A Soldier's Letter

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A Soldier's Letter       
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2007 06:08:34 -0600
Subject: 23 March 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007

Hi All,
Life has been a little exciting around here the last two weeks, but nothing
to extraordinary. I will say that the Spring Offensive is underway.
We recently did an operation out in a valley close to here. It was an all
day mission with the Afghan National Army, some Afghan National Police,
Romanian Forces, Special Forces, US combat forces, and some ETT's. We
surrounded villages and then searched them. There were six villages they
searched. It took all day long. I was with LTC Slaughenhaupt in the command
post located outside of each village searched. We would sit and wait for
them to clear the villages and move on to the next village. As soon as they
would clear and move we would move forward also. There was little
There was some excitement, don't get me wrong. At one point we were sitting
an open field. We could see for a couple miles in each direction. We had
just positioned ourselves and I got out of the vehicle. The ANA with us
pointed to some men moving through a field off in the distance. There was a
group of ANA soldiers maneuvering towards the men. I was standing outside
the Hummer watching them trying to locate the men of whom they were talking.
Next thing I know the ANA out in the field fired a shot at them with a high
caliber weapon. Their rules of engagement are a little more relaxed than
ours. I guess the men panicked and ran. This caused the ANA to fire a rocket
propelled grenade at the men. That makes quite the bang, even at 500 yards
away. Once the men began to run the ANA opened up on them with a machine
gun. By this time I was in a kneeling position with my rifle in case the ANA
behind me decided they wanted to get in the fight. They were a good 500
yards away. I still could not see at whom they were shooting. The four men
got away. We assume they ran up a river bed back towards the village.
After a while we found out the Taliban had escaped the village and had eyes
on us sitting in the open. They were maneuvering to hit us with something.
We showed them, we moved. It would have taken mortars to hit us. We were
quite a ways away from any kind of hill, riverbed, or terrain that would
have masked any close approach by the Taliban.
The blocking force we had on the other side of the valley did manage to have
a little excitement. While in position watching the villages they took fire
from a cave that was up on one of the mountain sides above them. The
Romanians were not happy with that. They opened up with their high caliber
weapon loaded with high explosive rounds. If someone managed to make it out
of that cave they would have been in a world of hurt.
The missions are not without comedy. One of the captains inside the village
reported that a man in a black cape (meaning Afghan Robe) was escaping and
they were in pursuit. He then realized how funny that sounded and tried to
redeem himself. It was too late. Someone had already told Rosco P. Coltrain
not to kill him it was Batman and he is on our side. We asked if the man had
a big "T" on his chest for "Talibanman." Poor Barrett still has not lived
that one down. A day or two later at staff meeting CPT White took a picture
of Batman and put a big "T" on his chest and gave it to LTC S. in a
targeting folder of the latest high value target.
I am happy to say that we made it through the day without any injuries. The
sad news is someone tipped off the Taliban of our operation and they got out
of the area before we even rolled in. The village elders would not say
anything, but we found that kids can be bribed very easily. They will spill
their guts for a little candy. We were so mad to find out there is a leak in
the ANA forces.
The day was nice and it was crappy by way of weather. The sun would shine
then the winds would pick up. The clouds would move in and make it
miserable. It was a cycle that lasted all day long. When we headed back to
Apache that afternoon the wind was blowing. It had not rained in quite some
time so the moon dust was back. We were covered in dust by time we arrived
at Apache. It was good to eat some dinner and get in the shower.
The rains came that evening. It rained off and on for two days. It managed
to settle the dust down, but once again everything is back to a mud hole.
The sun came out yesterday and it was a clear warm day today.
The 21st was the Muslim New Year. We started the day off with a small
celebration with the ANA. They had some speeches and then had the
celebratory man dance. I told you about the man dance in my letter when I
went to Kabul. Some of the ETT's with me said that the Afghans have no
rhythm. I am glad I am not the only one that notices this.
We returned at 1230 for lunch with the ANA. It was the typical lunch of
rice, beef, chicken, vegetables, flat bread, and a pudding. I ate very
little. The Afghans can put away the rice. They would fill the plates clear
full of rice expecting us to eat it. I just was not in the mood for rice. I
did try the pudding and it wasn't bad. I think it too was made of rice. I
didn't dare eat too much of it for fear of the after affects.
The Afghans drink the whey (SP?) off cheese. It is a common food for the
Afghans. I had been warned to not eat it because it is nasty. The ANA
leadership was trying to convince LTC Slaughenhaupt to drink it. Hal and I
were down there chuckling. He kept looking at us shaking his head. After he
tried it guess who he stuck in the hot seat to try it. Yup, you guessed it,
Hal and me. He brought the bowl down and sat it between us and said, "No, I
insist these two have the opportunity to try it." Okay, I couldn't laugh at
him and refuse to try it myself, so I did. Talk about nasty! It tasted like
yogurt fermented to the extreme. One taste of that made me swear off ever
trying that again. I still have to question from where the dairy product
The Spring Offensive is definitely under way. There have been a number of
attacks on coalition force's convoys, ANA, and ANP the last couple of days.
There were two attacks on Highway 1. It was a pretty bold move. They took on
a big convoy. On one of the convoys a bullet ricocheted and hit a US soldier
in the Kevlar helmet. I heard it gave him a concussion. I did get a report
that he is doing better.
I week or so ago the boss was planning to do a nighttime bunker rehearsal.
We have so many new people on the FOB we need to practice how to react to
rocket attacks and direct fire attacks. LTC S. and the Sergeant Major
decided to do this bunker rehearsal in the dark to make people realize it is
a challenge in complete darkness.
I was talking with Sergeant Major (SGM) Ortiz around 7:45 pm. I asked him if
he was going to do the rehearsal that evening. He said no. He then told me
the boss is going to do it at 4:00 am. I thought he was pulling my leg. He
told me to ask him myself. The boss came in the room so SGM asked him what
time he was going to do the drill. The boss signaled to me with four
fingers. I told him we can't do that because it interrupts my sleep. I also
thought we should do it at that time because I had received reports about
possible rocket attacks on our FOB. I wanted to make sure everyone knew how
to react. The boss thought about it and asked the SGM if we should do it
now. The SGM said yes. The boss said okay and told him to hit the siren. He
set off the alarm and we called everyone to the bunkers. This was around
7:55 pm. I was glad he did the drill.
I went to my B-hut and got my gear on to play the game and returned back to
the TOC to find everyone there playing the drill. We started doing our
checks and waiting for people to call in with their accountability. People
were coming and going.
As I was standing in my office I thought I heard a whistle that sounded
exactly like a rocket. I thought to myself, "What was that?" It sounded too
familiar. I have mentioned in past emails that I will never forget the sound
of a 107mm rocket in flight. I thought someone was mimicking the sound. Sure
enough, one of the towers called in and said there was an explosion near
Lagman. My classified phone rang and it was the S2 cell at Lagman asking if
we heard the explosion. I told them I heard the whistle. Jay then told me
that one rocket had just hit outside there perimeter at Lagman. All hell
started braking loose. Our little drill just became the real thing.
I got on the loud speaker and told everyone to stay inside the bunkers that
our drill just became "real world." The big laugh after that was the Intel
Guy called that one! The boss kept saying to me, "I am not going to hear the
end of this for the next six months." I told him, "Not this one." At that
time I became the resident expert. The boss asked me what I thought we
should do; because I have been here before during rocket attacks. I told him
how long to wait then I told him to have everyone man the walls in case of
direct fire.
After we felt the danger had passed we stood everyone down. Kevin White and
I started running from wall to wall telling everyone to stand down. We
didn't want to announce it over the loud speaker so the Taliban could hear
we were no longer at the ready stage. The key leaders then went to the
meeting room for an After Action Review (AAR).
The boss started the meeting off by saying, "I am going to get this out
right now and say Brent called this one." That is when Tex responded by
saying, "That confirms Brent is Taliban."
What makes people a little nervous is I have been fairly accurate lately
when it deals with threats, weather, or gut instinct. I appreciate the fact
that I have had good intelligence reports.
The Arghendab River claimed another couple of vehicles last night. I told
you about the river in an email back in December. If you remember the email
we decided to cross the river early in the morning with night vision goggles
in order to avoid an attack.
Some of our ETT's and coalition forces have been delayed returning to FOB
Lane because of the level of the water due to spring run off. The team
decided that they would be able to cross it yesterday. They tried and
failed. A seven ton ANA truck crossed and bogged down in the river. One of
our Hummers was right behind it. The Hummer also bogged down in the water.
They called for another ANA seven ton to come down and help them retrieve
the vehicles. I don't know all the details, but I do know that they hooked
up the Hummer to a seven ton and started to pull it out. They did okay until
the seven ton driver turned the wrong way and hit a huge hole; which pulled
the entire seven ton truck under water with the Hummer in tow right behind
it. All that is showing now is about six inches of the top of the seven ton
and some antennas. They tried to pull them out, but they are hooked
together. Luckily, no one was hurt.
I sat down with my ANA counterpart yesterday and asked him his views of
Afghan history and to explain to me why the Taliban have such a strong hold
on the people. I found out that it is a vicious circle. I asked him how come
the Taliban have so much control now and 30 years ago they were a minority.
He explained to me that the Russian invasion and turmoil of Afghanistan gave
the Taliban the upper hand.
The radical Islam faith (Taliban) was able to crush the Mujahadeen fighters
after the war with Russia because of the constant fighting and losses the
Mujahadeen took again the Russian. It is kind of like Iran right now. There
was a power vacuum. The Taliban were able to let the Mujahadeen do the
fighting and weaken them to the point when the opportunity came along the
Taliban crushed the Mujahadeen fighter and stepped right into power.
Once the Taliban were in control they forced the people to practice
religious rules. The Taliban oppressed the people so much they became
uneducated, religious radicals, and ignorant to science, technology,
history, and advancement. The country of Afghanistan took a huge step
backwards. The people cannot read so they cannot study the Quran and really
understand their religion. They have to listen to the radical, false
teachings of the Taliban Mullahs. It is pure brainwashing. They teach that
anything done to further the cause of "Islam" is okay in the eyes of Allah
even though it is against the teachings of the Quran.
Under the Taliban rule they fought poppy growth and drug trade. Now they
need the poppy money to finance their cause. The uneducated poppy growers
have been taught by the Taliban that the western countries are here to take
over Afghanistan like the Russians did. In order to fight this they must
help the Taliban; which includes taking down the current Afghanistan
Government. The Taliban pay them money to grow their poppies and also help
fight the coalition forces, because it is necessary for the growth of Islam.
The Taliban also give money to the local Mullahs and they preach the Taliban
religious message. When the farmers see the drug eradication efforts it
reinforces the Taliban anti-western propaganda. The poppy production in this
country has risen 600% in the last year. The Taliban's information
operations is much more aggressive than the coalition forces' information
operations. The more we fight and kill the Taliban the more we reinforce
their movement. That is why the coalition forces are working so hard to
restore power, water, education, and economic trade under the current Afghan
Government; in order to give them credibility and establish a free
It was an interesting lesson he taught me. I am no expert on Afghan history
so I cannot verify all details. By looking around I tend to believe a lot
about what he taught me. The good news is we are making small steps and the
Taliban are losing ground day by day. It will be a battle that will last
much longer than we want to admit. It will take money, time, security, and
education. Many of these people have little to no education.
I passed the seven month mark in country a couple days ago. We are on the
downhill side of this mission. I will be going on leave soon back to the
states to see my family and spend a little time at home. I am excited to see
my children. It will be ten months away from them when I return home on