One Week Home

I have been home for one week now. I figured it was about time that I fired up the laptop and composed this post. I don’t know if this will be the final post or not. I might close this blog and start a new one. I haven’t decided yet because I have been quite busy since I returned home.

We arrived in Jefferson City early in the morning. My bride and sons were waiting for me in the drill hall and I was so happy to see them again. We had a welcoming home ceremony that was mercifully brief. We grabbed lunch at the Coffee Zone then brought the boys back to preschool. They didn’t want to go back to school that afternoon but my bride and I wanted some time for ourselves:).

Since I have been home I cleaned out the kitchen (I am the primary cook and I needed to do an inventory anyway), stowed some of my gear away, spent a day with my dad busting up a tree that fell on a fence and fixing the fence, took my boys to the Jefferson City Harvestfest, and other things.

I have a lot of catching up to do with my sons and my bride. A few days ago I started reading “The Hobbit” to my sons at bedtime and they are really enjoying it. There are improvements to the house I would like to do.

There are a couple of loose ends I want to tie up before I close this post. I turned off the anonymous post feature to this blog because the anonymous posters are getting annoying and are not contributing. If someone wants to be an ass, at least have the guts to register with Blogger or Google so I know who you are. My time is valuable and I can’t stand oxygen thieves. Most of my last post was dealing with a particularly annoying oxygen thief that if he actually is in the military and is enlisted, he can be charged with insubordination and disrespecting a senior officer.

Anyway, I have to deal with two more anonymous comments before I feel like I can close out this blog for a while. The following was written on 22 OCT 2006 and was commenting on my post titled “Embedded in Reality” which I wrote back on 21 AUG 2006!

Maybe you should have waited with your well argumented review untill you'd actually seen these countries in action. The Dutch have taken over Oruzgan and have been in heavy combat there. They also sent troops from their province to help out the Canadians in Operation Medusa including some 155 mm SPG. The Dutch Apaches and F-16 fighter jets have bombed the shit out of taliban providing CAS for British, Canadian and US forces as well.

So just because they build up a "nightclub" on KAF doesn't mean they "don't get it".

22 October, 2006 09:52

The whole gist of my post was who among our coalition brethren understand how Information Operations is supposed to work, not if they are actually contributing something. I am guessing that this guy can’t read because I started the post off by saying “I am now working at Task Force Aegis”. I have seen these countries in action due to my position and am very familiar with what the countries involved have contributed. This dude mentioned the Dutch contribution to Op Medusa. The planning for Op Medusa didn’t start in earnest until after I had posted “Embedded in Reality”! Their contribution to Op Meduas in the form of ground troops was extremely minimal. The Dutch took over a forward operating base (FOB), relieving the Canadians there so they can get to the fight.

I was in Oruzgan province for six months at the Provincial Reconstruction Team at Tarin Kowt. We had about one hundred and twenty personnel plus or minus twenty (incoming and outgoing). The Dutch are now running the PRT and they have around twelve hundred. That is a lot of personnel. I want to ask the dude who wrote the above comment, please define for me heavy combat? I have read their patrol reports so I know what they are involved in. Let us not mistake who is actually mixing it up in Oruzgan. US Special Forces and Australian SAS are in Oruzgan as well and they are the ones sticking it to the Taliban.

This dude should contact the Dutch Embassy and ask them how many missions the Dutch PSYOP company (two sections and a headquarters) have conducted. When I was in Oruzgan, the PRT had one, sometimes two PSYOP operators and they went on missions practically everyday, sometimes hitching a ride with the Infantry guys. The number of missions the Dutch PSYOP have mounted is far less, it is actually closer to zero at the time I left Kandahar which was on 27 SEP 2006.

The following comment is a real gem. It was written on 22 OCT 2006 like the previous one (it may be the same dude, I don’t know) and was commenting on my post “Stabbed in the Back” which I posted on 08AUG2006!

Sorry man ... but thats the democracy ur fighting to protect... Journalists are what they are and that is by all means unpredictable...Dont go crying for mommy when one writes something crappy...it's their job!

I triple dare u to not delete this post

22 October, 2006 10:03

I don’t need to be lectured by some anonymous ass about protecting democracy. I am not protecting journalistic incompetence or willful misrepresentation. It is their job to report the facts, all of them, not the selective facts.

In my post titled “Asymmetrical Media”, I answered some questions raised by Stephanie Guttmann, the author of “The Other War”. In it I stated that all that we cared about was that the reporters and journalists fact checked and reported everything. If the coalition screwed up, my boss and me wanted to get that out. The reality is that human organizations make mistakes and the military is no exception.

In my post titled “Stabbed in the Back”, I pointed out that Witte and Mosher did a hit job on the Gulf Region division of the US Army Corps of Engineers. If Witte and Mosher want to pose as impartial journalists, then they need to report everything, which Major General William McCoy pointed out in his rebuttal found here. We have a way with dealing with willfully biased journalists, we freeze them out. I am sure if Witte and Mosher want access with the Army Corps of Engineers again, they will have to come with hat in hand.

Like I said in the post, I will be damned if I will help Witte again. I wasn’t “crying to mommy”, I was stating a fact. Judging by the last remark about triple daring, this commenter is a juvenile little prick.

There, I am officially done dealing with anonymous commenters that are basic oxygen thieves.

Despite the recent spate of anonymous Asses leaving useless comments, I really enjoyed writing this blog. Many of you left wonderful comments on the blog or e-mailed them to me. I am glad you enjoyed my attempt at writing.

Like I said earlier, I am truly thankful to be home. Some of my coalition brethren didn’t come home alive, something my oldest son asked me about last night after dinner. It took every bit of self-control I had to describe to my son a ramp ceremony where we sent home a soldier in a casket.

I am proud of my service in Afghanistan. I did a very unique job where I had a hand in just about everything. I am especially proud of what we accomplished with Op Medusa.

I won’t be posting for a while. My next post will inform you all of my plans with this blog and whether I will continue posting to this one or start a new one. I have the blogging bug now!


CPT Thomas C. Nield aka “NightHawk”


Fourth Leg

We have been here at Ft. Carson, Colorado for a while already. This is my first opportunity to post. We will be here for a few days to turn in gear, do paperwork, and clear medical. For some of the guys it is still surreal that we are back in the states.

An anonymous commenter left a hostile comment on my post titled “Second Leg” and I will address his concerns point by point.

“General Order 1B says no alcohol until you are CONUS. MPs will be waiting for you.”

All soldiers transiting through Manas Airbase can have two beers or two glasses of wine every twenty-four hours. In Qatar I was able to drink three beers or three glasses of wine every twenty-four hours. If this commenter has deployed to Afghanistan in the past, he would have known about Manas Airbase unless he deployed in 2001. He should know of at least one soldier who has been there recently and he would know about the liberty’s we have at Manas. So far, no MP’s have bothered me.

“Also great OPSEC. Way to tell everyone in the whole wide web that you are redeploying, and exactly where you are. Good job!”

Unit and personnel moves are classified secret and divulging unit or personnel moves prior to movement is a very serious operational security (OPSEC) violation. Divulging your location after you have arrived is not. Besides, all the terrorists in the world knows the route the US Air Force takes to bring soldiers home because we have been doing it for close to six years now. The key is not divulging times. In my last post I did state I was posting from Ramstein. I did not say how long I was going to be there, nor did I say when I arrived or when I was going to depart. OPSEC is one of the areas that I work in as an Information Operations officer so I do know what I am talking about.

“And why the FUCK are you wearing an SF combat patch. Holy shit!”

The first thought that popped in my head when I read that line was:


The Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Oruzgan province (Tarin Kowt) was under the operational command and control of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A). All the personnel assigned to that PRT for thirty days or more are entitled to wear the Special Forces patch to signify former wartime service. While I was there we had Regular, Reserve, and Guard soldiers. We also had a few TICs (Troops in Contact) or firefights. It wasn’t all hugs and kisses serving at a PRT.

“Fucking guard.”

Say that to my face. My name is on this blog, I am currently in Ft. Carson. If you are enlisted please remember common military courtesies. I would hate to see the First Sergeant go ballistic seeing some little shithead dissing one of his officers.

Fourth leg down, one to go.

CPT Thomas C. Nield aka “NightHawk”


Asymmetrical Media

I am honored that Stephanie Guttmann, the author of “The Other War”, found my blog. In her comment she asked what I was seeing as far as the “whole asymmetrical media as a weapon of war thing”. I will attempt to answer her question but I must state my caveats.

I must be very clear that what I am about to write are my opinions and mine alone. There are other servicemen (US, Canadian, British) who agree with me but I only speak for myself. I am not representing the position of the US military or of NATO. These are general observations only. For more detail I would much rather discuss this face to face.

Here we go.

A little over half of my time in Afghanistan was spent in Oruzgan province. There was one government run FM station in Tarin Kowt (the provincial capitol). No local television stations however news from Kandahar and Kabul along with international news are available via satellite dish. Any newspapers in the province were printed in Kandahar but I never personally saw them. Information traveled face to face. If the Taliban wanted to send a message in Oruzgan province it was delivered personally and then the sat phone net did the rest. Consequently, any message we wanted to get across to the populace was delivered face to face as well and backed up with a project. What we had to contend with were the lengths that the Taliban went to deliver their message. It is pretty tough to counter a message delivered with a beheading.

My experience in Kandahar province was far different. Kandahar City had radio, television, and print media. There is a thriving local press that wants to report stuff. They reported everything. For example, the Taliban would call and tell their media contact that they just blew up a tank. They would then call us and ask us if we lost a tank. We would tell them that we don’t have any tanks in theater and furthermore we haven’t lost any vehicles at all. The press will turn around and report that the Taliban claimed to have destroyed a tank and that the Coalition claims to have all of their vehicles. No editorializing, no spinning, no rooting around for “facts” or “quotes” to write a story with a particular angle.

When my Canadian Army boss first started working with the local press, they bluntly told him that they would relay anything he wanted to say. My boss told them that the press doesn’t work that way. They can report whatever they want as long as they fact check first. They weren’t used to that. The Taliban and the communists before them centrally controlled Afghanistan’s media. This was a unique opportunity to influence in a positive direction a free and independent media.

The local press knows what the stakes are. During Op Medusa the Taliban threatened the local press with death. In typical Stalinist fashion the Taliban would claim one thing when the reality was far different. Our press releases reflected reality and the Taliban had no way to counter except with threatening to kill the messenger. My boss and me took that as a positive indicator for the effectiveness of Op Medusa.

Afghanistan is not suffering what Israel is going through yet. The situation that Guttmann describes in her book “The Other War” needs an international press that actively aids and abets the enemy. The situation also needs a local media that is willfully cooperating with the enemy.

We had a pretty good read on the international media. The Public Affairs folks knew the personalities involved and knew what kind of pieces they would write. All I cared about was that they got the facts straight which the local media was obsessive about (in a good way). To paraphrase the late Tip O’Neil, all media is local. As long as the local media was interested in getting the facts straight, the international media will follow suit.

So Stephanie, I am honored that you found my blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it and that this latest post answered some of your questions. If you want to know something specific, please let me know and I will try to be of assistance.

By the way, I am posting this from Ramstein Airbase, Germany! Third leg home is almost complete. Two to go after!!!!

CPT Thomas C. Nield aka “NightHawk”


Second Leg

Well, we finally made it to Manas Airbase, Krygyztan. Now we wait for the flight back to CONUS (Continental US). One of the first things I notices when I disembarked from the airplane was it was much cooler and there are far more green leafy things to look at. It’s nice to be back in a more civilized part of the world. You can feel the change in the mood of our merry band from Missouri. Now that we are actually in Manas a huge load was lifted from our shoulders.

We are going to be here for a few days unlike when we passed through here last time. I already checked out the gift shops they have here on the base and there are a couple of things that I might buy for my bride :). I passed up an opportunity years ago to buy a Soviet era flask when I was at the Brandenberg Tor and I think I will indulge myself this time. I already bought my sons stuff from the bazaar at Bagram. One nice thing about Manas Airbase is that we can have two alcohol drinks per twenty-four hours. The local dark beer is pretty good (7%!!!). Tomorrow one of my buddies and I will be testing the wine selection.

I am actually being paid to hang out and wait for a flight. Sleep late, spend some time in the gym, do some shopping, maybe get a manicure/pedicure and a massage (I got my first manicure and a pedicure when I visited Qatar and now I am hooked). It is an unbelievable change of pace. I went from working sixteen to twenty hour days to being a total slacker. I called my bride as soon as I got to Manas and she kidded with me that I better enjoy my time off because I will be busy when I return home!

Two legs down, three to go.

CPT NightHawk


More Pictures

I have some free time waiting for my flight to Manas Airbase in Kyrgyztan so I went through my pictures and picked out a few more to share with you all.

I snapped this on my flight from Manas to Bagram when I first arrived in country. We are flying over the Hindu Kush.

This stuff grows pretty well out here. This was taken in Oruzgan province near Tarin Kowt. This was the only plant in the area. In Kandahar Province, there are orchards with acres of this stuff!

The above picture shows what I recounted in my post titled Afghan Automobile Association.

The authorities wanted to salvage the hull of this downed T-55 tank for scrap but the local villagers protested. They wanted to keep it around as a monument because they were the ones who took the tank down. A turret from another T-55 was less than 100 meters away.

Here I am on my first mission. I helped with administering the deworming meds. On subsequent missions the ANA did most of the wrangling and medicating.

This was my last mission in Oruzgan province before I went home on R&R leave. We were doing a ground breaking for a new bridge to cross the Helmand River in the Deh Rawud district. I am in the center and Kerry Greene, the USAID rep is on my right and Richard “Ruff” Reiter, the State Department FSO, is on my left.

Here I am as the mission commander for a big mega shura that we facilitated in Kandahar City. We flew Dr. Mojadeddi, the national director of Program Takhim-E Sol (the national reconciliation program), to the governor’s compound. The man to my left is one of Dr. Mojadeddi’s aides.

We are getting ready to move out. I am manning one of the air sentry positions in the back of a Bison.

I am standing on top of one of the buildings in the governor’s compound in Kandahar City.

Sergeant, is that MAJ Innis over there conducting an Information Operation? Sir, I believe he is but he must really tone it down a bit.

SSG Raley of the Mobile Public Affairs Detachment is to my right. He pointed out that every time he went on a mission with me he is always miserable. He is smiling in this picture so he can’t possibly be miserable. To my right is Maj “Q” Quentin Innis, my boss at TF Aegis. On the far right is Sgt Lee Baldry.

Hope you like them.

CPT Thomas C. Nield aka “NightHawk”


First Leg

I am posting this entry from Bagram Airfield. I am on my way home.

It felt a little weird leaving Kandahar. The war is still on. Even though Ramadan just started, the Taliban insurgents are still up to mischief. I am still trying to reconcile the fact that I am no longer the J3 Info Ops 3 for TF Aegis. Now I am just one of many GI’s trying to get home

I left behind a good crew to work with. My boss was a blast. He and I share an appreciation for the comedy of Eddy Izzard. We would sometimes interject Izzardisms into our conversations. Some people got it, most didn’t.

I got pretty close with the people I worked with at Task Force Aegis. We shared the same risks and aggravations. We enjoyed each other’s humor. We bitched about the same things. Damn, I will miss everyone dearly, especially “Q” and Lee.

I was asked at a farewell dinner party what is the most vivid memory I have. I said the day I saw a chassis fall from the sky and an armored vehicle drive through a fireball. There are more memories. During breakfast one day we were bitching about ISAF when all of a sudden, the Asst Chief of Operations ripped the ISAF patch off of my boss’s uniform, jumped on it, then picked it up and flung it across the DFAC. The day I was with Grizzly 6 and we were caught in an ambush is another. There are more.

One of these days I will be able to make sense of it all. For now, I am concentrating on getting home. We just completed customs and palletizing of unaccompanied baggage. Tomorrow I have to go to medical and fill out a few forms and clear finance. Saturday we have some briefings. After that, we wait for a flight.

I am kinda bummed right now. I am sure I will be in a better mood the closer I get to home. First leg down, four to go.

CPT NightHawk


Phase 4

I just got back from a mission where we escorted media around. We showed them the areas of the most vicious fighting and a couple of material assistance distributions. Here are a few pictures from the mission.

In this photo we set up a laager (a modern version of circling the wagons) to wait for the contractors delivering the material assistance. The mountain behind me is typical of Afghanistan. They just jut up from the ground.

In the photo to the right the locals from the village of Regay are offloading the trucks. This village is sympathetic to ISAF and the central government. They allowed people that were pushed out by the Taliban to hole up there until the fighting was over.
I was an air sentry on the last Bison. We left Regay and moved to Bazaar-E Panjwayi and I was engulfed in a cloud of moondust for the last few kilometers. I dismounted, removed my helmet and ballistic glasses, and walked over to chat with the guys. They all grabbed their cameras and started snapping away. I guess they thought it was pretty funny seeing a staff officer smothered in moondust!

The next day we did another material assistance distro. This one is in Pashmul where we literally blasted the hell out of the Taliban.

In the rural areas of Afghanistan I have yet to see the face of a woman of child bearing age. These women are waiting for the rest of their family before they move out with their assistance goodies (rice, beans, sugar, tea, cooking oil, clothing, and blankets).

I am fielding questions from Susanne Koelbl, a correspondent from Der Spiegel magazine. She and her photographer, Knut Mueller, have done assignments all over the world. Herr Mueller snapped this photo.

I was pulling security for the patrol where Grizzly 6 was showing the media parts of the battlefield. Herr Mueller was walking along and snapped this one of me.

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Herr Mueller snapped the photo above of us taking up the rear. I am second, behind the Canadian soldier. My Info Ops NCO from the British Army is taking up the rear. In the photo to the left you see ISAF at work. I am standing with a Hungarian, a Romanian, and a Brit. We are providing security for the media by preventing the people from walking down the trail.

The photo above is pretty cool. A patrol was coming back to the laager while we were escorting the media around the area. Herr Mueller snapped this one when the LAV was making its turn in front of me. An Afghan National Army truck follows behind.

These photos depict my involvement with Op Medusa, Phase 4 Reconstruction. I hope you enjoyed them!

CPT NightHawk