Monday, January 17, 2011

Sleepy Hallow

This past week my team and I helped out a couple of other small units
and did a combined mission to Balk Province, in which the city of
Pol-e-Khomri is in. Approximately a three hour drive west of
Mazar-e-Sharif. We have soldiers on top of what is sometimes known as
cement hill, which overlooks the city of Pol-e-Khomri and the
surrounding valleys. The artillery soldiers are there manning a couple
of artillery guns to pull security and provide over watch of the valley.
I am not sure how accurate they are with their guns, as I have never
been able to watch them fire. However I have been told that hit the
ground with every shot!
The day following our visit to the top of the hill, we assisted the
NTM-A team that accompanied us. Their goal was to visit some local ANA
outposts and ensure that tax payers are getting what they have paid for.
That includes tax payers of our coalition partners, as they have funded
projects throughout Afghanistan. Recently the ANA have been building
combat outposts, to push out into areas that have recently been cleared
of Taliban and other enemies of Afghanistan. Establishing the outposts
should hopefully allow the Taliban to maintain a foothold in the areas,
provide security for the locals, and keep the enemy out. Since many of
the outposts have recently been built some with assistance and funding
from coalition members they needed to check the progress. Find out what
supplies, what supplies they may still need, and what their overall
living conditions are. 
One of the sites we visited was a combat outpost called Russian Hill.
Driving to the location felt like driving through a scene from the movie
Sleepy Hallow. All that was missing was to see a Headless Horseman pass
us as slowly travel down the small country road. It was a very overcast
day, and the small country road is lined with trees, the fields are
tended by hand. Other than our current trucks it felt like drive back in
time to early colonial America.
One of my biggest impressions as winter has sent in northern Afghanistan
is how the Afghan people are a tough and hearty bunch. Talking with some
of the Afghan soldiers I was amazed that some of them are able to walk
around with just a pair of sandals, shower shoes at best by western
standards, and light jacket. The soldiers I know have at least been
issued a pair of boots and a jacket. Many of the locals do not have much
and walk with poor shoes, and their protection from the wind and
elements appears to be nothing more than a light blanket. It is a rare
occasion when I've seen anyone wearing a pair of gloves. 
Another thing that never ceases to amaze me is no matter where we stop
children will suddenly appear out of nowhere. It is not uncommon, as we
are driving around any area, to see three or four kids out playing at
any one time. However invariably as soon as we stop, get out of our
trucks, and acknowledge the few kids with a small and a wave 30 other
kids will come out of the wood work. Some will know a couple words of
English, others will come up to us give a thumb to their mouth signaling
that they want some water, or a 'raise the roof' motion with both their
hands. They are hoping for anything that we can give them, unfortunately
for our safety and their safety we can't give them what they desire. If
we stop and toss them some of our water bottles, we would quickly be out
of water that we need for our missions as more kids would appear than we
have water on trucks. None the less though, it is always fun and
refreshing to see the smiling faces of the many youngsters of
Afghanistan. We are all amazed at how young they are forced to grow up
here. Two or Three year olds are outside playing along the edge of the
streets. Nine year olds are acting like mother's, caring for their young
siblings, holding their young infant or toddler brother or sister on
their hip. 
Every time that I am outside the wire, I am reinforced with the fact
that it takes a strong person to grow up and survive in Afghanistan.

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