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.