Hello everyone from cold and beautiful Afghanistan where the weather changes from day to day like (some) people change their underwear. Shall I begin my story? I shall.
This is our first mission out to our training area without 2 of our men. SGT N. and SPC W. have been pulled off our team to start a new team in Jalalabad (J-bad)
This week was mainly spent getting ready to start our training the ABP. We have been waiting to go to the border to train those soldiers but since we have been snowed in from going to the border (over 4 feet of snow there) we have been preparing a training schedule of what we are going to train and mentor the ABP on. We met with the ABP commander Col Bismillah. We met with him and told him that we are going to start training the ABP this week. We told him that we are going to go down the hill to the ABP HQ in Chawney to start training his men. We tell them that we are going to start training them on Wednesday. We plan to train 6-8 men at a time and then rotate those men back and forth until the whole Battalion (156 men) are trained and then start other training. Yes, some soldiers can’t come to the HQ and we know this and plan to train them in the springtime. At least we can get some training done.
Wednesday comes along and it is snowing like a blizzard outside. No training this day because of the snow. On this day we learn that there is a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for road work to start on the one and only road to the border. This is going to take approximately 4-6 weeks. Since there has been word of a bad guy in the area, we set up a cordon around the area and pull security for the ceremony. There are several high-position men at this ceremony. We figure what kind of idiot would schedule road work in the middle of winter. Here’s why. Ok, back in the United States with a groundbreaking ceremony there is a huge ceremony and then construction starts a few weeks later. Well, the ceremony takes place and then people start working on the road right then and start clearing the ice and snow from the road. The road is now cleared of all the snow and it is not too bad. I forget how far the road work will take but I think they are going to a town called Kotgay (Ko-t-gay) and they will stop there. This is about a 25-minute drive. It is here where you take a left and go to Spina Shegha or go straight and go to the Pakistan Border. This is where we really need to go to do some training but have been unable to because of the snow. Remember, this is at >9000 feet elevation.
Ok, we are all pulling security for the meeting and then since that is all that we can do now, we go back to the FOB and work on things there. We work on the training schedule and have a class on IED’s. It is a good class and believe it or not, it is the first IED class that we’ve had since being in the country. In this part of the country, IED’s are not common but becoming more common. The bad guys do not want to wait for a convoy to come along and then ambush us so they sit IED’s out instead. I’ve had 1 good buddy killed by an IED and 1 buddy blown up, but lived by these nasty things. It is a good class.
Ok, today we went and trained the ABP on the schedule that we made out. We plan on training them on 1 task a day. Today was weapons safety and engaging targets as well as assemble/disassemble the AK-47. We teach them the basics of their weapons since most of them have only fired their weapons at their version of Basic Training. We teach them about how to clear a weapon, misfeeds, muzzle orientation, loading, unloading, and engaging targets. I am amazed at how well and fast they learn. I notice that after a short hands-on period (5 minutes) they are teaching each other what we have taught them. We ask them to take apart their weapons and they do it and for them, this is a lot. One mentions that he can take several weapons down. I just do not get it. These men are very proud and very smart soldiers but people do not take the time to properly train them and work with them. I’ve heard them called all sorts of names but that is because most people do not take the time to properly train them and work with them hands-on. That is why I love this mission of being an ETT (Embedded Training Team). We get to work with them and train with them, eat with them and mentor them closely. If anyone has a chance to come here and do this mission, DO IT! Of course, this is not all the training they get but we train them for a few hours and then break for lunch.
We break for lunch and then we go back down after lunch and work with them some more of what they learned this morning. While some men do this, the Major and I go inside and talk with the commander about our training outline that we would like to emplace and work on. COL Bismillah has been with the ANA (Afghan National Army), ANP (Afghan National Police) or ABP (Afghan Border Patrol) for over 27 years. He is a very smart commander and even though we have not asked him for some information yet, he already has it. We are trying to get a good count on the weapons and ammo that each place and each person has. This was not done by the previous commander. The COL has this information already as we do too. This may seem natural to us but the previous commander took this information with him and it needed to be thrown away and started over and that is what the commander has done. I really do like him and get along with him. I gave him a cigar yesterday and today I asked him how he liked it. He said that he smoked some of it and it made him sick and dizzy and said that he will stick to cigarettes! Hahahaha
During our meeting with Col, the major and I talk to him about more aspects of how and what we want to train the ABP soldiers on. One area that we have to consider is base defense and this must be done at the border. I have seen the area and know the area well but the major has not been able to go up there so I tell him what I think the ABP needs up there and I am tasked with getting the information to assess the area and make plans for building up their defenses. Not a problem at all. I have most of this info already from the first 2 times I did it before.
This afternoon we come back to our barracks and our day is over now. Tonight is shower and wash clothes night and I have some to wash so I will wash them later tonight. Tomorrow is our off day. This means that we are not off but we work around here with our vehicles and our personal weapons and gear and clean them all getting them ready for Saturday’s mission or if we need them for personal defense.
I have left out the past 2 weeks’ worth of Dari and Pashto lessons. Don’t think that I forgot. Ok, to make up for 2 weeks, we have 2 words to learn. I already know them so I am teaching you. There will be a test so pay attention!!!
In English, you say “Cat”. In Dari, you say ‘Peshak’ (Pee-Shack). In Pashto, you say “Peisho’ (Pee-show). In English, you say ‘Dog’. In Dari, you say ‘Sag’. In Pashto, you say “Spay”
Before I close out, I want to mention a couple of things. This Saturday, February 9th, 2008 will be the one year mark of being mobilized and we came over here to serve our 1-year tour of duty in Afghanistan in the War on Terrorism. 366 days BOG (Boots On Ground). (Don’t forget Leap Year). I would also like to mention that this Saturday is also my dad’s 64th birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!!
The pictures for this week are of me pulling guard duty( the temp is 5 degrees below zero), the new crew of H79 and me, the major, Frank our terp, an ABP guy and COL Bismullah having chi.
Well, that is about it for this week’s adventures. Talk to everyone soon!!!
203rd ARSIC-E RPAT
FOB Gardez/Camp Lightning
APO AE 09354
-Lieutenant Colonel, Jason Carter
Jason lives in Hazel Green, AL with his wife, Linda. He has served for over 21 years and had a total of 41 months active duty deployed after 9/11/01. He is a senior buyer in the electronic manufacturing industry and serves his country proudly in the Alabama National Guard. In his spare time he likes to metal detect, not only to stumble upon a few treasures, but to learn about the history of a place as well. “My greatest hope is that we all remember the sacrifices soldiers make to each other