Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Taliban Uprising

The war in Afghanistan basically started in this the Northern part of Afghanistan. The prison in which "The American Taliban" John Walker Lind was found, and the first American Casualty of the war in Afghanistan CIA Operative Mike Spann was killed in Qala-i-Jangi. Qala-i-Jangi is just outside of our base. Planning to take a tour of the prison in the next few weeks, once all the hand over of authority is completed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm here.

Made it safely to my new home for the next 9 or so month of Camp Mike Spann this past Saturday. Mike Spann is on the southwest side of Mazar-e-Shariff, in the Northern part of Afghanistan. It has been surprisingly warm since we got here, at least compared to what I was experiencing while training in Germany. Germany seemed like it rained 80% of the time that we were there. I still have yet to be able to find a working phone in order to call my family, and it took me about three days to find internet access just to email them. Thus far I have been training with the LT that I am replacing to learn his job, the main thing that he has been passing along is to have patience.I have met my Afghan counterpart a couple times, and haven't really developed an initial impression of him yet. My one impression is that I grossly overestimated this base. There is no PX here in which to purchase basic necessities, so I'm going to have to rely on my family to supplies I might need. The base has more than 4 or 5 times the population than what our team had when they arrived, I would estimate more than a 1,000 people here including 10th Mountain Brigade headquarters, a Brigade Support Battalion, several different European OMLT teams including our combined team, plus numerous civilian contractors. As you can imagine it is a little tight living here. Currently I'm living, with my team, in a tent waiting for the team we are replacing to move out of our future quarters. The first night that we got here, there was a tremendous rain/thunder/lighting storm. The base the next day had turned into a giant mud-pit. Fortunately because of the heat, the ground has been drying out quickly. I'm looking forward to getting to work with my Afghan counterparts, and blogging about my adventures. More updates hopefully to follow soon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What Got me here.

As I write this first update to my blog in close to a month, I am currently at Manas Air Base/International Airport in Northern Kyrgyzstan about 25 miles north of the capital Bishkek. The past month I have spent training at Camp Hohenfels, which is in the East-Southeastern portion of Bavaira Germany. Unfortunately I do not have personal computer, and had a difficult time find a public access internet to update my blog.
We ended up leaving Ft Polk a week later than we had orginally planned, being deplayed to ash over Europe from the erupting volcano over Iceland. Our travels had up leaving Ft Polk at 11:30pm to drive all night, only to arrive to Continental's Houston Airport 2 hours before the airport even opened. We departed Houston around 8:30am enroute to our first stop of Newark. To kill some time during our long layover in Newark, I wondered around the airport for a bit and ended up spending some time talking with a group of girls from Scotland enroute to Las Vegas to party and celebrate a friends birthday. While chatting with these gals more than once I found myself recalling the George Bernard Shaw quote of "We are two peoples, seperated by a common language." More than one occasion I had to polietly ask them to repeat or explain themselves while I worked through their accent and slang terms. A bit later I found out that as soldier flying overseas I would be allowed access to the Continental Club room, which I gladly took advantage of the offer. The best part of their Club room is they have showers available which was a great relief after being up as long as we had. For as much as I fly, I would give Continental an endorsement for the customer service and professionalism that they provided us that day.
Upon landing in Munich a bus took us to our new home for the next few weeks, Camp Hohenfels. We were also given the first opportunity to meet our new Croation partners for the first time. Initial impressions were overall pretty good. Most of the Croations are about our age our older, and most spoke pretty descent english. A couple of the drivers on the team struggle with english a bit, fortunately they know more english than we know how to speak Croation. Because we arrive a week later than we had orginally planned, we got right into training and preparing for "going into the training box" of JMTC Hohenfels.
While we were at Hohenfels there were several other teams from throughout Europe training to go to Afghanistan as ANA military advisor/trainers. Next to our barracks was a combined team, similar to ours, of National Guard soldiers from Ohio and Hungary. Additionally there were teams from Germany, France, Norway, Great Britian, Poland, Belgium, as well as a couple other countries which slip my mind. We were also given the opportunity to work soldiers from Afghanistan who were brought to Germany to do trainig away from Afghanistan, and at the same time give us an opportunity to experience working with Afghan soldiers for the first time.

The experience of learning to work with our Croation partners, while out in the field with soldiers from Afghanistan was a bit an experience. The Afghan soldiers proved that they are not afraid to fight, more than once when we would encounter an mock battle we had to slow them down from running into the fight. It became obvious that when we reached Afghanistan the challenge wouldn't be training them how to fight, as they have been fighting for a better part of the past 30 years. The challenge would be training them on the other parts of being a soldier such as supply and logistics, advance mission planning, mission and battle tracking. Some things that we as a western army seem to take for granted.

Our two weeks "In the box" seemed to go by quickly, and we developed a much closer working relationship with our Croation partners. After our training had ended we still had a week left at Camp Hohenfels to kill before our scheduled flight to Afghanistan. So we decided to take some time and do some sight seeing before leaving the area. The first day we had free, was one of the worst days of weather. Several guys decided to travel to the town of Regensburg, however I decided to stay behind hoping the weather would be better the next day. I was wrong the weather pretty much rained for the rest of the week that we were still in Europe. That weekend though we did charter a bus and travel to Prague the capital city of the Czech Republic.

Prague greatly exceeded my expectations, even though I truthfully didn't know what to expect. It was much larger than I expected, very old, very historic, filled with beauty, and most importantly very english friendly. My friend Mark and I ended up spending a couple days walking all over the city, and taking the subway system to see some of the major sights. Couple of the highlights were going to a Czech beer festival, and spending much of one day touring the Prague Castle complex. We spent a few dollars for admission to see the ancient mid-evil torture museum, as we as the museum of communism. Prague was also relaxing because it gave me the opporunity to get away for some of the guys in my team that I had been needing a break from.

After returning from Prague the rain still refused to stop coming down in Germany. We spent the next couple days preparing for our next move, packing up our supplies. Many of us sent back gifts and cards to our friends and families. As well as sending forward boxes to Afghanistan. The military had given us so much stuff that we were running out of room in our bags in which to carry everything. When it finally came time Hohenfels we got to look forward to couple days of intense traveling. We started in a bus at 11:30 in the evening to drive all night to Ramstein Air Force Base. We arrived as it opened to get in line, to be on the Space Available list to Afghanistan. Fortunately there were enough seats on an outbound flight and around noon we departed on the first leg of our journey. Our first leg has us flying approximately 5 hours to Incerlink (sp?) Air Force Base in Turkey to refuel and drop some folks off there. From Turkey we boarded the same flight and continued on to Manas Air Base/International Air Port in Northern Krygyzstan arriving around 2 am in the morning. After a few hours of unloading the plane, and briefings it was close to 7 am before we were able to get some descent rest. Almost 36 hours after our travels first began.

Below is a classic Python clip of what I felt like at times trying to deal with so many different languages at one time, German, Croatian, Dari (Afghan), Czech.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Made it safely to Germany a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately I do not have consitent Internet access so I probably will not be able to update my blog till I reach Afghanistan. I will try and send some cards to my friends for whom I have addresses for.

When I reach Afghanistan, in a few short weeks, my mailing address there will be
CPT Marc Rassler
Camp Mike Spann
APO AE 09368

I look forward to updating you more when I get in country. Till then, more Army training (fortunately for this block it is in Southeastern Germany).