Thursday, September 15, 2011


Today I’m going to write about some of the missions the NEADT2 have gone on and of course the only way I can write about them is if I was lucky enough to go along too..  I do mean lucky when I say it.  Again, this is
a once in a lifetime opportunity for a guy that was never in the military.  The missions that we go on are generally based on the same guidelines.  They are introduction missions where we are going out and
Chief Huttes, Myself, Farooq Marijani, Lt. Chris Rees.
meeting someone or group for the first time.  They are missions that we are going out on to follow up on contracts and assuring that work or projects are preceding as contracted and that the end result falls within the guidelines of the contract that funded the project.  Then there is the third type where we are going out and planning for future projects and these type of missions usually are generally to the same few entities that we will be working closely with such as the DAIL, Paktya University in Gardez City, the DAILs Demo Farm and the Women’s Development Center.

In the past funding really didn’t seem to be a issue. Some pretty high dollar projects had been funded---I’m not talking millions or even hundreds of thousands but some pretty decent cash outlays that hopefully have gone to worthwhile projects.  What NEADT2 has done sine they have been here is close out projects developed and started by their predecessor Oklahoma.  This means a great deal of time has been spent overseeing the implementation of these contracts.  These go beyond building things although there is some of that. These are projects like Women’s Poultry Training, Youth Poultry Training, Youth Livestock Training, Cool Storage Facilities, Livestock Vaccination Projects, Nursery Projects, Honeybee projects and the list goes on.

The trainings are not one day trainings—they last several hours over several days.  The trainings are not one location trainings either, they take place in several locations throughout the Paktya Providence.  Travel is a huge issue and the majority of the students often have only one option and that is to walk to the training. 
Inside the DAIL compound.  Some of the housing for the staff.
As an example, the poultry trainings include in depth classroom training which at the end of the training the student receives a certificate of training. For many this is the only education related certificate that they may receive in their lifetime so it can be very important to them on a personal level.  They also receive a simple chicken coop, 10-20 vaccinated chicks, waters, feeders, a supply of feed and an opportunity to make this an expanding flock of revenue producing birds.  This is not for consumption of the birds themselves because the Afghan people are not real big consumers of chicken, this is about egg production.  The hope is they are capable of producing eggs to eat plus more to sell at the market.  The average Afghans income is around $300.00 US dollars per month.  So, adding nutrition and income to the family is the overall goal as well as it being sustaining.

So the missions themselves that I have been on…but I should start at the beginning and I may have written about this in the past but I’m going to do it again because it is important.  First off these missions would be going on whether or not I was part of it.  The missions are planned with the paramount purpose of
Part of the wall that surrounds the compound.
bringing everyone back safe.  Everything is secondary or even less than the overall goal.  A great deal of planning is involved with each and every mission that heads out of here.   The whole thing is an orchestrated military exercise from an hour before leaving base to an hour after returning. This isn’t a pull up, jump out, hi how ya doun type of deal by any stretch of the imagination.  All of these men and women are highly trained soldiers that take their responsibility 200% seriously.

So the missions I have been on –well some of the first ones I know I have mentioned previously and those were my first trip to the DAIL compound in Gardez City and a QAQC or a follow up on a nursery  project.  The nursery project was kind of cool in that this was my first experience getting out into a small Afghan village. The people are mostly …. I don’t know if the word is happy but maybe glad to see you—sort of kind of---no hostility and lots of smiles and thumbs up mostly from the kids.  This may because they are looking for what they call sweets and pens and pencils.  You know American kids want X-Box and games, cell phones, TVs and what not; these kids are fighting for a simple ink pen or pencil.

When we go to the DAIL compound—again I should clarify that the DAIL is both a person and a place.  DAIL is the Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock and he is the highest agriculture official in the Providence.  Here in the Paktya Providence it is DAIL Zahdran and he is probably the least corrupt and the most progressive DAIL in Afghanistan—or so we would like to believe.   Believe it or not, corruption is the basic way of doing business here in the day to day affairs of Afghanistan. That may be harsh but I think pretty true.  Note that this is an opinion.  The DAIL is also the compound in which the DAIL is officed.  This facility is in Gardez City and is a walled compound that I would estimate is close to a city block with the main office building and a couple of smaller buildings with maybe 4 classrooms and then several larger warehouse type building at various stages of degradation.  There is also a couple of rows of housing for the staff. Not housing in American terms but in Afghan terms---made of mud and straw—a door, windows that may or may not have glass, probably no electricity or even running water.  If they do have these it is a very limited resource.  There is litter and rubble everywhere.
DAIL Zahdran, LTC Heng, Khan our interpreter and Jose Sanchez

Meeting with some of the DAILs Directors.

The DAIL compound was built by the Germans from what I understand.  The structures are generally very well built just in poor repair or even worse.  The casualties of war.  Inside the primary DAIL building it is stark.  Far from clean, very limited electricity, the bathroom is locked and from reports quite the experience in itself.  The furnishing on the other hand have an air of eloquence to them.  At one point in time the stuff was pretty gosh darn nice and still isn’t too bad.  They keep it very tidy and dusted but the carpets and walls are a little bit unattended—there is definitely no woman’s touch here. 

The grounds associated with the main building are landscaped somewhat.  They love roses, cosmos, sunflowers, rose moss and holly hocks.  The trees of choice include poplars, tree of heaven and willows even though this is a very arid region.  There is also some fruit tree plantings and a nice planting of grafted apricots that they propagated.  They have a greenhouse frame built but are waiting to cover it until a fence is built around it because they are worried the dogs will get at the plastic and rip it.  There are several dogs in the compound and I believe all the females I have seen are pregnant or have pups.

So, bottom line is they try very hard but their culture different than ours.  Who is to say who is right and who is wrong.  Well this has gone long enough for tonight. During my next post I will continue on the places that I have had the opportunity to visit off base during a mission.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

FOB Gardez

Infamous 9/11 planning Qalat with our barracks conex latrine  in front

Forward Operating Base Gardez is just outside Gardez City in the Paktya Providence of Afghanistan.  This particular base is somewhat historical in that is one of the first strongholds in Afghanistan that was taken over from the Taliban by US Special Forces.  It is said that the 9/11 attack was planned with Osama bin Laden present in the Qalat located here on base and just outside of the bunkhouse that is home for now.  A qalat is basically a mud fortress or walled compound that family units or groups occupy.  Also located at this base is an Afghan cemetery which is just out side the buildings that house the NEADT offices also known as the Ag B-Huts.  The main access road runs right through the center of the cemetery.  Some of the visitors that come on base to do business with us refuse to be taken through the cemetery. The cemetery is the resting place of some fairly significant leaders in the fight against the Russians.  Because of these 2 landmarks it is said 
Inside the Qalat--
that FOB Gardez is hit less often by the insurgents because of respect or honor that these places have in the insurgents mind.  Another reason given is the Afghan that owns the land that the FOB is located on.  He is a very powerful man and the word is that they are hesitant to cross him.  So all this is just speculation but it makes for a good story.
 Now, on to the FOB itself. The Fob is surrounded by  Hesko barriers that are basically 4x4x4 or larger cattle panel like containers that are lined with fabric and filled with dirt, rock or whatever that are lined up or stacked to form a wall. These can be stacked 2-3 high or wide and act as the wall between the FOB inside and the world outside.  There are literally thousands of these surrounding this base. 

    Inside the Hesko wall are 2 qalats—The afore mentioned qalat that actually has offices and housing
The barracks where I live next to the helicopter landing site
 in it and a second qalat that is maintenance and other things. There is also the cemetery.  Then there are several housing huts—dozens actually that house the contractor and military personnel and then completely separate housing for the Afghan National Army personnel here.  There are also hundreds of shipping containers that act as storage, shops, housing or whatever.  The contracting company here is Flour—that is French I think not as in flower and they have several buildings that house mechanical and wood shops and other maintenance facilities---they take care of everything here from chow to latrines and everything in between.

We have a Afghan ran laundry where you can take your clothes and a separate do it yourself with 8 or so washers and dryers that is suppose to accommodate several hundred personnel here.  There is always a waiting line—timing is everything.    Side note here---this is my first scheduled time off since I have been here so I got the morning off and as I sit here writing this the jets are flying which is very unusual which means there is something going on nearby—so action----back to writing---So laundry can be a pain.  We also have some Haji shops on base.  You can get just about anything you may want or need.  The standard line is the price is xxxxx but for you my Brother it is xxxxx.  Nothing goes for marked value.  There are several—one you can get all sorts of scarves, rugs, knick knacks, precious stones, opium pipes, hukas, all the important stuff.  His neighbor is simply a jeweler—lots of jewelry—the price is 650.00 but today for you it is 550.00 then you find out he actually sells it for 380.00 .  So you always deal.  This guy has lots of other cool stuff too.  Then there is the tailor—he is really good and you can get a nice suit cheap.  Next to him is the like Pamida guy—he has personal hygiene things and other items you might find at Pamida.  Next to him is the movie guy—you can get any movie for 2 bucks even if it has been in the theatre for only a day—they got it.  Next to him is the Best Buy—all electronics and then another electronics guy that has knives and such too. Then at the end is the rug guy that sells fur things—coats, stoles, Afghan hats and belly dancing outfits, scarves, stone bowls etc.  A coffee shop with 5.00 gross coffee and other specialty drinks and last but not least the Kabul Diner—haven’t ate there yet.    
Col Krupa with Diablo the Billy Goat

So at our AG B Huts we have 3 buildings.  One houses SECFOR the security force, AG Team which there are 14 or so of us and then of course Administration in the third.  We also have a barn and barnyard with a couple of goats, a couple of fat tailed sheep and a load of chickens—over a 100.  That keeps some of us happy, some busy and some grumbling.

All the electricity on base is generated provided and all latrines are serviced by pumper trucks –my point being is we are just plopped here.  It takes a ton of contractors and a ton of Afghan nationals to make this place work.

Taking off after refueling

FOB Gardez also houses a helicopter refueling station.  All air movement is by helicopter—not landing strips.  Copters of all shapes and sizes from different nations and groups like the UN and others land here non stop weather permitting. Weather is a big factor in that we are located in a mountain pass 2700 ft or so higher than Denver and there are other mountain passes that have to be flown through to get here so if any passes are not safe then flight activity is reduced.  This is a staging ground for many operations where Chinooks will land with their troops spend the night refuel and then off to the mission or simply refuel and be off.   This is a lights out base so no white light at all after dark.  We walk around after dark with red or green flashlights. This means no landing lights at night—pretty weird being outside after dark and here are 5 helos 2 Chinooks and 3 escort gun ships coming in at the same time landing with no lights and come out in the morning and they are less than 150 ft from your bunk—and that is no exaggeration.  We are right next to the landing field. We have come out in the morning and the rotor blades actually hang over the Hesko by 6 feet and you could run and jump from the bunkhouse door and touch them.

So enough for today—This barely scratches the surface of what is here.  I will try to be better about getting things written and posted.  Next I will talk about some of the missions I get to go on…See Ya—V.