Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Some lighter moments...




Ad in Bazaar for dentist


In an earlier post I put up a picture of an outdoor dentist office that's in the bazaar - here's the directions on how to find the place.

Force protection







Here's pictures of our USAID rep Paul Negley and his Cultural Advisor Mohammad clowning around in the office. Paul & Mohammad are both weight lifters and are in mighty good shape. I believe these pictures were taken on May 8, the first time that Mohammad out - lifted Paul in the gymn. (Mohammad would want the public to know that.)

Avalanche




Here's some more views of our trip up Avalanche. The road leads all the way up this mountain (a 1200 foot ascent) and the view is from the top of the outpost looking west (with Hammerhead on the far left of the picture.)

We took the road for most of the second half of the climb, making for a fairly easy way up.

Bunny


I saw the first rabbit since my arrival in A'stan the other day. It was just sitting in the house yard, kind of minding its own business and seemingly oblivious of our passing; I'm assuming it was someone's pet.

Captain Park wields the axe


I've begun keeping my guitar in our "non - lethal" office since some of the soldiers play and they can stop by and enjoy a sanity break. Captain Park is our civil affairs lead and an accomplished player. He's also has also shared some bluegrass music files, reminding me how much fun it is to play that kind of stuff.

Cookie distro











The CCD'ers from St. Mary's in Danbury Iowa sent thirteen boxes of monster cookies along with bags of sunflower seeds, chewing gum and kleenex. The cookies made it all the way here intact and were greatly appreciated by the soldiers. One man came back a day after I handed some out to the technology staff and, somewhat sheepishly asked if he could have another one. He then went on to explain how it was "the best cookie I ever had - part cake, part cookie, chocolate chips with kind of a banana flavor..." It was really a thrill to see these guys enjoy the generosity of small town Iowa so much.
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Monday, 17 May 2010

ASG outpost on Avalanche











This conglomeration of rock is an Afghan Secuirty Guard outpost towards the top of Avalance, the mountain north of the base. How this natural stack of rocks has survived some of the earthquakes out here was a topic of speculation amongst the soldiers. Needless to say, the living conditions on these outposts would be defined as "austere;" no showers or flush toilets, MRE's and other pre - packaged stuff for food, and primitive living conditions.

Tank and Maddie




On the first trip to Hammerhead I photographed two fur ball puppies - and here's how they've grown up. They've acquired the names of Tank (black & white dog) and Maddie (tan dog) and call this outpost at the top of Hammerhead home.

Hammerhead from the other side


We went to an outpost above the base recently (0430 departure!) and this picture shows the Hammerhead mountain from the other side of the valley. Hard to believe its 1000 feet up to the top looking at it from this angle.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Afghan ID program



Here's one of the most important efforts going on for long term success in this country. Afghanistan doesn't have any formal ID system in place for birth certificates, driver's licenses, professional licenses (think doctor & lawyer credentialing), voter registration, etc. They have just initiated a program to get a universal ID document bureau in place. Without this, corruption can never be controlled. This billboard outside our base is PR for this program, it will most likely take years to implement.

Pests




Last week the ADT came up to look at some projects and as we toured the countryside we found these caterpillars that were literally covering the ground in some places. Further discussion with the locals revealed these pests come about this time of year and will eat just about anything green. I saw a few thistle plants that had literally been eaten down to twigs by these critters. The more moisture, the more caterpillars, but fortunately they only present themselves for a short period of time. A week later I only saw one. It was really hard to tell if these pests were having any economic effect on the wheat; the ADT's recommendation was to walk the fields and smash 'em.

Weeds











This post is especially for father in law Clair Seuntjens. Weeds exist in Afghanistan and are most similar to US weeds. Pictures include sunflowers, thistles, and a coklebur plant.

The plant growing in the rocks has small yellow trumpet shaped flowers and looked to me like it might be some kind of poisonous weed, but I don't know what it is. Also saw thousands of dandelions earlier in the year, but they're pretty much gone now.

Walk to Hammerhead May
















We went up to Hammerhead a few days ago. The picture taken through the trees shows a far - off snow capped mountain. Meanwhile the days' highs are getting into the 90's and 100's and its hard to imagine how snow can still persist. The wheat is maturing and the valleys have lost their lush green color from earlier in the year. Wheat harvest has started in some of the other areas but hasn't really begun inearnest here yet. The river is really high right now; I'd hate to fall in because I don't think even the best swimmeer would stand a chance against the current.

Volleyball tournament




There are good things happening in Afghanistan and good people to support. The security in our area had gone down lately and local leaders on their own initiative looked at the situation and decided to do something about it. The Youth Shura (an organization of young men from their teenage years up to about 40 - the definition of youth is somewhat different here!) decided to hold a volleyball tournament in the Nangalam Bazaar for a week. They invited teams from all over the district to the event to get "fighting age" males together in a peaceful setting, building friendships and sharing friendly competition. The games were well attended as you can see in the picture with people watching from the decks of the Nangalam hotel. The tournament will be followed by a public youth jirga - a large meeting where influential leaders will discuss how the young men of the area can avoid the influence of the enemy and work for peace. In the second picture, district governor, Sher Bahadir (center) and Yaar Pacha, head of the youth shura (far right), the two leaders instrumental in supporting the event, are with the winning team. The fact that this event was initiated by leaders in the community speaks volumes for the long term.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

1SG Hanson











We meet characters in all ranks and numbers over here - the humor helps dispel the anxiety, fear, and occasional boredom. Here's some pictures of the AT's 1stSAR Hanson. We had some kids bring a chicken to the Asadabad VETCAP and he spent some time petting the chicken and then getting a lead rope for the kids to use for the chicken; possibly the first ever halter broke chicken in history. Also some pictures of him flying a kite. He's an avid kite flyer back in California and had a small one he was demonstrating on a windy evening on the PRT. We asked him if he was imitating Ben Franklin, altho he didn't have a key in a jar...

MAJ Neil Stockfleth - Schleswig HS 1978


Another amazing coincidence. A unit from the Iowa National Guard will replace the California ADT later this summer and their commanders were in Asadabad getting a familiarization tour from California ADT, and I met them during my travel out of country. Of course I asked all of them where they were from and Niel responded its a little town in western Iowa you probably wouldn't recognize - called Schleswig! He was quite surprised when I informed him I married a Schleswig graduate and he was quite well acquainted with both Liz and her brother Kurt, having spent some time in college with Kurt. I'm sure I'll meet some other connections once the Iowa ADT deploys in full.

Kabul











Airplane pictures taken on the way into Kabul. Lots of new construction going on and it sure doesn't look as hostile to me now compared to when I arrived. Perhaps adjusting to the culture shock? The haze is a (close to) constant feature of the city probably due to the large numbers of people burning stuff to cook & heat their homes. Hopefully, as electricity becomes more commonplace, the air quality will improve.

More small animals


A picture of a friendly dog in the governor's compound in Asadabad. These friendly animals are quite a hit with the soldiers, probably giving them an outlet for their pent up affection.

Tripod - Doc puts on a surgery clinic


COL Grimm of the California ADT is holding a three legged cat that has adopted them on the Asadabad PRT.

And COL Grimm is not as stern in person as he appears in this picture. The cat is missing a left foreleg - hence the name Tripod - don't know if it was hit by a car, trapped, IED'd (do mice have suicide bombers?), but whatever the cause she also had a fractured tooth and drooled all the time. On my way home for vacation in early April COL Grimm had seen her in heat and asked if I could spay her, and after checking around we found some extra surgery instruments, sutures, and anesthesia we could use. So to the delight of many spectators we went ahead and got her spayed and pulled her broken tooth. Tripod is a tough kitty - we had to give her quite a bit of anesthesia to get her asleep and I also notice she is quite thin and jaundiced once we opened her abdomen. She took a couple days to recover but has returned to her normal affectionate self.

Reche Lam VETCAP











These pictures were taken in Reche Lam, a village west of Blessing, whose inhabitants need to connect to the Afghan government. We have found these veterinary training / vaccination clinics have had quite a bit of success since almost every rural Afghan family owns some livestock and the benefits extend to all levels of Afghan society, not just the wealthy or impoverished. The land in the river valley is actually green and fertile; areas away from there as represented in these pictures are barren and rocky. The Afghan workers couldn't even pound the stakes in the ground for the perimeter fence so they ended up stacking rocks around the bottom or the posts & calling it good. Of course a crazy critter or two wipes the fence out, but it's easily replaced.
How would you like to be the donkey "grazing" on the "grass?" Shows how tough the animals have to be to survive here.. But getting them vaccinatated for contagious and fatal diseases as well as reducing their parasite burden does wonders for these animals. We have started some revaccination clinics and continue to perform animal scoring assessments and have found significant improvement in body condition scores, which translates to more meat, milk and wool for the Afghan owner.

Nangalam health clinic




Pictures show a 90% complete health clinic in the Nangalam village.