Friday, March 31, 2006

Meet "Crazy"

Hangin' at the Main Gate of Bagram AF. The one legged fellow is "Crazy". How he became one legged is a matter of dispute, urban legend and tragedy. Some say it was a RPG shot by a Talib, some say an AK blast, some say it was an accident, etc. Regardless, he lost it.
Crazy would hang out at the front gate and basically offer the proposition, "hey, I am missing a leg, what can you do for me?" As units rotated, new shifts came on duty and personnel rotated about, they all would meet Crazy and help him - scrap wood, money, clothes, etc. Of course, this led to him getting the name - courtesy of some of the guards. Crazy was a little, um, persistent in his mendicancy. The guards would all say something to the effect of "that guy, he's crazy". It stuck.
From what I have been able to gather, he's still around Bagram AF...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Afghan all lost?

It really is pretty good. I'm digging the footage of the Afghan Army. I don't want to know where the Hummer2 came from. Respect!!!! Alot of good stuff at this site. Much footage from FOB Salerno.


I expect that there will be a lot of eyes on this event. Lets just hope that the Iranians aren't going to try to start another rumble - they didn't do too well last time. Uh, Go Navy! And lets be careful out there.

Map thanks to PersianGulfOnline

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I've Stepped In It Now...

I have become the Beast That Wants Your Children (in the eyes of some). In other words, I have become part of the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program.

The irony of this is rich - back when I was a 2LT I used to joke with a friend of mine (yes, Jac, you) that he and I were "decruiters". People would ask why we had to leave parties early on Friday night and we would reply "I have Guard drill tomorrow". The others would shake their heads, go back to their beers and say they were glad they weren't us...

I cannot say that the money angle of this isn't attractive - but it isn't the prime incentive for me to do this. I don't know a lot of people of recruitable age - so this should be a challenge.
However, I have an huge interest in seeing the right people come into the Guard. I very likely will end up deployed to a war zone with them. I intend on being very picky - no press gang (the contracting representative shot me a befuddled look when I asked if we could do that), no snow jobs - I have been an enlisted grunt, and the glamour just doesn't shine when you are humping a pack across the Georgia clay in July. But I have to say that I have become a much better person by virtue of my service - I have learned a lot, seen some amazing things, and experienced even more...and that kind of opportunity is something I can explain fairly well.

UPDATE: I am quite sure I will NOT have the same patience as Sgt Hook.

Memorial in Kabul

Memorial to the Martyrs of the Soviet Jihad. How do you memorialize over a million dead? This is located in a circle in the City of Kabul. I don't know what to say about this...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Again, I had nothing to do with this

Ahem... I stress that I had nothing to do with this.

At least Elliot Spitzer is off our butts.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Book Review - Getting America Right

I was asked to read and give my thoughts on Getting America Right, by Edwin J. Feullner and Doug Wilson. The book is published by Crown Forum (Crown Publishing) . Putting aside the fact that I have never done a book review before, I agreed. All clumsiness of style is strictly my own fault...

This is an explicitly conservative plan, laid out in six parts. It is more concerned with having any action by government meet a series of questions, than any particular partisan position. They find themselves in a sort of an odd position vis-a-vis the Republican and Democratic Parties; both have done some things well (welfare reform and tax cuts) but too many things, overall, wrongly (spending, spending, and did I mention spending? over-regulation and over-stepping their proper bounds).

Dr. Feullner is the president of the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation had a great influence upon the administration of Ronald Reagan, and to an extent upon the later program(s) of Speaker Newt Gingrich. It is to those two that the book often refers or looks to.

Mr. Wilson has been involved in the business and management consulting worlds, but brings big stick to this project by virtue of being the Chairman of, an on-line conservative news and opinion site. (note: hey, I'm a blogger - of course I consider running an on-line community to give huge cred to someone. Heh heh.)

The questions that the authors suggest be posed about any government action are as follows:
Is it the government's business?
Does this measure promote self-reliance?
Is it responsible?
Does it make us more prosperous?
Does it make us safer?
Does it unify us?

The vast majority of the analysis in this book is checking current policy and programs against these questions. It should come as no shock to find that the authors believe much of governments actions do not answer these questions in the affirmative. I will leave you to read of their solutions to the larger and greater issues, for I want to cherry-pick two proposals I think merit some serious and immediate consideration.

First (p. 116-117), the authors suggest every congressional spending measure and conference report be posted on the Internet for at least twenty-four hours before members could vote on it. This would be an expansion of Thomas - the phenominally useful legislative tracking service. Anyone who has tried to wallow through proposed Congressional legislation has probably said a silent prayer of thanks for Thomas. Everyone, regardless of party affiliation or ideology, should be in favor of knowing what the heck their representatives in Washington D.C. are considering.

Second, the authors propose (p. 188-189) the formation of a specific entity related to polling foreign public opinion. This would be called the Corporation for Foreign Opinion Analysis (COFA). Being a military CA kind of guy (I'm the CAO for the 108th Sustainment Brigade, ILARNG) I am all in favor of our government getting its hands around this data. A good idea, one that will eradicate a big blank spot in our overseas knowledge.

The authors invite further interested parties to check their specific site.

God's Own Shade Tree Mechanics

After disposing of a piece of unexploded ordnance in the village of Gojurkhel, one of our HMMWVs stalled out. One of the local mechanics raced over and offered to help. He was all over the engine before you could say "uh, sure, try your best". He spotted the problem, but with all the electronic parts involved, he couldn't fix it.
We thanked him for trying and pulled it back to Bagram Airfield ourselves. I think the fellow was disappointed that he finally had encountered something he couldn't fix. The Afghans have had to become the most adept small engine repairers in the world. 30 years of ruinous warfare and no infrastructure make for one great big "Mother Necessity" - and the Afghans have been the favorite of her children "Invention".

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Oh no... I was hoping for better.

Photo from (AP)

Belarus's despot, Lukashenko, has decided he will not allow his country to go the way of Ukraine, Georgia and other rather peaceful movements toward democracy. He has unleashed the heavies on his people. I can only hope that his people do not like living in a crap strewn despotism that has a single rule - Those who can, may.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Lean Pockets and Anger for Lunch

While scarfing down my pepperoni pizza Lean Pockets Sub Sandwiches I saw this little rustling bit of journalistic dynamite.

Here is a little background on the "Yale Taliban".

Yale University's motto is "Lux et Veritas", the Light of Truth, if my Latin is correct. Yeah, right.

UPDATE: My Latin was not correct, as Mich Mash points out, it is Light and Truth.

Another Good Question by Muslihoon

Muslihoon e-mailed me and asked what I thought of the Abdul Rahman case in Afghanistan.

I am disappointed, but not surprised. The Afghan judiciary is the most reactionary part of the Afghan Government. The people I knew in Parwan, Kapisa and Kabul provinces are probably muttering and shaking their heads about this - wishing the Qadzi would leave this alone. They were Muslim, but they were very live-and-let-live. If it makes any sense, they were driven more by family, culture and tradition than by religion alone - which, of course, is part of their culture and tradition.

I expect President Karzai to lean in as heavily as he can - mostly behind the scenes. This isn't what Afghanistan needs right now.

More on this later. Right now I am exhausted and not really ready to think too deeply beyond what is piled up on my desk. And getting some more coffee.

UPDATE: I thought this might happen. Good. [thanks to the Instapundit]

Thursday, March 23, 2006

All Day Training

All day training session today. Subject matter? Negotiation. 14 years as an attorney, and I have to get training in negotiating...

Oh, and I have done some other negotiating too.

I'm so happy about this all day training event.

UPDATE: Time to eat a small amount of crow... I did pick up a few good tactics. I didn't want to imply that I know EVERYTHING about negotiation, I just thought the training was going to be introductory in nature. I am glad I was wrong. But I still wish I had some of that time to get other things done...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Things that make you go..wha?!

Seen on a road in Kapisa Province.

Eventually I found out that this ... er, launcher was being turned in under the program to disarm the area militias. Sure made for an odd sight tho'.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

One Year Ago Today

Last year on this day I shuffled up into the back of a C-130 at Bagram Airfield and departed Afghanistan. Two days earlier, we had a couple of 107mm rockets land inside the base and bang up a bunch of equipment. Was that any way to say goodbye?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Who You Lookin' At?


Bloomberg's take.

Zurich's Press Release

What?! You lookin' at me? I had nothing to do with this!

UPDATE: I compressed this down from the lengthy text posted before.

St. Patrick's Parade

Grand Marshal? Check.

Funny mascot in costume? Check.

Pipes? Check.

Lined up with the VFW Color Guard in front? Check.

Lets step it out then...

Crowd? Old Cars? Check and Check.

Feeling Irish yet?

Proud parents? Check.

Not too bad a day. I didn't pay for a single pint at McNally's afterward either...

All in all, I feel honored to have been asked to fill the Grand Marshal's role. The memory of SSG Frazier should be foremost, however.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

He Who Should Be Leading the Parade In St. Charles, IL Today

29 March 2003
Illinois Air National Guard SSG Jacob L. Frazier, 24, of St Charles, Illinois. Assigned to the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron (182d Airlift Wing) in Peoria, Illinois. He was killed by suspected former Taliban during an ambush on his reconnaissance convoy at Geresk, in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. He was part of a special operations team that was inspecting a school and hospital being built with American funding.

SSG Frazier's hometown would have been glad to honor him. Instead, I am going to fill in today as the Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick's Parade. Big boots to fill...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

On Frequent Rotations and Morale

Matt, Engineer Zarar, AJ, Me and the Mayor of Charikar

Part of the problems I am having right now might stem from something a lot of servicemembers might wish for... short rotations. Not mine/ours, mind you - but those of other services, and other nations. And not for the reason you think. I was not jealous or resentful of USAF 3-4 month tours, USMC 6 month rotations, or the 4 months at a time the RAF Regiment spent in theater. What bothered me was that I formed friendships with these people, only to have them leave. Time and time again, I would befriend someone like LTC Couchman of the New Zealand Army, only to have him and his troops rotate away...while I was still there.

Jamie and MSG Morris

Rich and a friend

The RAF Regiment officers were the hardest to deal with. Four excellent fellows; Adam,
Rich, Matt and Jamie - each one a terrific officer and skilled at their profession. You couldn't help but like them. However, after 120 days - they rotated out. It was very hard to go through that.

SGT Jalil, Adam, Abdul "Snoopdog" Satur and posse.

The same thing happened with rotations of Army units - platoons I would patrol with would end up moving locations. I would show up for a pre-patrol briefing and suddenly realize there was nobody left that I knew anymore.

3/116th INF

All this has left me almost pathologically wary of casual friendship. It has not helped me in my neighborhood. It has not been an advantage at work either.

I had to put this out - if you know anyone that has been in this situation, you may now have a bit of an understanding of why they might act this way.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Scholarship programs for Veterans and Wounded Troopers

Take time to pass the information onto our comrades in arms. This school has been providing resident and online programs to military members and families for years.

" Daddy, why is that girl wearing your Helmet?

"No reason Baby, I was just trying to do the right thing when nobody was looking"

My Kevlar and vest did smell good for a couple of days......

ADMINISTRATOR'S NOTE: See comments for the good CSM's explanation of just who this was.

I Got A Rock!!!

Despite MJ's post below I got nothing (I was planning on titling my next post that long before MJ put up his).

I submitted a personal essay to the Erma Bombeck Contest recently. Not only did I not even place Honorable Mention, they didn't even contact me to let me know how I did or did not do.

I was stunned. I know my story (At the Front Gate, now found at Illini 6) was funnier than any of last year's winners. I can't bring myself to read this year's winners. You can read them though and let me know what you think.

I didn't even get to use my idea for a post name!

ADMINISTRATOR'S NOTE: Please go read the story. It seems absurd, but it is about 99% absolute truth. Forward Operating Base Salerno was a very strange place sometimes...

I still got nothin', but I saved this for a rainy day.

A captain who shall remain nameless (he competed in gymnastics at West Point) demostrates his skills to the delight of us looking on. This moment of levity happened at Yavoriv Training Area, Ukraine during Peaceshield '03 - July 2003.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I Got Nothin'

Sorry folks - I've got nothing. I may, for reasons I don't wish to go into, be reducing my blogging for a while. I will react to events, surely. But right now - I've got nothing.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ban on kites in Pakistan......Deja Vu?

Kite fighting is a spring rite around the world. I work with a young Captain who hails from Haiti and he remembers Kite fighting a a boy. The Taliban made this sport against the law because of the Hindu roots to the celebration. We remember how tolerant they were about anything. Besides, what's more dangerous? Flying kites with string laced with glass, or riding on the fuel tank of your fathers bike?

"Education is the Future of the Nation"

As seen at a school opening in Parwan Province. I had the banner translated to me as "Education is the future of the Nation". I am glad the Afghans (at least in Parwan) think this way. Note the contrast with other banners recently seen in Pakistan:

Odd thing is that it seems parts of war ravaged Afghanistan have a better attitude than parts of Pakistan. Maybe the Afghans learned the harder lesson when they experienced the savage rule of the Taliban. I would hope others don't have to go through the same thing to learn to wish for peaceful progress above all else.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Buh Bye!

Slobo departs for his new job as the Devil's footrest.
"I believe I can fly..."

Now if we can only have Ratko join him...
What? Me next?
P.S. I haven't forgotten about you either, Radovan.
What did I do?
UPDATE: The first time I was ever in any bit of apprehension for my life was outside of Sarajevo - lost in the Serb areas (don't ask...) We came across a whole bunch of Radovan Karadzic posters - he was under international interdict at the time. We stopped and took a look, since it was such an unusal sight. A bunch of Serb men were not happy we were there (us, SFOR, not popular??). We left a bit quickly. Heh.
UPDATE 2: I don't hate these men just because I got scared once. I hate them because they could have peacefully lead their people into Europe, ala the Slovenes. Instead, they chose to be murderous, genocidal tyrants and despots. Scum, all of 'em.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

How (and by whom) To Rebuild

School Watchman at Deh Qadzi

Wretchard points out that Robert Kaplan ("The Coming Anarchy" which I had read for my ILE-CC, isn't military education great?) has taken stock of the situation in Iraq (and Afghanistan) . In his Atlantic Monthly (no link - sorry, subscription only) article he wonders if we are seeing the emergence of a new way to turn from externally imposed "nation building" to more of a use of force that allows the forces of order within a nation-state to exert themselves.
Jeff Goldstein asks the natural follow up questions - How? Who will do this? Who will pay for this effort?

Yeah, time for more pondering and musing by Major John...

I had the unique privilege and position to observe (and help in) much of the rebuilding effort in Parwan, Kapisa and Kabul Provinces in Afghanistan. I worked with the USAID rep, a Civil Affairs Brigade sized task force, private aid organizations, Afghans - government and private citizens, US Contractors, the works.

I also was able to manage around a million dollar budget of CERP (Commander's Emergency Response Program). This was a very weighty and humbling experience. Every village wanted or needed something - who do you tell yes? Who do you tell no? Sometimes that really ate at me, and I wished I had millions more dollars to help with.

Well in Qal'eh-ye Uzbashi

Luckily, I (and the US) was not alone. I started to notice more and more how the Japanese were quietly helping with some major improvements - in our zone, primarily the nation-girding highway known as the "Ring Road". The South Koreans came to the party too, and they brought cash.

The Germans helped too - they did good stuff - just sooo slooowly.

I think the answer is to keep the military a large part - but to shift some of the emphasis back to the Department of State. God knows I hope Secretary Rice can change the cocktails and embassy receptions culture into one of people eager to get into the field and get their hands dirty. I have to believe the people who take the Foreign Service Exam want to get out and really help on the ground.

If we take the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq to heart, and remember that we will be called on again to do this very same type of work, we can do this and do this right. I am surprising myself by being more optimistic about this than I imagined I would be. I guess I have seen too many good people working too hard for little to no recognition to believe otherwise.

UPDATE: As usual, somebody in the Army is ahead of me...

The Panjshir Valley

A look at the southern end of the Panjshir Valley in late Summer.

The area was reasonable fertile even during the drought that had gripped Afghanistan for 10 years, before breaking this past year. The Panjshiri were quite clever about irrigating their fields without benefit of pumps or motors - but by the end of Summer, the River itself was almost gone. I can only imagine the feelings the farmers must have had every day when they would look down to the Panjshir River and ask themselves if it was lower, was it going to be enough?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I Wish My Company Didn't Have So Many Opportunities

I am happy to work here at Zurich, but I have noticed a problem. An odd problem to be sure. And to many, not a problem at all. We have lots of opportunites within the company. People can move to positions inside the company to work on new things, make more money, or move to a different part of the country (or the world). But this has come back to nip me in the hiney - my Team Manager has just accepted a move that is upward and over - out of our group/department. Darn it! We develop some very skilled people - and they move out (and up). I suppose it is selfish of me to want my boss to stick around because I enjoy working for her... darn all this upward mobility anyway!

Electioneering in Afghanistan

A billboard for presidental candidate Younis Qanooni in Kapisa Province. If you look at it closely, you can see it actually quite sophisticated - tries to show Mr. Qanooni as the rightful heir to the popular (and late) Ahmad Shah Masood. Just because the Afghans had not had meaningful election, well, really ever, doesn't mean they aren't sophisticated.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

When They Called This Guy The "Elder" I Believed 'Em

This gentleman is the Elder of the village of Sahibkheyl, in Parwan Province. He looked the part too.
He was fairly, er, vigorous in stating what his village needed to continue it's recovery (it had the living snot pounded out of it during the Taliban/Northern Alliance fight). A school, a school, a school. That was the refrain. They hoped a clinic could open in the area, and they would have appreciated another well - but he was really hitting the point on getting a school. I like it when the first concern of a village elder is for the children of his people. I think I see why he was the village elder...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Pimp my Tank!!!!!

I wish I had this in Fulda. Sorry, but I had to pass this on. It has some bad language, but I'm an old Tanker.

Soldiers' Angels Visit the 108th

The good people of the Illinois division of Soldiers' Angel's paid the 108th Sustainment Brigade a visit on Saturday morning. They brought all sorts of good stuff for our soldiers to enjoy. We strategically placed them right outside the large room where 75 or so soldiers were receiving some briefings... Needless to say, the goodies they brought were snapped up in a hurry.

Operation Cookie Drop was a success. Thanks Angels!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Hey! Look At What We Got!

Those of us who had been with our old unit when it deployed to New Orleans this past Fall received the Louisiana Emergency Service Medal this past weekend. The Inner Prop and I show ours off for the camera.

Here it is in all it's Pelican glory.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

NATO has Command in the South

The Canadians have been taking responsibility of much of the areas around Kandahar. They have also been taking casualties. As usual more colonials are paying for mistakes of judgment made by the past Empire.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Not Camera-shy in Kulata

I was looking at some pictures of a Humanitarian Assistance Mission to the village of Kulata in Kapisa Province when I noticed the same kid in these two photos. I think it is safe to say that he isn't camera shy...

Hey! An American with a camera!

It's me! Down here! Hey!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Who us??? We don't know nuttin....

Once again our Pakistani friends calm our concerns with sweet tea, sugared almonds, and empty words. If more Coalition troops and Afghans die in the post snow melt Spring Offensive, and they will. We need to cross the line drawn by our British cousins and kill some people.

I Think This Area Is Zoned Retail...

Village of Saydan, Kapisa Province side of the Panjshir River. I loved watching the area slowly grow with more and more things became available to buy. I think the local folks kind of liked seeing us rumbling through every once in a while - at least judging from the smiles and waves...
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