Friday, May 10, 2013

Month 9 Day 10

Notebook Entry
Unis Leave passengers, fuel for leave passengers, size of Army, LtCol Office, Ghaznavids, Women, no field walls, beautiful and [illegible] thumbs up, CFC 9wk training program. No squad platoon level training failed validation

Journal Entry
One thing that I forgot to mention from yesterday was the size of the army LTCs office on Hero (the small CF base on Vulcan, the cf part of the ANA base). He said that his partner really would not like to come speak to him unless he had an office the size of the one that he had. I had to think that this was one of the instances where his behavour mirrored and probably reinforced that of the afghans. They would see the large coffee table and the several leather couches as conformation that what they were doing was correct.

I also forgot to mention yesterday that I saw my [first] woman’s face. She was about 70 and she looked like leather. Unlike Helmand where all of the women melt to the ground as you pass by the women in these provinces, though still fully burqa-clad, continued to walk to their destinations.

We went from Vulcan (ANA) to Ghazni (Polish) to FOB Blackhorse (in Kabul) overall the trip was uneventful in the best of all possible ways.

In the morning we left the polish base and drove he three miles up the road to the ANA base. The afghans at the HQ were giving Unis our Afghan platoon leader shit. As I suspected, because with order said that they were only required to provide him with chow, that was all that they were going to provide him with. If we wanted to get them fuel, then we would need to take a bunch of the guys who want to go on leave with us to Kabul. They were to scared to travel the route without coalition support even though based on the sigact [Significant Activity} study that I pulled before we left the route was not inordinately dangerous. There were ana {Afghan National Army], polish and us army posts nearly every kilometer. Anyway, the major said ok and they attached two vehicles to the end of the convoy.

On the route up we passed some of the ruins of the Ghanznavid empire they walls and towers, even in their decrepit state were quite impressive. It must have been an amazing civilization. I need to look it up and try to jog my memory about some of the other things that we did. Capt Nowak kind of mocked me, he said I was the ‘duece, navigator, and tour guide’ to which the major added ‘scholar.’ I do wish that I had been in the turret for parts of today it would have been much easier and nicer to take photos.

After we got out of Ghazni one of the other differences between this part of the country and Helmad struck me. There were no walls around the fields. The fields were in nice neat rows and I even saw one that was terraced. Clearly, people had put some work into these things, but they didn’t feel the need to put up walls. I wonder if there is just enough trust and social capital that they don’t feel the need.

I had this great theory yesterday about trees, tenure crops, Nawa’s on houses and the lack of enemy activity, then we drove through Sayeed Abad, this is really a beautiful stretch of country. Some of the trees are tall like the ones that lines the road to Russell Crowe’s villa in Gladiator. Some were lower and looked like they would bear fruit in their season. There were about 4 different shades of green that I appreciated all the more because there is so little green in Helmand, just shades of brown. Anyway, I make my way through Sayeed Abad, and it is beautiful, picturesque and has all of the hallmarks that I described yesterday, and it is the most dangerous thing on our route. We are even held up for a minute on the road by the Army guys blowing an IED in place about 1km ahead of us. Oddly though, when we drive by we get a lot of thumbs up from the people in the town. Maybe my theory is right, but the fighters here are just from outside the area, maybe my theory is just shit

We drove through Kabul and just about 20min outside of the city-proper, just as we moved into RC(C) I saw the first women in just a niqab, not the full burqa. They were moving to and from school it seemed. This was as disappointing as it was heartening. After 11 years, this small enclave, just outside of the capital, a place that never really embraced the TB [Taliban] to begin with, this is all that women can do. Why are we here? Are we making this place any better for 50% of the population or are we keeping in place a bunch of male dictators, just like we are setting up little petty military dictatorships?

Kabul itself was a really odd city. None of the construction really changed. It was all still mud hut, but some of the huts climbed straight up the really steep hills around the city. That was really odd. The city was also a funny mix of old and new. There were 20-somethings in western garb, there were some nice new vehicles and some blacked out bulletproofed armored suburbans that the US civilians drive around in. Then there were herds of goats crossing the road or herds of cattle, really incongruous. The ride through the city was a bit of a tense time for me. I had already navigated it on Google and goten all of the CPs [Checkpoints] down cold, but my nav[igation] route wasn’t working the way I wanted it to on my BFT [Blue Force Tracket] and my heart really started going fast.

We get to CFC the base is really nice, kind of like tombstone, it is a CF enclave on an Afghan base. There are French, Germans, Aussies, Americans all running around the place. It has everything that you could need, but in a really confined, nice package. They are up here to field units. They get guys mostly out of basic training for soldiers, NCOS [Non Commissioned Officers] or officers. Put them together in a unit and run that unit through a 9 week training process. The first couple of weeks are individual skills and the subsequent weeks are small unit skills. This is all pretty standard stuff as far as training goes, but they never progress beyond the squad level. You can understand the trouble with trying to field a kandak [Afghan Battalaions abour 1000 soldiers] when all you have is squad leaders [trained to lead about 13 soldiers]. Even then, that is not enough time. They say that they encourage all of the Corps to give them an additional two months of training prior to putting them in combat. Most Corps, like our own, ignor this and put them into combat anyway.

Our kandak seems to be having some troubles. None of the officers showed up for the planning exercise portion of their validation and thus they have a make-up tomorrow. They are al[s]o short 25 drivers. There is a real possibility that this could get shifted to the right.

Kudos to the Aussies though, there are a bunch of them up here and they describe their role as Quality Control. That is, they make sure that all of the coalition partner mentors are not going off the rails. They are trying to prevent the blind leading the blind problem.

There is a big and tall guy WO DJ Drummond who said without any prompting that the ConOps [Concept of Operations Plan] was very impressive. Capt Nowak was obviously annoyed at this. Oh well.


Panorama from our Polish FOB

Ruins of the Ghaznavid Empire

Note the small Nawa on the top of the compound wall that is apparently a mark of civilization as compared to Helmand Province

No IED holes in the roads

Trees and no fences, social trust?

a stop outside Kabul

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