Christmas Day

Well it is Christmas and I am away from my family in a land that is very foreign to my accustomed way of life. They practice a different religion, they have missed the major philosophical arguments that have been hammered out in the west (Enlightenment, Reformation, etc), and they are woefully naïve about economics (most still hew to the principals of Karl Marx instead of Adam Smith).

Sounds pretty bad but believe it or not, it is getting better. My perspective is skewed because I am in one tough province. When I read the situation reports (SITREPS) of the other places in Afghanistan I get jealous because they are working in a friendlier environment. All I can do is keep at it and drive on. Every kid that I smile at or give candy to, every person that we medically treat, every person that has livestock that we treat, every mission we conduct that includes the participation of the Afghan National Army (ANA), every infrastructure project we do are steps that get us closer to where Afghanistan can govern itself and secure its own borders.

I guess you can say that my time and effort here are my gifts to the people of Afghanistan. It isn’t just me giving those gifts. My bride and my two sons are giving those gifts as well because I am not with them right now.

Is being here a labor of love? I love what I am doing only because I am doing it for the peace and safety for my family. I consider being an American Soldier a high calling and that wherever I am deployed it is for a noble purpose in keeping with the Christian principals that made our country unique. Peace on earth, goodwill towards men. Those are the words of the Christmas season.

The ancient Greeks learned early on that we humans are a tragic lot. We are greedy, selfish, deceitful, and our most base qualities rise to the surface in the absence of faith in a higher power. Jesus was born this day in a land that was part of the Roman Empire, a culture that gave us the concept of civic virtue but was also hedonistic, nihilistic, and brutal. Jesus grew up, preached Gods word, and the Sanhedrin engineered his crucifixion at the hands of the Roman Empire. His words lived on and eventually the Roman Empire ceased to exist but not before many of its peoples accepted Gods love and grace, all because of Jesus.

Jesus was born today so he would eventually pay for our sins with his death. His gift is what gives me solace every day, especially every day that I am here in Afghanistan. My gifts are nothing compared to what Jesus gave us. I pray that my gifts and the gifts of all my comrades in arms here will eventually bear fruit and the peoples of this country will finally know peace and have goodwill for each other.

Merry Christmas!

CPT NightHawk


Afghan Automobile Association and Playing Soccer

So, what is Afghanistan like in December? The nights are frigid and the days are pretty brisk. I had to break out my fleece jacket and have been wearing those in the mornings and nights.

Not much has really been going on that I can freely talk about on this blog. I assure you that things have been hopping out here and I have been wrapped around the axle dealing with them but I didn’t want to bore you all with a post that can be summarized as “I went on a mission, answered my e-mails, followed up on e-mails that were sent yesterday, fielded a couple of phone calls, do the write up of the mission, blah blah blah”.

The missions I go on are pretty much the same except for the locations. The missions that we run are focused on Civil Affairs (CA), Psychological Operations (PSYOP), or both. On a CA mission we look at a project, evaluate a location for a new project, or conduct a medical/veterinary mission. The PSYOPers on their missions do that PSYOPer thing. An interesting thing happened on a combined veterinary and medical mission a few days ago.

We rolled out like usual and were almost at our destination when one of the truck commanders (TC) called out an emergency stop. We all bailed out and set up security and waited on what’s the word. It turned out that one of our hummers lost steering. Upon closer inspection we found that one of the driveshafts had come loose. Seeing as how we still had a mission to perform, we decided to set up the medical and veterinary mission right there and try to fix the hummer.

While the CA and medical folks were setting up, the TC of the broken hummer grabbed the tools and crawled underneath. It was pretty comical to see a hummer with its hood up, a pair of legs sticking out from underneath, and the rest of us standing there in full battle rattle voicing our opinions on how to fix it or whether we will have to tow it back. At that point, an Afghan was tooling by in his truck and parked off the side of the road. He got out, grabbed his tools, and came right on over and offered to help.

As it was, he didn’t have the tools (or bolts we needed) to help and he offered his apologies. We thanked him anyway and away he went. Another truck came by, it stopped, and out jumped four Afghans, they grabbed their tools and offered their assistance. They had a jack that we actually used and they helped with wrestling some of the drive train components. When the hummer was fixed we offered them money and the senior man refused. We did manage to give each of them radios (AM/FM/Shortwave and powered by a hand crank, batteries, or solar) and we gave the younger men some Afghani (Afghan money) as a token of our appreciation.

Let me paint a picture here. One downed hummer with some fierce weaponry on top of it, other operational hummers with fierce weaponry on them, multiple Coalition soldiers in full battle rattle, we haven’t really started treating any animals or people yet so it wasn’t obvious that we were running a humanitarian assistance mission, the province I am in is where the Taliban was born, and these Afghan men STILL OFFERED THEIR ASSISTANCE!!

The code of conduct that the Pashtun peoples abide by is called Pashtunwali. The code is strictly adhered to but on occasion the basic tenets are set aside for political expediency. Of the tenets of the code, one is called melmastya (hospitality and protection to every guest) and another is nunawati (the right of a fugitive to seek refuge and acceptance of his bona fide offer of peace). We weren’t asking for refuge and we definitely weren’t guests in their house. If anyone was on the mountains that surrounded us they could easily see us, and anyone around us, with a scope. Yet these men still helped. Pretty gutsy in my opinion.

One of our soldiers is a soccer fiend and facilitated the donation of uniforms to four local teams. One of those teams asked if we would play them. Because this is the army, we had to write up a mission plan and all that other stuff. We played a soccer game against the city team yesterday. I didn’t play because I was acting as the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) which meant I was taking pictures. Thankfully, my new camera came in and I was able to take some great action shots.

About one hundred and fifty people watched, including the provincial governor and some other officials. These guys were tough and good. It was a competitive game but friendly. At the end of the game all the players were all smiles. The local team wants to play us again. I firmly believe that once the people ask you to play with them, you gotta be doing something right.

CPT NightHawk


Long Days and Short Nights

Where did the time go? We have eighteen days and a wakeup until Christmas and I haven’t posted since a couple of days before Thanksgiving! I know it is almost cliché to say that I have been busy but truth be told I have been extremely busy. I am happy to report that on Thanksgiving Day my family in Seattle, WA saw the holiday greeting the Public Affairs people recorded. I am hoping that KRCG or KOMU broadcasts the greeting I made for my family and friends in Jefferson City.

In a previous post I mentioned that I have assumed an extra duty as the Field Ordering Officer (FOO). What a monster that turned into. We are consolidating operations with a Forward Operating Base (FOB) nearby and I am in charge of putting together the Scope of Work (SOW) for some of the contracts we need to keep both the FOB and PRT running. When I was a commander I didn’t worry about that stuff because I had full time staff that handled the money.

Some of our key personnel are either on leave or somewhere else for meetings. Guess who filled the gap? Yours truly! On top of my primary duty, I am acting for two other personnel and I was practically run ragged today after having a late night due to a night mission. Today was a perfect storm for crap that came down all at once. I was woefully unprepared for today’s staff call due to running down too many things at one time plus not being totally familiar where certain key files were stored. Luckily for me, I wasn’t the only one not prepared so we pushed back the staff call. The Executive Officer (XO) and I searched for the files I needed and when we reconvened we all looked like we knew what we were doing instead of acting like a bunch of keystone cops!

My misery is temporary. Some of the things I have been doing I had to let slip because there isn’t enough time in the day. The key personnel will be returning soon and I can concentrate on my primary assignment and managing base operation contracts.

In all the madness I did manage to take care of……Christmas shopping! Via e-mail I was able to coordinate presents for my sons and niece and nephew between my bride, my sister in law, and my mother in law. As much as I like to support my favorite stores in Jefferson City (Downtown Book and Toy for example) the Internet made my life easier.

The nights here are getting ugly cold. We have some of our guys at a FOB east of here looking at a project and it is in the mountains. They are practically freezing their tails off. When we look eastward we can see the snow pack developing on the mountaintops. One of the Special Forces guys I was chatting with says we will be hit with snow in about a couple of weeks. It looks like we will have a white Christmas here.

Time escapes you here. The missions, paperwork, e-mails, phone calls, and meetings all blend in together and then you realize that it is late and you can’t see your hand in front of your face when you step outside of the Tactical Operations Center (TOC). If it isn’t too late, go to the gym for about an hour, shower, and hit the rack. Then do it all over again the next day. Even though the days are short and the nights are long, I personally have very long days and very short nights.

CPT NightHawk