Sunday, October 29, 2006

CNN Sniper Video

I recently received the following email from the father of a 3/3 Marine that we had served with in Salerno last year. This young Marine along with the entire 3/3 battalion left Afghanistan and after a short break were deployed to Iraq. After 7 months in the An Bar province, they were relieved by the 2/3 Marines and have recently redeployed to their home station in Hawaii.

Recently CNN showed an insurgent video of the sniper killing of an American
soldier in Iraq. The decision by CNN to air the film on national
television was beyond bad judgement. Our anger turned to outrage when we
found out the victim was 2nd Lt. Joshua Booth from 2nd Battalion, 3rd
Marines. Not only are his pregnant wife, child, and parents forced to come
to terms with the death of this twenty-three year old Marine, but they now know
his final moments and violent death has been gratuitously aired for the world to
witness. Bobbye and I know the video could easily have been of Daniel or
any number of Marines we have come to know, since the killing took place in
Haditha, Iraq.

I found CNN's explanation proved to be bland and devoid of
substance. There are any number of guesses as to why CNN chose to air the
insurgent video; however, in my judgement, none are of overriding value. I
am further distressed the video has not been discussed and editorialized to any
degree in the mainstream press. I cannot imagine the WWII press airing
footage sent to them by Nazi Germany or the Imperial Japanese Army depicting the
killing of American soldiers in Europe or Marines on Iwo Jima. I've always
believed the media's support for the troops never went much beyond ratings and
their financial bottom line. 2nd Lieutenant Booth's killing, now aired on
a world stage, reinforces my opinion.

I would ask everyone to consider making a conscious decision to boycott CNN in protest and avail yourselves of another national news source. Further, I would ask you to forward this email to friends and relatives for their consideration.

I have watched this bit of "journalism" when it was aired on CNN International last week and I have to say that it was disturbing at best. Of course it was preceded with all the warnings as to the graphic nature of what was about to be aired and a brief description of the decision process used in producing it. I found both to be lacking. The warnings took on the enticing nature of promotion and the justification was a weak attempt towards public service alluding to the emerging threat of a "new" shift in insurgent tactics in utilizing snipers.

I certainly share this father's outrage but I find CNN's motivations to be a bit different. Maybe it was a function of watching this piece on the international channel rather than with the domestic newscasters but I found the pandering to an anti-U.S. policy sentiment to be blatant and the timing of its release during the run-up to the mid-term elections less than coincidental.

I have to wonder if no other major news outlet aired these video pieces because they didn't have them or because they didn't find them news worthy. If they didn't have them, it leads to the question of how CNN came to possess these insurgent created items and why they would choose CNN to give them to. If everyone had them but only CNN showed them, it baffles me why many will continue to chastise Fox News for a pro-administration bias but proudly hail the credibility of what is fast becoming an American based Al-Jazeera.

My heart and utmost gratitude go out to the Booth family. To the 2/3; Semper Fi and come home safe. Those who truly care know all the good things that you are doing.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I thought of calling this post "Farewell to the Trinity" but I realized I already have a post by that name when 3/3 Marines left Salerno in June last year.

This is not about that Trinity, or even the Holy trinity, but of the other Trinity, Captains Burt, Giera, and Parrish who were 3 of my staff officers throughout the Afghanistan deployment. The other major component of the staff was Captain Mahoney who was the S-3 or simply the "3". SInce Tucker has already left Germany and is currently making his way through the Career Course in Ft. Lee, VA; this is not about the "3" but the "Three"

Two of the "Three" are making their way out of Germany in search of new adventures and I can't help feeling that we have reached the end of an era. Captain Burt will join Tucker at the Career Course before going to better things, maybe in the Army, maybe not. Captain Giera is leaving the Army in favor of a law enforcement job in North Carolina but with one foot inthe Army through the Reserves, we probably haven't heard the last of her either.

What follows is something I threw together for their farewell luncheon the other day:

Unsure of what I’d hear when I stepped through the door
Of my new BC’s office on this eve of war.

Said Langowski to the XO here is your team.
Please don’t worry, they’re not as surly as they seem.

A Captain as a 3 was not meant to be
for he was now a Major And can be of more use in counting containers

A Lieutenant as a 3? How will we get on?
Ah, no worries Ferris Beuhler is made of Teflon.

But this ode is not of that 3 but of those 3
It makes a more interesting story you see.

Your 1 is a star, he said, she smiles all the time,
And assumes all the taskings without whimper or whine.

She’s my number 2 Lieutenant, who could ask for more?
In fact she’s so good, she’s also your 4

Your 2 has potential, for excellence she’ll strive
Given the time she may even learn how to drive.

I fret for the rear so PBUSE must stay
Lest MAJ Roose give all my property away

So downrange for property who else could it be,
Only the third member of the Lieutenant Trinity.

She need only learn PBUSE and the property book ways
She has plenty of time, an entire 3 days.

So off they fly with a mighty whoosh
To transform the land of the Hindu-Kush

Salerno’s not nearly as bad as it seems,
There’s always the bazaar and espresso at the Green Bean

Then the rockets explode with a thunderous roar
So we grab our gear and head for the door

We must have our people we lack only three
Damn those Lieutenants, where the hell could they be?

“We were on a mission of great importance it seems
Swirling green tea with our friend Noor Amin.”

3 months in Salerno and their mission is done
So it’s off to Bagram in search of more fun.

Much of that year now is now lost in a haze
Wondering how those 3 passed their days

The PBO says sir my 1 block you must erase
Though I have not failed my mission, I’ve signed for half the base.

My judgment has been questioned and my career now doomed
For my poor choice in clothing for my Halloween costume.

The S2 says these MP’s are incompetent you see,
Armed only with my knives, I’ll find the detainees

And the 1 keeps smiling irregardless of what’s said
And boldly wades in where Angel fears to tread.

After only a year the Trinity is done
We must go back home for BAF has no more fun.

We came and we worked and have been all we could be
Suffering under TJ, and Dad, and of course STG.

So back to Germany the Triplets fly
Where they meet their friends and all hug and cry

While all good things must end, and these things must be,
Though two are now leaving they are forever the Trinity.

Best of Luck to Kristin and Trish, they will be stars in whatever they decide to do.
It's Official

So we've known for a while that I was going to get promoted, but it's always a long, painful, drawn-out process. First you get selected, then you get a sequence number. Then every month the Army announces what sequence numbers will be promoted. Then you have to actually do the promotion ceremony.

First it was announced that there would be no promotions until October 1st, the beginning of the new fiscal year. Then in September, it was announced that there would be no promotions in October since the list hadn't been confirmed by senate.

Then suddenly on Monday, it was announced that senate had confirmed the promotions as of last Friday and that I was effectively a Lieutenant Colonel as of the 30th of September. Then we had to wait on orders which finally came this morning, then you have to round everyone up and do the actual ceeremony.

At last, all is complete. at 3:00 P.M. this afternoon, Pam ripped the gold oak leaf off my uniform puncehd me in the chest pinning the black leaf on.

Lietenant Colonel at last.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Coming to America

And the winner is........St. John's University!!!!

We received word today that I have been selected as the new Professor of Military Science for St. John's University in (wait for it).....Queens, New York.

Considering that the selection rate to become a Professor of Military Science at all was 15% (51 selected out of more than 300 applicants) we are very excited to know that we will be coming to America in true Eddie Murphy fashion.

More to follow.....
Sideways Through Deutschland

In our constant effort to keep our minds averted from the fact that our fate, future assignment, and our location for the next 3 years is dangling tediously with the Army's Professor of Military Science board in Washington, we decided to vacate the area and occupy our minds elsewhere.

As we are entering the wine fest season here in Germany, we took a look a the local paper and found all the villages that were showing wine fests this weekend, plotted them on the GPS and did our best imitation of the movie "Sideways" travelling from winerey to winery along the Deutsch Wein Strasse.

Starting in the south and moving north along the Rhein river, we stopped at no less than 6 wineries tasting their various offering and buying the ones that tickled our fancy. By 3 P.M. we had enough bottles to fill our new winerack but that didn't keep us from stopping at the vineyard owner who was plying his wares in front of his neatly ordered rows of grapes in a stand next to the road.

Brian and Pam: Guten Tag

Herr Boos (I swear that's his name): Guten tag

Brian and Pam: Ich Sprechen Kein Deutsch (I speak no German)

Herr Boos: Nicht? (None?)

Brian and Pam: Nicht.

Herr Boos gesturing to his wares: Probe? (taste)

Brian and Pam pointing to a particular bottle: Ja Bitte (Yes Please)

Herr Boos continuing to speak in German: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Kaisersluatern, blah, blah, blah. (This is a particularly vile wine that we just we just squished with our dirty feet this morning. It contains leaves, stems, seeds, and a few rat turds, but you will taste it and buy a few bottle, take it back to Kaiserslautern and drink it because you know less than my dog about choosing wine.)

Brian and Pam: Ja, Ja. Is Gut. Ich Mochte Zwei das, und Zwei das, und Eins das. (Yes, Yes, it's good. I'd like two of these, two of these, and one of these.)
And off we go further down the wine strasse.

Ok, that might not be exactly what Herr Boos said, in fact the wine was very good.
So we eventually found ourselves at a wine fest in Bad Durkheim linked arm in arm with more Germans that spoke no English, weaving back and forth to the sound of German folksongs.

All in all, it was a good trip "Sideways" through Deutschland.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same

Well, I suppose it's time that I started writing again.

Pam and I have been back in Germany since April now, and it's been an experience of extremes. This seems to be a place that you alternately love and hate or even sometime simultaneously. There seems to be no middle ground. We love our house, but the neighbors are psychotic. The weather went from 2 solid weeks of rain to 3 solid weeks of intense heat then back to rain. We're ready to leave, but we want to stay.

We did get to experience the World Cup here in Germany, an experience to remember, culminated by a trip downtown where we joined tens of thousands of fans watching Germany take on Portugal for 3rd place. Truly an experience to remember.

The 4th of July weekend found us in Bavaria checking the "I went to Germany" block of visiting Mad King Ludwig's castles followed by a short jaunt through Austria and a night in Garmisch.
We also made the journey back to Bastogne in Belgium and were able to walk the grounds of Foy, Noville, and Rachamps which were immortalized in "Band of Brothers" (watch episodes 7 and 8).

  1. We have a number of things we are looking forward to in the next few months:
    I have submitted all the applications to compete for a Professor of Military Science position beginning next summer. The board meets near the end of this month with the results expected by the 1st of September. We're waiting on pins and needles for this one as it will hopefully tell us where we will be for the next 3 years.
  2. Simon and Schuster is set to release "The Blog of War" on September 5th. Several of the posts from this blog are included in that book and we are looking forward to seeing them in print. More importantly, most of the proceeds are being donated to the Fisher House. Please take a few few minutes to order your copies. They are very compelling stories, the nature of which you will not find in any other format and the proceeds will be doing worlds of good.
  3. We received word last month that I had been selected for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and with any luck should be able to pin on the silver oak leaves by October.

So now I find myself back at the 21st Theater Support Command working the same job I was before my diversion to the 191st and Afghanistan. it seems a little surreal now to think of all that has happened over the past 18 months and while the memories and heartache fade with time, I find myself making a concerted effort to keep them as a constant companion and reminder of our other comrades who are still there or headed that way. Our Son in Law Alan is toughing out his last couple of months in Baghdad, as is Brian Moore who I worked with at 21st before. My buddy Scott from the unit in Colorado Springs is set to head back that way soon, and Lance Corporal Daniel Wiesen who was with us in Salerno last year is now finishing up a subsequent tour to Haditha, Iraq.

These are just the ones that spring to mind immediately, but the chartered DC-10s that regularly fly overhead on their way in and out of Ramstein serve as constant reminders that there are still many of our comrades far from home and in harm's way who require our daily prayers

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Regarding Dean Berry,

This is the comment that Rev.(???) Dean Berry left on my previous post:


Well, God Bless Dean Berry and his demostrative abilities in showing that the 1st amendment applies to all Americans regardless of political viewpoint, Messianic Complex, historical ignorance, or mental capacity.

Rest assured Mr. Berry that I would never remove your comment from my blog. This is not because I have any concerns about my manhood. Nor is it only because I truly do believe in free speech and consequently have never removed any comments (spammers withstanding). It is also because I find it entertaining to know that your lunatical ravings do more to promote a conservative agenda than I ever could.

There are not enough hours in the day to point out all the faslehoods, misinterpretations, and misguided points of view in the website that you referred my readers to, nor would I care to attempt to engage you in a battle of wits since I do not believe in fighting the unarmed.

I will leave you with this though, and I write this only because I care, but your repeated questioning of the manhoods of those who may disagree with you leads readers to believe that it's a reflective behavior masking your own insecurities. There are prescriptions and therapies that can help.

P.S. There's no oil in Afghanistan

Sunday, March 26, 2006

And Now, Get On With Your Life

So where were we before being so rudely interrupted? It seems for the first time that we have changed while the world around us has remained relatively the same instead of the other way around. While a few new stores and restaurants have popped up around our home in Colorado Springs since I was last here, the place still looks virtually as I remembered it over the past year in Purgatory. While the environment has remained constant my perspective seems to have changed. It doesn't seem to bother me when someone cuts me off in traffic or the overworked and underpaid waitress forgets to bring the hash browns. There are more important things in life worthy of indignation. Even the simple treat of being able to look at the mountains through clear air rather than the dust and smoke of Bagram is enough to bring a smile.

Today is our last day in Colorado for a while as we will soon be headed to DIA for a non-stop to Frankfurt this afternoon. The month has gone by so fast. There have been days and evenings with the neighbors and family, trips to the mountains, Colorado Avalanche game, and hundreds of other normal activities that I just can't take for granted any longer. The highlight of the trip though was the wedding.

On Friday, March 17th, St. Patrick'sricks Day, our daughter Mollie married her fiance Alan at the Peterson Air Force Base Chapel. It was a fairy tale wedding that seemed to go Without flaw with my father conducting the ceremony and friends and family from all over the country in attendance. The reception at the Officer's Club was then followed by a Hooley (a loud and boisterous Irish party) at the house which was an overwhelming success. While there was a decidedly unfortunate turn of events a few days later, it was a flawless day that was the crown jewel of our time at home.

So soon it will be back to work and all the routine tasks that we seem to fill our days with, but while the train of life keeps rolling down the track with unvarying speed, we certainly seem to be enjoying the view more.
A Toast to Mollie and Al

I had a little while to work on this toast that I gave at Mollie and Al's wedding.

"First, I'd like to thank everyone for coming today, I know it means a lot to Mollie and Al, and it certainly means a lot to us that you would take the time and effort to be here to share this occasion with us today.

I don't want to steal any of the best man's thunder here but I've got a couple of things to say. I asked Mollie and she said it would be okay so..well I didn't really ask her, I just told her I was going to do it and she was alright with it..which was kind of a moot point because I was going to do it anyway.

A couple of months ago when Mollie asked me if I would walk her down the aisle along with her father I said 'Sure, I'd be honered.', and I didn't give it a second thought. A little while later though, I mentioned it to one of my staff officers and she said 'I don't know Sir, that sounds a little, well, gay.'

I said 'Gay, what are you talking about?'
She said 'Well, think about it Sir, 'My name's Mollie, and these are my two dads. This is my biological dad, and this is my other dad.'
Well thank you so much for that image, but when you put it that way it does sound a little gay. So, Gary, if you're getting any strange looks around here Big Guy, that's probably why. But, I said I would do it so at the risk of having my hetrosexuality called into question, I did this for you.

Seriously, I was honered to walk Mollie down the Aisle today along with her father, and I'll tell you why. You see, about ten years ago, I found myself in what Dante described as the 'dark wood, the true path having been lost.' Regardless of anything else I had done, I had been an absolute failure as both a husband and a father. I was making my way through life day to day without any inspiration or motivation. Then one day, I came home, and there sitting on the front porch was my redemption.

That's been 10 years Pam. It's been a long road from there to here, and that journey has brought us so many wonderful times that we have been ecstatic to share with those around us, like today. It has also brought us some extremely difficult times that we have had to lean on each other very heavily to get through, but I wouldn't trade a minute of it. I call Pam my redemption because she gave me the second opportunity to be a good husband, and I tahnk God every day for that and for her.

Along with Pam though, came Sarah, and Matthew, and Michael and Kristin, my little buddy Max over there, and of course Mollie, and therein, the second opportunity to be a good parent.
Now Mollie knew this, and she was determined to make me earn this title of "Good Parent". She managed to squeeze enough parent/child anxiety and drama to last a lifetime into a few short years. Now I know that all of you are looking at her right now and thinking 'She looks like a princess, what kind of drama could she possibly cause?' I knew that you would think that, so I brought along these index cards with some examples. Here's the time that Mollie wrecked her car on the way to work. Here's the time that she wrecked her car on the way home from work, quite a feat since she only lived two blocks from work. Here's something about a rocking chair, and...this is going to take too long so I'll just leave these cards up here and you can go through them on your own.

Seriously, I was honered to do this for her today because I know that when Mollie asked me, she was telling me that I had indeed earned that title of 'good parent'.

Now I would like to stand here and wish for Mollie and Al that all good things in life fall at your feet and that joy and happiness folow you for the rest of your days, but I'm not going to because it doesn't happen that way. It's work, a lot of hard work, and it's even harder when your in the military which as of today, you both are.

What I will wish for you though is the challenge to grow a little closer together each day, and to find new ways to love each other every day. I will wish you the opportunity to one day, years from now, look at each other and realize that when you first saw each other you were looking at true love.

So if you will raise your glasses with me, to Mollie and Al, to challenges and opportunities, and to true love."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Were you ever Afraid?

I have been drunk now for over two weeks, I passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks. -Jimmy Buffet -

After two weeks in Germany completing the mandatory reintegration tasks and various administrative functions I found myself at Frankfurt International Airport waiting for the 10 hour non-stop flight that would take me to Denver and finally re-unify me with the other half of my soul.

Scanning the departure board for my flight I was suddenly struck by one of the many stark differences between the civilized world and the war zone. In contrast to the past 14 months of fighting, bartering with, and coniving the Air Force for rare seats on flights from Purgatory to Hades which may or may not depart at the whim of the flight crew, I was overwhlemed by the steadily clicking board indicating dozens of flights departing frequently and punctually to Rome, Amsterdam, New York, Paris, and other destinations all over the world. I thought about how I had whisked over the 100 or so kilometers of autobahn to the airport in a under an hour and recalled how we had waited days for Jingle trucks to struggle over Afghan roads for the same distance. It occured to me that it hadn't been so much a geographical move of a few thousand miles that I had undertaken in early February as an advancement through time of a few centuries.

Even in the 21st century world of civilian aviation, our Lufthansa 747 didn't depart as scheduled, but the time was made up enroute and we slid on to the DIA's runway as scheduled 9 hours later. After waiting what seemed a veritable eternity for my lone checked bag to materialize, I made my way to the customs agent.

"What countries have you visited since leaving the U.S. on this trip?" asked the agent without looking up.

I wanted to laugh.

"Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, and Germany."
The agent peered up at me over her glasses


I displayed my ID card.

"Welcome Home." she said with a smile handing back my passport.

When I finally stepped through the doors to the terminal, I was promptly charged by Max with Pam only a step behind where hugs, kisses and tears that had been reserved for 7 months finally poured out.

When we could finally move again, we walked only a few feet more into the terminal where cheers erupted from my immediate and extended family who had seemingly occupied the entire north end of DIA by force with flags and banners. Two Denver PD officers were drawn by the commotion and started asking a couple of questions only to find that one of these men in blue had been one of my instructors while I was a ROTC cadet back in college. The retirement lifestyle had not agreed with the old Master Sergeant and after a short stint with the Sheriff's department had convinced DPD that his talents were being wasted and has been wearing that uniform ever since. Quite a feat seeing that I graduated college in the 80's.

There was a quick dinner with the family at the Cherry Cricket so I could remember what a smothered green chile burrito is supposed to taste like, then finally back home.

The days since have been filled with wedding plans, train rides to and from Glenwood Springs, hockey games, multiple taste tests to ensure they haven't changed the recipies for Guiness and Fat Tire, and a lot of doing nothing.

During one of these moments of doing nothing when Pam and I were sitting on the front porch watching the sun set over Pikes Peak she suddenly asked me if I had ever been afraid. The answer; the honest answer; was 'yes', but not when someone looking from the outside might have thought. The fear hadn't come when riding in Blackhawks or Chinooks over inhospitable terrain, or when crouched in concrete bunkers with rockets exploding around us. I remember that I genuinely felt the cold touch of fear on my heart while staring into the absolute blackness of a Salerno night and realizing that that darkness held people close at hand that wanted to kill me. Having grown up in the security of America's borders, this thought had been only an abstraction to me as I'm sure it is to most Americans.

I had thought back to another night nearly 4 years earlier when I had felt fear of what the darkness held. I had watched the horrific events of September 11th on the large screen TVs at the Merrill Lynch Campus in South Denver and had felt the same shock, horror, and disbelief that each of us did. Driving home that night though, I had crested the top of an exit ramp on the far eastern edge of the Denver metropolitan sprawl when I had been struck by the absoluteness of the dark. From where I sat that night, I should have seen the lights of dozens of planes either landing or departing from DIA but instead there was just the suffocating blackness of an empty sky. It was the first tangible evidence that I had seen of that day's events and I had been horrified at what the darkness held.

So now as I find myself in a supermarket aisle standing in awe of the hundreds of choices of deodorant or cereal that I have, my mind drifts back to thoughts of Afghan children selling trinkets outside the Bagram gate or of throwing bundles of supplies to beleagured families in the mountains of Pakistan and I realize how fortunate I am.

It is not though, until I think of the my comrades still half a world away standing in an absolute blackness that holds people close at hand who wish them harm; knowing that they continue to stand there so that you and I may never again share that feeling here at home, that I realize how truly blessed I am.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Willkommen in Deutschland

Finally back in Germany. After loading the plane, which the Air Force made a 6 hour process of, we flew for 7 hours finally hitting the ground at 8:30 P.M. German time on Monday. The obligatory handshake with the General getting off the plane was followed by the customs inspection then meeting with the unit reps where after a year of carrying it around, I was disencumbered of my 9mm. There was a reception at Rhine Ordnance Barracks where the families would finally get to see their long lost spouses and parents, but with Pam still waiting for me in Colorado for a couple of weeks, I opted to secure a ride straight from Ramstein to the house where, God bless them, our landlords had turned on the heat, and stocked the fridge with a few morsels and some beer. The food will last a while, the beer is gone.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

On Flying

Pam loves to fly.

She hates the chaos of airports with the parking, security, rude people, long lines, and waiting, but she loves to fly, and the take-off is her favorite part. She could be running late through heavy traffic to DIA, not be able to find a parking spot within the same county as the terminal, be in line through security behind the guy that has to strip down through his first 3 layers of skin to get through the metal detectors, and be seated in the center seat in the middle a section reserved for insomniac toddlers, but when the plane turns onto the end of the runway, the pilot opens the throttles, and she is pushed back in her seat, hardly able to contain herself, she never fails to turn to me with a beaming smile normally seen on children taking their first carnival ride.

I know exactly how she feels.

Last night, our C-17 turned onto the end of the Bagram runway, the cabin lights went dark, and then with brakes holding us fast, the massive engines roared up to full throttle. Suddenly the brakes were released and I was jolted back in my seat as the mammoth aircraft lurched down the runway. A moment later we rotated into I am sure was a space shuttle like trajectory, and at 14:45 Dublin Pub Time I left Afghanistan soil for the last time.

I know I'll be in Kyrygzstan (sp?) for a few days, and I know it will still seem like an eternity before I see Pam or German beer yet, but at 14:45 DPT last night, I was thankful for the darkened cabin so no one could see me with the smile of a child on his first carnival ride and tears in my eyes.

Monday, January 30, 2006


If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

But make allowance for their doubting too,


I suppose that the reason you area reading more and more of the politics of the GWOT here than before is that it is a function of where we are in the deployment cycle.  Our time remaining here is in the single digits now and I think it is normal that when you reach a juncture such as this, you cast a retrospective glance at the things you have both accomplished and endured.


If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated, don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:


Looking back down the path that I have followed over this past year and remembering the places that journey has taken me and people I have met there, it causes the emotions to run deep.  I see monumental challenges and Herculean achievements; I see pain and devastation along with empathy and sacrifice. I see victories in the eyes of a child, and losses in a flag covered casket.


If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,

If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;


More than that though, I see heroes and patriots.  Volunteers all, brought together from all walks of life for any manner of reason for this common purpose.  Together they have achieved accomplishments of epic proportions for a noble and righteous cause only to be slighted by uninformed, self-important misanthropes who have apparently been deprived, or deprived themselves, of the intellectual capacity necessary to grasp the elusive concept of selfless sacrifice.


If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:


I do feel a bit of pity for those that will revile our involvement in this conflict for many years to come, particularly those who have been able to view it from a detached position of ignorance solely through the media.  This pity is born out of the knowledge that after years of standing firm on their misinformed beliefs, they will one day awaken to the knowledge that their personal values and convictions never demanded the sacrifice of body and soul for something larger than their own personal well-being.  Though reviled by some now, my comrades and I will pass the remainder of our days with the peace of knowing that when our nation cried out, we were there while others will always wonder of the ability to risk all they have and all they are for an ideal larger than themselves.


If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss;


The pity for these people will take a back seat though to the empathy I feel for those that will follow me here.  I will empathize with their feelings of isolation and abandonment; with their desperate longings for family and home; with their cursing of the seemingly interminable passing of time; and with their overarching sense of duty which will not allow the mission to fail.


If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"


I also know that I will rejoice with them as they approach the place I currently occupy, with their mission completed and both reunifications and celebrations days and hours away.  I will remember the satisfaction they will feel for their accomplishments, secure in their knowledge that they have done all that was asked of them, appreciated or not; a satisfaction formed from sacrifice that can be neither inflated by compliment nor diminished by disparagement


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much,


From where I stand now, these are the things that I see looking both forward and back down the road that I travel, but for today it is enough to know of you few who will read this and say “Well done Soldier, it’s time to come home.”


If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!


--Rudyard Kipling

Saturday, January 28, 2006

An Open Letter to Arianna Huffington

Now I normally don't let the simpering drivel of the left wing bother me too much, but a column regarding the stability of Afghanistan by Arianna Huffington showed up in Stars and Stripes the other day and it is so far off the mark that it demands a response.  So I hope you will indulge my politicizing this blog for a post.


Dear Ms. Huffington,


Ms. Huffington, your January 9th column is not only grossly misleading, it is irresponsible.  Clearly relying on skewed and second-hand information it draws false conclusions to support your myopic political perspectives.


While it’s true that there are severe problems with Afghanistan’s infrastructure to include severe electrical shortages and a sputtering economy, these are problems that pre-dated the toppling of the Taliban and all these problems are exceptionally less severe now than they were then.


You indicate that Sen. Hagel is courageous his criticism of the president, the courage of which escapes me since it seems to be the national pastime, but he lends nothing to support his claim that Iraq is “sucking the oxygen out of [Afghanistan]”.  In the past year that I have been in Afghanistan I have never been short the resources required to accomplish the mission at hand and certainly have never been told, “Sorry, you can’t have that, we need it for Iraq”.  Just because the media and hence the American population as a whole may have lost focus on Afghanistan, doesn’t mean the military has and to make people believe that is the case is irresponsible at best.


Ironically, in the same paragraph that you accuse the president of a “numerical cavalcade” you yourself skew the casualty numbers beyond recognition when you claims nearly 100 U.S service members lost to the Taliban led insurgency.  First, while there were 99 U.S. service members lost in Afghanistan in 2005, 33 of them were due to non-hostile related causes. ( )  Of the 66 who died as a result of hostility, at least 30 were in eastern Afghanistan in or near the Kunar province region.  This is important because it points out the ignorance of your professed knowledge of the Afghanistan conflict.  The Taliban is a fanatical organization based on Muslim Extremism.  It is, however, a culturally significant portion of the Afghan population and as such is, in part and parcel, being offered a piece of the political restructuring of this country much as the Sunni muslims are in Iraq.  Violence at the hands of the Taliban is historically centered around their religious center of gravity in the Kandahar region in Southern Afghanistan.  The vast majority of the hostility in the Eastern Afghanistan is at the hands of foreign fighters.  These are not insurgents, they are terrorists who infiltrate this coutry from across the Pakistan border.  There is a vast difference.


Your tirade on the reduction of both aid and troops to Afghanistan is anathema to your attempted conclusion of a faltering U.S.policy here.  The number of troops in Afghanistan is dropping because responsibility is being handed over to the NATO led ISAF.  50% of the country is already under ISAF control and within a few months it will be 75%.  Of course the amount of aid is being decreased, it is inversely proportionate to the international community’s increase in support.  Walk down the street at Bagram Airfield or sit in any one of the dining facilities and you will see French, German, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Polish, Romanian, Slovakian, and Korean troops as well as those from a host of other countries.  The Chinese are rebuilding roads to the east, the Germans have control of the northern regions,Jordan still runs a hospital in the north, Spain and Italy have control in the west, and Canadians will soon be moving into the south. This is what it looks like when the job is nearing completion and is being handed over.


It sounds, Ms Huffington, as though is disappointed that we are completing the mission here and getting out since you will have less ammunition to sling at the Bush Administration.  Glad to disappoint.


I am similarly confounded by your lambasting of the President for taking a “hands-off” approach to the alleged drug kingpins in the recently elected parliament.  I can only ask what you would have written if the Bush Administration had directed the removal of duly elected Afghan members of parliament in the first free election in more than 30 years.    It is not a surprise to me that your cited source of information is Newsweek, the same publication that caused riots across this country and were responsible for 16 civilian deaths with their flawed story on the desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay.  Remember, these are the people who have unbridled access to the Taliban leadership and will not share their information with the military because they are journalists before they are Americans.


Of all the mis-statements and half-truths in this column though, the thing that is most indicative of your flawed perspective is the last sentence.  Let me see if I understand this.  If we keep troops in a combat zone we are in a quagmire, an unwinnable war.  If we pull troops out, we are cutting and running.  Make up your mind, you can’t have it both ways.  How about this: we keep troops in the combat zone until they are no longer required and then pull them out as their mission is completed.


Afghanistan is a success story Ms. Huffington.  Do the research next time before you try to spin something that clearly doesn’t have the legs to reach your objective.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Stockholm Syndrome

There was a phenomenon that I read about when soldiers were due to rotate out of Vietnam that for some reason they couldn't bring themselves to get on the airplane.  I imagine it to be something similar to Stockholm Syndrome where hostages begin to develop symathy for their captors, or what was described as "institutionalization" in The Shawshank Redemption" where paroled prisoners had become so familiar with life in prison that they couldn't adjust to living as a free person.


Whatever you call it, I can certainly relate to it now.  With the end of our rotation here just beyond our fingertips, I seem to be looking at this country through a different prism seeing and appreciating its beauty in ways I never thought possible before.  It is a stark, harsh beauty where the richness lies in it's simplicity rather than its complexity or texture, but I have found that I can now appreciate it for what it is rather than despise it for what it's not. 


The mountains surrouding Bagram are now completely covered with snow and their appearance is more rugged than even the most isolated high country of my native Colorado.  The sunrises are magnificent quickly trancending the spectrum from midnight and slate blues through crimsons and deep oranges before the western mountain tops are finally illuminated with golden rays of sun.


While I will miss these sunrises along with the vivid starry nights that precede them and I will miss the simplicity of the life that the Afghan people lead with their methodical, unassuming ways; I have not succumbed the Stockholm Syndrome or "Institutionalization".  The list of things that I will not miss about this place is far longer and the list of people and things that I have missed so much for the past year is longer still.


I can relate more with Morgan Freeman's character in Shawshank as he rides the bus towards Mexico.  I am so excited that I can barely hold a thought in my head.


So while I will still appreciate the Afghan night sky, It brings me more joy to know that I will be home before the moon is full again.


Friday, January 13, 2006

God Speed Renegades

When you live at one end or the other of Bagram Airfield, you are awakened at some very odd hours by the noise of various and sundry aircraft conducting maintenance runs on their engines, pre-flight checks, or most notably, C-17s performing a short field take-off (consisting of running all the engines to full power while standing on the brakes) or reversing their engines in order to stop before over running the end of the runway and drifting into a minefield.  Regardless of the aircraft or the procedure, it takes a little while to get used to all the noise and develop the ability to sleep through it.  We used to find it very irritating and were thoroughly convinced that both the Air Force and the Marines intentionally scheduled their flight times more around the sleeping times of soldiers rather than those requisite to mission support.


This morning though, at roughly 0045 Dublin Pub Time, as we were vainly trying to squeeze out those last few Zs, I heard the rumble of a C-17 running up it's engines then felt the slight tremble of Stalag 17 as the behemoth aircraft lumbered off Afghan soil and pointed itself in the direction of the Hindu Kush.  Even though I was now fully awake and had abandoned all thoughts of the snooze button, I find myself smiling rather than cursing the Evil Flight Planing Voo-Doo Witchdoctor because I knew that the 1st contingent of our battalion was on it's way back home.  It will still take a few days and there will be multiple legs to their trip, but the Renegades of the  26th Quartermaster Company have completed their roatation and have headed home albeit with a couple of hitchhikers most notably, SPOXO Minor, Jeff Knight.


I apologize again for the posts becoming fewer and further between, but aside from handing off our mission to our successors, cleaning up quarters, mailing excess baggage, and trying to retain some semblance of mission focus there has been very little to write about.


This is an exciting time though.  We have weathered the difficult separation from family and friends through the Christmas holidays and now there is an air of anticipation.  We are beginning to feel like school kids cleaning out their lockers and waiting for the final bell before summer vacation.


I'm not sure how many more posts I am going to find the time to write before I leave Afghnistan in the rear-view mirror so I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers who have stuck with us through this past year.  Thank you for all the thoughts and prayers, for the care packages and cards, and for all the kind comments.  All these things have meant the world to us over the past year and I can't thank you enough.


I hope to have a few more posts up over the next few weeks, but in the event that I don't, I hope everyone will be understanding if the next post you read here is written under the influence of German beer.