Friday, May 31, 2013

Month 9 Day 31

Notebook entry
meet teachers and Garrison support unit operations officer, five guys at class, meet with executive officer implicate operations officer, corps intelligence officer and general.

Journal entry
I met up with the teachers in the morning. There are two inspectors here from Kabul.  I tried to find Salim, but he was no where in sight.  In the morning.  I did take the headmaster to see the GSU OpsO.  He is a bit of a weak sister.  To hear him tell the story, he is living in squalor and the Afghans are treating him horribly, but when you go speak to the GSU OpsO with him the story becomes more clear.  The GSU only has 10 out of the about 50 tents on camp.  They have already dedicated one for the teachers, half of which is a classroom and half of which is their living quarters.  The headmaster also complains that they refused him water, but in fact they merely asked him to carry his own bottled water from the truck to his tent. He was unwilling to do this, he wanted a soldier assigned to carry his water for him.  I think he was born into quite a priviledged Kabuli family.  He probably had servants at home, and was certainly rich enough to go to college.  His expectations of how he should live, he wants his own shower, a container, running water, are simply beyond what is available. 

Three of our most capable officers have been selected to work in the Combined CoC, the Tachnique [Mechanic], the Malweni Mohabra [deputy communications/radio], and the Amer Engineeri [head of engineering].  Robbing peter to pay Paul.  It will look decent, but will it do anything, and will it help them with their jobs after we leave?

At 1400 I went to speak to the XO about the HUMINT source money.  I showed him the forms that Razaq supposedly signed while he was purportedly sick in India.  He claimed that they were merely backdated.  He fingered the S-3, the Corps G-2 and the General as culprits.  He said that the General took at least 60,000 Afghani himself and then told Razaq to sign for it.  I told him my concerns about band-aiding the problem.  He agreed, but he said if you think there is corruption now, wait till the Americans leave.

In the afternoon I went out to inspect their class and there were only 5 students.  The supervisors from Kabul were there and they did an on-the-spot inspection of some of the students, they could not do basic subtraction nor could they reliably put together words.  The inspectors said they were doing worse than the guys in Kabul and the Police they had seen in Lashkar Gah.  They believed this was not entirely the teachers fault, that the extended leave periods also set back literacy progress. 

Tried to work with Salim, but he was in bad shape, he had a tooth pulled and was in a lot of pain.  I suspect they didn’t use anesthetic.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Month 9 Day 30

Notebook entry
56 guys return from medical without qualifications, interview class, late and training, Gen. Petraeus.

Journal entry
the 56 NCOs that were sent to Qandahar for medical training returned no better than they left.  The program was supposed to train them and make them into officers in the medical corps.  I was really annoyed at the time because they took some of the very best NCOs to the course.  I just saw Najibullah, he was back with his old SSgt rank on.  I asked him what happened.  He said that none of the NCOs from the [1st Brigade 215th Corps] were promoted.   He did not fail the test, he got a 98%, but the only guys who got promoted had family connections or were willing to pay a bribe.  Awesome, so they’ve been gone since the beginning of March and for what?  We could have made headway with some of them…

I managed to get Najibullah to do some of the work related to discharge paperwork that the XO had irrationally assigned to Salim, so that he could focus on talking to his detainee.  I brought Bobby Brumfield, the Law Enforcement Professional over from mainside to give him a class.  Salim was still 20 min late.  This is why I hate bringing people over.  Oh well. He didn’t have the forms he needed, so I made him copy the copies that I had.  Salim questioned the detainee and we took a training time out once every 3-4 questions so that Bobby could give him pointers, tell him things to look out for, etc.  The guy was found in Nawa by the ANA with 3 AK-47s in his house.  The guy said that someone had just come up to the edge of his field, motioned to him and left the weapons there.  He didn’t know who it was, he claimed the TB had never threatened him.  He claimed that he just took the weapons into his house and that he was only scared of the police or ANA.  The dude was lying through his teeth.  Everyone has at least been approached by the TB, they don’t just leave weapons in the corner of a field, they are too valuable for that.  He probably didn’t know what we were getting at when we asked him about being scared, but when he said he wasn’t scared of the TB, that makes a hell of a lot of sense because heprobably knew them.  Anyway, we had him on the possession charge and he admitted to that, so such is life.

Gen Petraus came for a visit.  He came through the combined COC and asked the ANA to get radio checks with their kandaks and asked the COC watchO where his kandak HQs were.  Luckily it was Aqa Sherin, he is a smart guy and actually knew the answer, basically any of the other watch-o’s would have been fucked.  This is the view from the top a 5 min visit into a bullshit combined COC.  The general asked the right questions, he just didn’t have the time to get the full picture, had he walked in the day prior he would have found the entire watch staff asleep on the floor.  I wonder what he thinks about this place.

Salim (Left, Facing away) questioning a detainee with Fareed (facing) listening

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Month 9 Day 29

I tried to meet up with the teachers again, and again class was not in session.  It was the time for class, but they claimed that all of their students had been let out (this is 40 minutes into what is supposed to be an hour-long class). 

I did some digging about this prisoner, he was some guy with some connection to the Taliban foud with three AK-47s.  The legal officer was not tracking on him.  He didn’t realize he was in lock-up.  Salim was gone toMarjeh, as was the XO so I couldn’t speak to them. 

It is very difficult to train people when they are not around.

I kind of got into it with Capt Brawny again yesterday about retirement. He’s like “I contracted with the USMC and agreed that I would be able to retire at 20…” I’m like “really, I don’t remember signing any such thing. No one promised you pay raises, benefits etc, a statute appoints you and a statute pays you, if they change either of those statues then, they are ok to do that, it’s not a contract.”

The power kept cutting in and out, and with my guys absent there was little that I could do.  To be honest I was ok with that.  I am tired, really tired, and I am in an existential funk.  Saying it like that makes it seem like an overeducated, pampered college student problem, maybe it is.  I don’t see the point of all of this, that should be no surprise, but I have been wrestling with the broader point of existence.  Is it God? OK, but why, ‘we are built to serve him and make him happy’ ok, well outside of that making God seem like quite a self-absorbed guy I still don’t really get it.  I don’t viscerally understand why, and most important, why me, if that is the generic task for everyone, then why is my existence essential.  Could it be something else, could it be as simple as the selfish gene and it’s desire to replicate, reproduce more efficiently and enlightened self-interest.  While that may be true it is equally hollow, especially for a guy who will probably not have kids, try to cull other’s bloodlines, etc. 

I get into a pattern of work.  Just find things to do, things to pass the time, things to try to do my job because I know I am supposed to but it all lacks meaning.

I am tired

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Month 9 Day 28

Notebook entry
Teachers, met with three/nine, stuff with regimental combat team, after action report, biometric automated tool set, Naikpai threats, teachers no class (already left), prisoner no impact no idea, executive officer and intelligence officer gone

Journal Entry
Suzan brought up a good point when we talked this morning.  I mentioned that I thought that I might get free tuition in California because I am getting the combat action ribbon (after further research this is not the case).  But it seems like I am milking the system.  Maybe my principled stance is in fact bullshit.  I do think that we get paid too much for the benefit we give the country.  I do think we get a lot of benefits, but I haven’t turned in my paycheck, I haven’t paid back my GI Bill.  Maybe I’m just as bad as the rest of them, my motivations are just as muddled, they started out as God, Country and Corps, now its that and getting paid, maybe as we continue on in this it changes for everyone.  Maybe by the time you get to CaptBrawny’s number of years those idealistic goals are completely gone.  I spoke to him yesterday about Sec Gates possibly raising the age at which military guys get a pension until they are 60.  That didn’t sound unreasonable to me, it is what everyone else gets.  He said, sure it makes sense for someone who hasn’t done the time.  Maybe we don’t start as mercenaries, but we all become them. Maybe it’s a creeping thing that you don’t ever notice and you get used to saying God, Country and Corps, but silently, smoothly the self slips in and grows to consume the others.  They still sit in your mind as idle platitudes but that is all they are. 

Maybe I am a hypocrite and just as bad as them, but the thing is about a hypocrite, you should still listen to them because they are still right no matter their faults, but I know that people don’t. 

I met up with the teachers.  They told me their class schedule. It was during the time that I was meeting with them and there was only one student in the room.  They were saying that the rest of the students regularly get pulled from class for missions, formation etc.  This is understandable, but there does not seem to be a lot of flex in the schedule, they only really have one night class. 

The new mentors from 3/6 I think it is came out, they are going to Marjeh.  The intel mentor was an 0302 2ndLt who was pretty useless.  He was not really interested in listening to how things worked and what he was going to face, he was more interested in trying to make the ANA look just like the USMC.  He was also just told that he was going to be taking on the intel mentorship piece that morning.  You will get out what you put in…

I took the IED that hit my truck and the video scout back to the RCT.  Maj Hesco completely ignored me when I walked past.  I think he is really jealous.  Hah

The BATs system was down hard and Lekic did not let me know.  He just sat in front of two dead computers for two hours.  He is a good kid, but he can really be a Lance Corporal at times, by which I mean he will do exactly what he is told, nothing more and nothing less.

I proofread a piece of Naikpai’s application to go to America.  As part of it he had to let them know whether he had any threats made against him.  Interestingly he believe that the Army has been infiltrated by the Taliban, that the ANA knowing  him is enough of a threat for him to fear for his life.  He also mentioned pictures taken of him by locals and threats he received while working on a tip line.  I feel for these guys.  I do, but I can’t get over the fact that we are causing a major brain-drain on the country by taking them out while moving them to America where they will only be marginally employable.  They are brilliant for Afghans, but no where near the standard they need to be for America.

Brian's most prized kill, a rat that had plagued our tent

Monday, May 27, 2013

Month 9 Day 27

Notebook entry
40 reports given, leave flight, maintenance, weather, combined Combat Operations Center, Corps intelligence at Kandaks, trust and riches, 15% is 1% growth Paul Zac

Journal entry
The leave flight finally came off in the morning.  It was a contracted leave flight, so it didn’t end up sucking out a ton of our manpower. Most of the day was consumed by maintenance of gear. I gave Salim the weather. 

That Major event for the day was the major relaying the Colonel’s order that the ANA should be commanding and controlling from the combined combat Operations center.  The major took this to mean that we just need to get them over there.  He has basically said this is going to be our ditch to die in. He is willing to deprive them of fuel, water, maintenance, whatever to force them to go there.  He also wanted carrots, cell phone antennas, satellite TV, to get them there.  I still think this is wrong-headed.  What real commanding and controlling do we do at this level?  We basically just surge air assets and clear fires, both of which could really be done by the battalions, on a day-to-day level the only thing is logistical requirements filled.  There is no maneuver of ground units in the short term. Outside of the military problems there is the cultural problem that they are not going to do anything without the Generals approval.  The problem of space, where are you going to put all of the Afghans.  The problem of perception, why are you forcing your ‘equal’ partner to come to you and command and control, why aren’t you going to him? Why are you giving him capabilities, NIPR telephones and internet access, that he won’t have in the end. All of the original problems are still there.

Oddly, I just don’t really care.  There is no point fighting this, the Major wants this one and has said that he is willing to use the nuclear solution to get it because the Colonel wants it so bad.  I wonder also if he sees the sunset of our tour and is ready to use ‘the nuclear option’ merely because he doesn’t think anything else will pop up that he will need it for.  We really only have about 2 months of us left, after that Advon arrives, the main body arrived, relief in place starts and we progressively transfer responsibility.

One thing I thought of last night while I was listening to my book is that trust might be a reason this country is so poor.  There was  a study overseen by Paul Zac (mentioned in Ch 3 of the Rational Optimist) which asked people a series of questions like whether they believed people would return a dropped wallet and stated that for every 15% growth in trust of the society you could increase the annual GDP growth by 1%, that is HUGE.  PerhapsSalim’s comments about the need to lock up everything and the thick walls around everything down here are telling. 

I am just tired.  The viritue and vice of the same-old-routine is that it is the same-old-routine, nothing gets better or changes.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Month 9 Day 26

Notebook entry
41 Ciphers total, four reports given, out of the meeting, general cracking soldier going on leave, Samir Hard Drive," Afghans will not change", Capt. Arthur back from investigation.

Journal entry
Woke up with a ‘boom’ on the 25th I hope I’m not fucked up.

On the 26th I had to go to the morning meeting.  Only 41 ciphers totals were exchanged between the bde and all its kandaks and the corps.  Outside of the meeting there were a group of soldiers from the 3rd kandak who were waiting for the general.  They were pissed off that their leave flight had been delayed once-again. There was one high ring-leader.  He told the General that we wasn’t going to listen to him unless he was sent on leave.  The General told him to get in the prone and when he didn’t our fat little napoleon tried to force him down and cracked him over the head as he did it.  The guy tried to run away, Sgt Salim chased him down and later on he told me that he beat the guy and that he locked him up.  Salim stated that he cried when he was finally let out. 

I found out about this when I took Salim out for lunch and he also told me that the General told him to beat some other prisoner.  Fuck, really?  Adding insult to injury.  He is the only guy here.  I asked him about Samir.  He said we was in Qandahar and that he had run off with the 2 TB hard drive with all of the map data that I had given to the section.  I asked Salim what I could do to make this better and he said.  He did not know.  He needed to get an officer.  He also said that only two of his kandaks, north MArjeh and south marjeh were sending him any info and that only one of the officer is reporting for duty.  

GySgt Young and Capt Brawny had an interesting conversation with the engineering officer that they relayed to me.  He stated that even if you were herefor another 50 years it wouldn’t matter.  The Afghan people will not change because they do not want to change.  Hmmmm.

I felt like somebody kicked a hole in my head most of the afternoon I think I ate some bad food. So I laid down and watched a movie.

Capt Arthur came back from his investigation in the evening. They had tasked him to go find out about missing ammunition at one of the Marine battalions. ETT maineffort, right sure shows with the way our staff is tasked to do whatever.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Month 9 Day 25

Notebook entry
Hedgehog, camp rearrange, $18,000 leave flight.

Journal entry
So the coolest thing about coming back in the wee hours of the morning was the hedgehog, that’s right we had a hedgehog, but before I oculd even get a picture of him in the morning the Gunny Made Lcpl Lekic set him free.  He was too cool and he loved to eat the giant black beetles that we had around here. I don’t think anyone bothered to look up whether or not hedgehogs carried disease, but that was the ostensible reason for his liberation.

We also got back to a nicely rearranged camp.  I thought so anyway, the COC was nice the computers were moved around, the MWR was clean everything was great. They even had a whole box full of hot trays for us when we got back.  That was cool.  It was like Maj Davidson really planned for us to come back and put some thought into what we would like to see.  That was very kind of him. Unfortunately, the other marines didn’t take it that way, they were looking for continuity, and looking to come back to exactly the same thing they left, so some of them were really offended by the changes and acted like they were trying to piss them off personally.  This was especially true for the chore list that Maj Davidson had come up with.  The other Marines were openly hostile to it.  It was admittedly a bit juvenile, but that’s ok at least stuff wouldn’t be forgot about.  I feel kind of bad for him.  He is still the new guy to them and he will probably never gel with the group, I hope that he doesn’t give up. 

I also found out that the real cost of the leave flight was $18,000 not $20,000 per flight.

The RCT promised that they were going to come over and teach a class in the afternoon, but once they found out that the combined Ops-Intel was cancelled they didn’t want to come out anymore. They didn’t even realize that I had been gone for about a month now. This makes sense because while I was gone they taught precisely 0 classes to Salim.  Apparently the Gunny has gone over to the CCOC to try to teach one of the guys from S-1 who is filling in for S-2 some map-reading.  It was 1600 by this time so I didn’t give Salim a class.  He is the only one here. Qais is on leave, Jabar has been moved to his kandak, more hours of training down the drain.  Sigh

Friday, May 24, 2013

Month 9 Day 24

Notebook entry
marine search, Afghan national army fuel and chow, knocked Jersey barrier, improvised explosive device.

Journal entry
We got up at 0400 because, even though this was about the 5th time we had done this we knew that the ANA were not going to be ready.  They were not.  They didn’t have fuel, nor did they have chow for the journey.  So we were leaving the parking lot an hour late. We get to the friendship gate and the Marines wanted to search every ANA vic, the Major went to unfuck that one and we pushed out the south of the base.  One of the Tractor Trailors hit a cement Jersey barriers and had that stuck underneath it so he couldn’t get out of the gate, another hour lost.  It was now 0900, the time Maj Hesco predicted we were going to be in North Marjeh, fucking idiot.  Anyway we push through the open desert for the first time and I start getting hate mail on my BFT from the range control at leatherneck “you are in our ranges.” Motherfucker, I sent UMCC my route, how the fuck am I supposed to know where your ranges are, also there are about 1 million tire tracks here, if I am in your ranges everyone else must be too.  We had a couple of trucks get stuck in the desert that took us up to about 1400. CLB had a truck spring an air leak, so they turned around and went back to LNK, that is OK because they were useless anyway.  We continued to press on down the road, I start to see farm fields smack in the middle of the desert, who the fuck plants out here I think to myself.  Apparently someone, anyway, I go around so as not to make an enemy out of some farmer, turn right on the original direction of travel and then I see a flash, a bunch of dust and feel the blast.  I called around and everyone in my truck was ok.  The Afghans, doing what they always do, just moving around as they see fit, come up and kick what remains of the IED that hit my truck. It was a 5 gallon yellow oil jug that the Afghans put cooking oil in.  When they kick it about half of the home made explosives come out of the thing, if they had been smarter the blast would have been bigger.  I think that the pressure plate that my mine roller hit was actually rigged to hit a truck coming from the other direction, so the blast didn’t hit my rig, or my roller, just a big blast, bunch of dust and stopped my truck.  That ANA didn’t find anything useful in the house, I reported it up to the regiment and we rolled on.  Again, more trucks were getting stuck.  We were running out of time I was approaching the most dangerous area of the AO, the place where a bunch of the locals had been given their land by the Taliban and thus were effectively squatters, they were not happy to see Americans or Afghans, I had to face the prospect of moving through this area at night if the ANA didn’t get moving, this was especially discomforting because there were a shit-ton of those fields that just allow you enough room to drive through like the one I got blown up on earlier.  I prayed and for the second time in the trip I was really scared.  I found some local trails and out 15 mile long convoy snaked through.  We crossed into northern Marjeh just before dark, sweet.  We dropped off the recon company at FOB Marjeh with no incedent and then pushed on to Fiddlers Green.  We got up there, dropped off our other two companies and then the Major wanted to push back home.  Just before we moved the Major pulled me aside and said some encouraging words to me he said ‘I don’t often complement snot-nosed Lts but you have done a hell of a job on this trip, I know you did basically everything to plan this before we left and the routes that you have been able to find have been great.  I don’t think that there is anyone else on the team who could have done what you did. Well done.’ It was now 2100 and we had been up since 0400 driving since 0600.  I didn’t like the call, but he wanted to puch on because we were ‘close.’ We ended up getting caught in our own dust cloud on the way back and that slowed us a lot.  I tried to tack somewhat against the wind and that made the next 35 km or so a little more tolerable.  The last 3 km we terrible LCpl Zach Rausnitz was ‘smelling the barn and didn’t know where the semi-improved surface was to get to the gate, he was driving really badly, but he was really tired and anxious to get there, we all were.  We were bouncing everywhere cutting across tracks, it was awful.  I apologized to the guys once we made it to the ECP.  The major says over the radio, ‘you are only as good as your last leg’ and Capt Nowak says ‘not so easy without roads’ 1460miles and the last 3 km is what everyone are going to remember.

These look like river-rocks, but there has never been water here, they were shaped by the wind over thousands of years. 
Moving South through Marjeh

the last bits of our Afghans deposited. 

From Left to Right Steve Nowak, GySgt Casanova, CWO2 Soltz

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Month 9 Day 23

Notebook Entry
Afghan national army speeding, Corps wanted me to e-mail administration, Noorudin in two months, impacted shit, 45 drivers, four trucks from fifth Kandak, Danes Garrison support unit.

Journal entry
John Hudson, Bash and Richard Sia came back at about 0100.  They said they had spoken  to a PRT rep from Ghazni who said that they spend up to $70000 to fill in shot holes from IEDs, that is a lot more expensive than merely packing them with concertina like they do down here.  I guess the Poles also have no external positions.  They all work off of big FOBs and then only during the day, no wonder stuff is all fucked up. John Hudson said yah it’s like day one every day for them.
I went over to tobston watched them unload a track-hoe that was way too heavy fr the low-boy that it was on at the Marine’s behest.
I got a nasty E-mail from the BDOC CO Maj Dylan Welch in response to an E-mail I sent the day prior.  I basically told them that if the ANA were caught speeding that they would have trouble communicating with them.  Referenced the incedent that I am about to describe with the Danes and reminded them that we force them to use our gate, and they  could always reopen their back gate, a major security concern.  I also told them that I had to tell my guys about the concept of speed.  And that they didn’t know what a speedometer was for. Maj Dylan Welch told me that this is something that the ETT could handle by talking to the ANA brass and we should teach them what a speedometer was for.  I replied that they had destroyed a million bucks worth of equipement on this trip and then blamed Ford for shoddy workmanship.  These guys literally do not know what they are doing.  Treating them like American PFCs behaving badly is not going to work out well for you.
The incedent that happened up here was relayed to me by the Danes, I guess the BDOC tore up the road to he ANA camp and didn’t bother to tell them.  One group of commandos was coming from Gereshk several km away and they were stopped.  The marines had no terps to describe the altenate route all the ANA knew was that they were being blocked.  When the Danes arrived there were 4 ANA trucks pointing their weapons at the Marines and the commandos were moving for a support by fire position.  Fucking stupid. Put yourself in their shoes.
A couple of days ago Maj James Blitz wanted me to E-mail my Afghans he didn’t know that they didn’t have E-mail he also didn’t know that we didn’t have an S1 mentor, out of touch.
A couple of days ao I translated for Capt Nowak as he bitched out Noorudin, the training NCO for being absent for 2 months. 
I guess doc checked out a guy not too long ago who had feces rammed so far up his penis that it was preventing him from urinating.  Put you can’t have anal sex in islam
We were doing the conformation brief and the 5th kandak said they still needed 45 drivers and 4 trucks from the 5th kandak.  The general was pissed that the mentors called him to solve the problem and not his own commander.  That’s good.

I found this, and the next little photo to be very funny.  Somebody actually printed this...

Hundreds and hundreds of trucks just sitting idle in this lot, not being used for the nation's defense

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Month 9 Day 22

Notebook entry
Sgt. Paul Radley a turnover, $250 million tombstone next fiscal year, $100 million ongoing, $500 million upcoming soon

Journal entry
Woke up and stood watch. Went to Tombstone.
The Major really went there to hash out the details of the move, arrange Kalimars o move the 40 foot containers, arrange flat beds for the track hoe, bulldozers, etc. This is a lot of extra troublefor guys that the RCT wants to use as provisional riflemen. One funny episode the Kandak commander blamed some manufactures defect on the reason all of the transmissions were broken in the dump trucks.
I found out the Maj James Blitz’s orders were somehow messed up or incomplete and the he would be returning to the US on Tues.  This meant that I spent most of lunch and the early afternoon doing a turnover with Sgt Paul Radley.  I gave him an overview of the problems that I was facing and told him that I really needed to start with the personnel, once I got decent personnel I could then move on to training them or sending them to training. I told him that my section had basically regressed since I had arrived because of personnel turnover.  I told him that the general signed but ignored PIRs, that they did not drive a collection effort, that the information they took in was merely typed (because they feel that is more official) then signed by the general then two hole punched and put into a binder never to be seen again, with this in mind they do no analysis, no production, and dissemination is limited to voice transmissions over their one HF radio set.
After that I fought the battle of the inbox for a little while.  Did some coordination with the CLB guys who are going with us on the move and then eavesdropped on a meeting that the G-4 was having.  Apparently the us army Corps o engineers briefed that it is in the midst of $100,000,000 worth of projects for helmand and nimruz, about to kick off another $500,000,000 in projects and they are going to be spending $250,000,000 on camp Shorabak, the corps headquarters alone.  They will also be dealing with the operations and maintenance of those contracts until 2014. When the mentors asked who was going to be training them how to use and maintain the facilities that they have the rep smiled and said, you guys. I cannot believe this shit. Especially when some of the projects are to rebuild/move shit that is already in place.  Just like the millions that are being poured into Camp Garmsir even though it is only a temporary facility. 
I also chased down the billet and ID number of an Afghan soldier detained for associating with the TB the Corps is going to talk to MGen Malouk and figure out how they are going to treat this guy.
Came back, ate chow, took a picture of the giant lot of trucks.

On the ride back from the trucks dinar asked me “are people in America like they are here? I mean you can feel how much they hate you when they see your dark skin and when they find out you are a Muslim. It feels terrible.” I told him that people are scared of what they don’t know and if he goes to a place where they never see a brown person, then he could run into trouble, but if he sticks to some of the bigger cities where he will not be special then it would not be a problemexcept possibly at airportss.  I felt pity for him as he said the next words “you know even in the remote parts of Afghanistan people are understanding and forgiving, they have lost sons to the Taliban, sons to the Americans, and they understand, sons die in war.  When I go back to them they tell me ‘you are so lucky to be working for the Americans’ and I say yah, I don’t have the heart to tell them.” 

photos of the hundreds of trucks just baking away in the sun at the higher headquarters.  Each one paid for by the American Taxpayer

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Month 9 Day 21

Notebook entry
Shithead recon company commander, tractor-trailer wants to stop, deputy commanding general “ this is joint, so provide me the plan," meet with corps intelligence assistant, corps intelligence officer on leave, Russian softcore, indirect fire lockdown, Capt. Kim Sengupta, human intelligence sources.

Journal entry
I took the 0400-0600 watch because I wanted to start getting back into the rhythm that I will be in the rear.
In the morning we made our way over to shorabak. The major, capt Nowak and cwo Soltz all had a meeting with the deputy commanding general about moving the 4th kandak.  They decided that the tractor-trailors would drop their loads here and that a combination of 5th kandak and the CLB would move the gear down south.
I went to meet with the British mentor from 3rd brigade, Capt Jim Kim Sengupta. The meeting was better for him than it was for me on two counts. First, I had a bunch of training materials that I was able to put onto a disk for him.  Ordinarily we are not able to share this stuff because he basically only uses centrix and I don’t have much access. Second it made him feel good about where his guys were at.
The brits do things a lot differently than we do and it allows them to seemore success. They take and entire battle group headquarters and simply send them out to train their counterparts in the ANA.  The training that they receive as mentors is minimal, they basically meet the guys who are returning from the jobs that they are just about to do, the rest of their training is identical to that of a regular battle group hq. the plus side of this is that they are focused in as a staff on how to do staff planning, they all know about the area that they are about to go into because all of their staff planning excercises are about it. The most important thing is that they are properly resourced to accomplish the mission.  They have S-1 through S-7s  and the enlisted guys to support them. This is somewhat problematic in that this allows them to do the entirety of the afghans job for them, they, for instance have their own plotter and print maps for the planning process for both the ana and for their mentor team, but on the bright side it actually allows them to mentor the whole section, they have continuous coverage of all of the staff sections.  Thus every day the s-2 section is able to receive reports from the kandaks and once per week they are able to turn around and push a consolidated report down. Each of their kandaks is also able to come up with a basic enemies’ most dangerous course of action and enemies’ most probable course of action. At the brigade level they are able to do basic targeting, they takea folder, put a picture in it and whenever a report applying to a specific person comes up they write that information in there. They still feel bad about this, after all it has been 5 years since the brigade was created, and this is not much more than an enterprising company level intelligence cell would be able to do in the USMC, but it is worlds ahead of where I am with my guys.  Capt Kim Sengupta appreciated that fact.  I talk to Maj Valquist about it and he said ‘yah they have their tooth to tail all screwed up they have put a ton of people into this, and not many guys into fighting’ I disagree, this is supposed to be the main effort and it needs to be properly resourced.
I also met up with Capt Keith Campbell the Military Intelligence Company Commander and spoke to him about his trials.  he is concerned just about fielding his guys for the time being. Getting them the right equipment and pushing them out.  He has not been down to the brigades to see how they really operate so he was asking dumb questions like ‘why do they do internal investigations?’ he is a bit frustrated too because just like the MICO in the 205th corps his guys have been given the task of base security, not really part of their job in the American system.
After the meeting with the Brits we went to supervise the marines pulling the stuff off the ANA containers because they don’t have the right equipment.  As soon as that was finished we went to the BDOC we had to wait there for an hour, and then were able to meet with this high-strung reserve major who woudn’t let us drive through camp Leatherneck.  He relented after the major made it clear that we were just going to keep taking this up the chain if he said no.  the problem is that the british and the marine bases havegrown so large that they have all but swallowed the ana base, there is no real way to get south or east without driving about 12 km out of your way and backtracking.  Couple this with the fact that the marines tore up the main entrance to the afghan camp without telling them and then just parked a truck there without a linguist and they have naturally had trouble with the confused and frustrated Afghans trying to get onto the camp.  It is stupid.

Happy birthday to me.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Month 9 Day 20

Notebook Entry

Journal Entry
Today I slept in until about 0800 after having a 0400 watch, that was nice.
I worked on my book proposal for a while in the morning, and then went to camp shorabak with the Major the Gunny and Dinar. I wasn’t able to get a hold of anyone on the phone, so it was a pretty useless trip, but I did get to fight the battle of the inbox for a few hours.  I beat back the nipr, sipr and centrix inboxes.
The major went to have a meeting with MGen Malouk in the afternoon and got him to agree that they would drop the heavy equipment here at Shorabak the 5th kandak would take it down to the AO.  That is after they get the chow money.
We had to wait outside of the meeting, Gunny complained for most of the time thata Cougar MRAP mechanics got paid 200k for OJT, this despite looking forward to well above six figures tax free for his future contracting gig. This is the fleecing of America.

We returned to the hooch and I wrote this. A pretty useless day.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Month 9 Day 19

Notebook Entry

Journal Entry
I got up or watch at 0500 completely wrecked. I had no idea that I had watch and I was totally out of it.  I got a chance t speak t Suzan for a while and that was really great.  I was exhausted but I decided to go run, shit shower and shave.
I was still wrecked when it was all done but we went t Shorabak for a meeting with the ANA. They basically shut down the ‘friendship gate’ onto the an aide because there was some indirect fire that hit the base this morning.  Even though the fire did not originate from the ANA camp the standard clamp-down reaction made moving difficult.
I got word that the SSgt who was driving the Major’s vic when it was hit by an IED was now complaining of headaches and neck pain, so he would not be making the rest of the trip. That seems like an aweful lotof bullshit. He wasn’t complaining about shit before. Well I guess if you are going to complain of something its best to wait until you can make it to a place where the complaint is actually going to make a difference.
We had a meeting with the ana to include the Deputy CG.  Just prior to the meeting I see the fat XO from 4th tolai of 1st kandak, the one who I had tried to teach the 5ws and reporting to.  The same one who the Marines had truancy problems with and the same guy who was resistant to basic intel.  Well he is going to be the new Reconnaissance Company commander, fuck.  I asked him who took his old job and he shrugged and said that he did not know.  What a turd. They had no idea what the plan was for the fielding of their kandak.  Maj Valquist explained it to them. Then the deputy CG said that he wanted the brie on paper and because it was a combined operation the USMC should provide the plan to him.  Of course its combined, which in his mind was a shortcut for American do all my work for me.  After the meeting I explained to the ANA kadak commander and his staff where we are and how, how wer were going to get were we were going and the distances between their positions (they didn’t know how to tell distance from the map).  I also had a stroll through the Corps CoC almost all of the positions that they had listed for our brigade on their map were incorrect. This would be understandableif they were not getting the information from the brigades, but even information that they had such as the name change of 2/2/215 to 6/1/215 was not correct.  It basically looked as though their map had not been updated in over a year. How are you supposed to plan operations when you don’t know where your own people are?
They also wanted some extra bottled water from us because they had filled one of their fuel tankers with water, the soldiers drank from it and now had diarrhea. 
I met up with Maj James Blitz, had lunch in the Tombstone chow hall with him and the Corps G2A (the G2 is on leave). he was a nice old fellow, he seemed to have a lot of energy, be open to a lot of ideas, but he was pretty noncommittal. I asked him to tell my guys what he wants them to report on (PIRs).  Demand quality from my guys (the 5Ws). Most of all I asked for his help with the manning issues.  He said they would be solved in a week when the new S2 came. Apparently my guy has been transferred to Kabul.
We went back to his room with Maj James Blitz it was really nice and comfortable.  He flipped on some Russian channel that had a sequence of ‘reality’ shows that basically showed soft core porn.  Three nerdy guys would rate Russian girls on their legs, faces, how they looked in bathing suits.  In another show some dude was in an ‘elevator’ with two chicks and they stopped at each ‘floor’ and would be given something by someone that would be used in a sexually suggestive manner (e.g. a bowl of ice cream that was then licked off of the guy.  There was another one where a parade of unattractive dudes were rated and picked out by some hot chicks to go out on a date.  Needless to say the plots were thin, but having field goggles on seeing Russian girls in bikinis was distracting as hell.  Oh well it was all good muslim fun because they weren’t Afghans.
I was also distracted because Maj James Blitz wasn’t talking business. He was just talking to his guy.  He just made it back from Eleave and really has not spent much time here, so he is just getting his feet under him.
I met up with Capt Kim Sengupta the British 3rd brigade mentor for chow.  He seemed like a nice guy and said ‘at least it isn’t just me’ when I told him about some of my problems.

I got a copy of the next iteration of HUMINT source money Form Bs it looks like either my guy came to Shorabak to steal the money while still ‘sick’ or someone forged his signature.  Another 230,000 Afghani, pilfered. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Month 9 Day 18

Notebook Entry
Three Towed vehicles, no fuel, burned out clutch, flat tire, no troops and no contacts, Push to ramrod no return, escorts, improvised explosive device, airstrike, light machine gun, two vehicles return, doctors comments, no card no fuel.

Journal entry
The day actually started with a wake up call at 2300 on the 12th after a sleeping pill and four hours of sleep
We prepped the trucks without incedent tried to head to the Afghan camp but were prevented from usin the gateby the local national rent-a-cops that were guarding Lidnsay.  None of them spoke English, so I spoke to the in dari and told them to call the mericans, they were not able to do that either, they tried to call the Afghan COG by this time I was fed up and went to the BDOC. They admitted that the security guys were a problem, no shit.
We get to the ANA the Major wants  them in two sticks, the fast one with the Amry and the slow mechanical trouble prone ones with the Marines.  We make it so.  Shock despite avin 14 hours with the fuel truck they have nt fueled everything up. They had a couple of negligent discharages to include a SAW going off. They also managed to slip in three vehicles that were being towed despite explicit instructions o trailor them back. We get about a mile down the road wih the second stick and two trucks reak down. One is a dump truck with a burnt out clutch, the other one was a dump truck as wel but it required a wreker to pull it back.
We aren’t even to our first turn in Kandahar when the ANGLICOCO vic says it has a tire puncture that the CTIS can’t keep up with. They turn back.  I try to contact the battlespace owner and they tell me they have no contacts at Qandahar airfield, they had just done a RIP an apparently all institutiona memory is lokst for them during a RIP, our guy are basically one their own.
The Army takes a wrong turn in Qandahar  not a huge deal because it is still early.  I make one wrong turn, try todo a u turn ad the Afghans behid me get ou of their trucks start wandering around an lok exasperated.  I screamed at them in Dari to get back int their trucks, like the could do beer, whatever.
WE passed a couple of major engagements, one with army helos swooping like black flies over some enemy position and destroying it about 2 km south of the road. There wer also a bunh of liht machine  guns marked along th rout on the BFT, it was not a nice morning.
We make it to ramrod ad the second set of escorts are nt ready, we tell the that th Afghans already took off and they bettermake sure they are not shot to hell.  We asked the previous set of escorts to rtrn to pick up our Marine ics in Qandaharo that we could meet the minimum ic requirement.  Their higher told them no.  The major tol the wide-eyed army guys that we weremoving no matter who we pis off with the two vics we have.
Logically this didn’t make much sense the two vics on the othe side of Qandahar could just as easily have ome to us as we go to them, pick them up and return. I realized as much and my Doc said as much. I snapped at the doc and told him that this is what leaders of mries d, there is no way that Maj Valquist was going to let his guys see danger without him being around.  Besides we would get two more chances to dance with the TB.  He quietly said he didn’t want to dance with theTB.  Despit the fear I felt a couple days before, on this occasion, I was excited to go bac, as was the Gunny and so was the major.  This was real bravery.  Going through a wild city wth half the vics you are supposed to have in the middle of the day with no support.  As we moved along though I started to wonder if it was just reckless. Especially driving as we were at 50MPH staying tight on the ass of an ana convoy o foring some vics off the road.
We made It throughgenerally without incedent, just a few more marks on the BFT.
We madeit toKAF and the guys were just getig finished with the trucks, we ried to get fuel for the return, but we didn’t have a fuel card, so they gave me shit and I had to go ccall an army sgt first clas to get JP-8.  Really how disconnected are you from the war when atruck full of stinky Marines roll up in and MRAP askng for gas ad you question their credentials.  The contractors were just doig their jobs, I understand, but if there were less contractors to try to steal fue, then thi wouldn’t be an issue
We had a fantastic lunch at the Movi chow hall sutited up and did th third trip across Qandahar for the day.  Arrived in LNK almost without incedent

our long convoy lined up on the road between Qandahar and Lashkar Gah/Leatherneck

I was told this was a line for job applications
Qandahar streets

The road out of Qandahar to the west

Friday, May 17, 2013

Month 9 Day 17

Notebook Entry

Journal Entry
We were all able to sleep in for a little while today though for some reason my body wouldn’t let me  sleep past 0730. I went to the gym convinced a nice old Russian lady to le me do y laundry same day and then set about the task of trying to contact our escorts.  I tried dsn, svoip, bft, it was all a mess and none of it was working, or wasn’t being monitored. I finally I just looked up bodik ratislav, the Slovak who was our poc for rc sw and let him know my cell phone number.
While was searching around trying to find a sipr phone I ran into some of the 205 corps advisory team staff.  They are structured very similarly to what we are, but there are a lot more countries out here. The anglosphere seems to take thebrunt, there are brits, aussies, and Canadians, but that is about it.
I managed to talk to their legacy guys, as always they were a bunch of lively Brits.  They said that their collectors were doing pretty well, they were still developing a lot of sources in Qandahar proper. They had issues with the hierarchy just like I did. Somebody in their chain made off with all of their source funding as well and bought himself a villa in Kabul. They had similar problems to me with their collectors being turned into provisional riflemen.  Afte the Qandahar prison break the MICO for the 205th corps were manning the guard towers, not out collecting and trying to get information on the guys who had escaped. 
I had lunch with a british sergeant and warrant officer who were involved with running an academy to train senior  Afghan Staff NCOs.  They gave me a different perspective on the unpartnering of the Qalat brigade.  They flatly said that they did not think it was going to work. They had all of the same problems with their ncos that we do with everyone, them trying to get out of training by using prayer time as an excuse when ordinarily they would not pray for days.  Them working from 0930-1100 and 1400-1600 if you are lucky.  Them making up health problems and other reasons not to train.  They see the same problems with literacy.  They bemoan the decision to go with Quantity over quality. On the bright side they were half-way through their six month deployment, ready to take their R&R and at the end they got to look forward to decompression on Cyprus.
 Capt Brawny, Cpl Bryan, and Naikpai are all going to stay back to try to get tractor-trailors for the major end items that are being towed.  The lift is going to come from the USMC, this is not a shock to me because despite what the Major seems to think these army guys don’t give a shit what Marine Generals get pissed off about. Unless its coming down from Gen Petraus, they are not going to give a shit.
I caught up with an army majr who was the 215th corps G-2 advisor. Hwe was knew and didn’t know mch but knew that his guys were not ready to transition. I made link-up with our escors from the 10th mtn division.

I want to talk for a moment about that ied blast the other day.  For the first time in a long time I felt fear, yes real fear as the VC  for the lead truck.  Some people feel exhilarated after near death experiences, and I don’t want to overdratize the ied blast, but it was so very personal, I thought the blst hit my truck, I was checking round to see if all my guys were ok. when we pressed on with me in the lead, I didn’t show the fear to my marines, I didn’t even vocalize it, I did an after acino with them so that they could learn what I did, but later an hour or two later driving down the same stretch of road, I felt fear. I felt I wanted to get out. I felt like this was all so stupid, why were people dedicating their lives to killing me, and why was I dedicated to killing them.  Obiously I knew all of the reasons, I knew the theories I knew their own religion better than them, but at that personal man to man level it just seemed like such a waste. Today when I sat down in the mwr to read the news everything seemed just a little more pale a littlemore trivial.  I didn’t want it to.  I wanted to want things, simple things that make people happy.  I thought of Suzan, she makes me so happy. I felt like thinking about our house, our lives the new experiences that we will have some day that they were just less important.  I hate this feeling.  I wondered to myself what it is all for, why is it all here, what for.  Obviously I know the anthropological and relious explanations, but that blast somehow hit a reset button.  I don’t want to push this down, I don’t want to push it away. I want to understand and that is why I write this.