of Nature's ominous power before us. After the thunder and lightning ended, we were rewarded with the strangest cacophony of sound. What started out as an apparent dog fight, slowly turned into the total mayhem of the calls of monkeys as they competed for who could shout the loudest across the newly soaked jungle.

An amazing night in the Jungles of Bengal.

In the words we use at the closing of every prayer I my family, “Thank you God, Thank you God, Thank you God.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sgt. 1st Class Vinni Jacques

I have worked with SFC Phillip "Vinni" Jacques in Oregon, within the same unit that he served in Iraq (when I joined the Volunteers of the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Jacques had already returned home after having sustained serious injuries in combat when an IED hit his vehicle, killing his driver), in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina where he led a platoon in the recovery efforts of a flooded and decrepit section of the city, and now in Rajendrapur, Bangladesh, where we are deployed to assist in the training, evaluation and mentoring of Soldiers from ten nations across the South Asian subcontinent (and where, a Ranger to the end, he has developed a great relationship with the Ghurka Rifles of Northern India).

One of the most professional Soldiers I have ever worked with, "Sergeant Jacques" is the type of NCO that spends his evenings reading SOPs and his omnipresent Ranger Handbook, in an effort to constantly improve his knowledge and expertise in the techniques, tactics and procedures that will serve him and his Soldiers on and off the battlefield.
This afternoon, in a brief repasse from the lane evaluation and mentoring that he has been running, he shared a story that showed another role he meets with total commitment, that of being the Father of three children. In the wake of last summer's hit movie "Transformers," Jacques' eldest son, told him in the morning following the film, "Dad, I think Bumblebee was knocking on my window last night." A fantastic image of the creative imagination of a seven year old. "Son, we need to talk," Vinni repliled. Sitting his son down, Jacques told him, "Son, I have a confession to make, that wasn't Bumblebee. It was my truck. Because my truck is a Transformer." "Really Dad? What is his name," asked his son with the faith and total belief that only a child can offer the counsel of his loving parents. "Well his name is Suppositor, because he is such a pain in my rear end," he explained.

This was received with joyous rapture of a boy who realized he had a transformer acountable to his father. He immediately ran through the house, "Grandma, Dad's truck is a Transformer and his name is Suppositor because he is such a pain in Dad's rear end!"

"Mom, Dad's truck is a Transformer and his name is Suppositor because he is such a pain in Dad's rear end!"

This from the same professional Non Commissioned Officer that helped to stand up, alongside retired Colonel Scott McCrae (our former Chief of Personnel who, only months before his retirement lost his son in an IED attack in Operation Iraqi Freedom), the Oregon Reintegration Team for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to assist them with the challenges they need, whether counselling, career assistance, educational benefits or just someone to talk to. Explaining this to a visiting Lt. Col. from the U.S. State Department while handing him a tri-fold program explaining the Reintegration Team, Jacques offered, "Sir, Soldiers can call this 1-800 number 24 hours a day and we guarantee that one of us will answer it anytime. We maintain it like a staff duty line, so that Soldiers will get an answer no matter when they call. We figure it is at least something that we can do directly to help those that gave themselves completely to defend their nation."

(Side note: we have just learned today that in the wake of the excellence acomplished by the Oregon Reintegration Team, the National Guard Bureau has directed that all states and territories stand up similar programs out of the State headquarters)

it is yet another example of the type of Soldier serving, like the Ranger creed he adheres to everyday, "One Hundred per cent and then some." It is a great privilege to work with such an extraordinary leader and to know and work with such a great man.

Rangers Lead The Way!

-out here

Training (and Sweating) to standard

So the temperature in Bangladesh this time of year is hot. The average in the Farenheit grade has been between the high 80s and the high 90s with an average of 98 degrees, with a humidity of about 70%. Thus, being the sweat machine that deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Katrina have proven me to be, I have shed about eight pounds since our to keep it off.

The exercise has enabled us to work with combat leaders from across the Asian subcontinent and it has been a great opportunity to get to know the cultures, values and training standards of these diverse peoples.

It has also given us, as members of the Oregon National Guard, both Army and Air components, to get to know each other better, reminding us of the incredible value we bring to the expeditionary military environment we are currently so actively involved within. The

Each of us is preparing to redeploy within less than a week with a strong relationships that reinforce not only the regional stability and commitment that each nation offers to the world, but with the knowledge, that, when you work and sweat together, we are not all that different from each other.

Soldiers are in the business of the implementation of national security objectives, but as General MacArthur observed long ago, it is the Soldier who prays most heartily for peace because it is he or she that must endure the scars of war for a lifetime. It is an honor to be involved with a mission that highlights that message on a daily basis.

-out here

Monday, April 14, 2008

Subo Nobu Bosho - Happy New Year

The new year in Bangladesh is ultimately synchronized with the environment, based on the cycle of the monsoon season, the harvest time, and the return of the Sun and its power to renew the land and dry out the rains.

In this spirit, the last 24 hours met the expectations of the Bangladeshis perfectly. Late in the evening, we experienced a burst of rain and thunder and lightning that lasted a mere hour. Today we were greeted by the burning sun of the new year. It was seen as a sign of good fortune from both Allah (God) and the pantheon of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses in this land of tolerance of diversity in faith. It also made today a great day to be witness to the happy smiles of the Bangladeshi people and the international soldiers deployed here to train with them.

Beside that, I met a couple of monkeys, watched a snake charmer as he interacted with two Cobras, danced with a witnessed many traditional dances performed by children and saw the beautiful dress of men and women in their decorative gracing of the new year.

-out here

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Road to Dhaka (and Back)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A tour of Bengali Culture

We live at the Bangladesh Institute for Peace Support Operations or BIPSOT, located North of Dhaka in the jungles of Ranjnapur about an hour and a half drive (and a lot of prayer Inshallah) North of the capitol. It is warm still at a minute past midnight. Several of the senior officers got to go to the Army Division Command site downtown last night. It was for a cultural event that was nice, elegantly done and paqcked with officers from about 18 countries.

The meal was incredible and the style informal. After dinner we were treated to a variety of shows from the recitation of a component of the "Bidrohi Poem" or the poem of rebellion written by the national poet of Bangladesh Kazi Nazrul Islam. The central them of the poem is generally to uproot oppression from across the globe in order to ensure that human rights prevail. It was read alternaively in Bengali and English. he was accompanied by a dancer that embodied the spirit of the Rebel, striking out against the forces of oppression.

This was followed by an amazing song of Lalon. Lalon Shah was a mystic that embodied the yearning for a sensitive and modest life of dedication and truth. The singer Pagla Bablu and a female companion with a type of small cymbals gave an intoxicating singing of what is called a lalon song, after the mystic

It was an amazing exposure to the remarkably tolerant and diverse culture of this ancient land and relatively new country.

I am so honored to be here and to see such a new aspect of the world.

-out here

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Almost a year later, I resume


Several of you have asked me why I haven't written in so long. There is no great answer but I have decided that now is the time. I am writing from the jungles North of Dhaka, Bangladesh, as part of an exercise, "Shanti Doot" which is Bangla for "Ambassador of Peace." Specifically, I am currently in the Bangladesh Institute for Peace Support Operation Training or BIPSOT. Assigned as part of a seven member contingent from the Oregon National Guard that will serve as the command and control element for Exercise Shanti Doot, a UN Peacekeepers course designed to certify platoons from 12 nations in the tactics and procedures they will use in regional peacekeeping operations around the globe. Journeying from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Korea, the United States and Tonga, platoons from these nations will run through several lanes run by UN certified trainers.

This is a wonderful experience already. We have only been in country for less than a week and I have already seen the smiles of school children through the windows of their school buses, the craftsmanship of carvers and the love of families sharing love despite hardship.

The people of Bangladesh are so accomodating and to be deployed as part of this extraordinary opportunity is a once in a lifetime event. It is an honor to be here and I will write more as available.

Shanti Doot

-out here

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.