Sunday, August 28, 2011

Getting short...

From what I understand, some military terms never change. Most of the people at Kristi's office know that I'm deployed over here. Some older guy that Kristi doesn't really know stopped her in the hall the other day and asked when I was set to return. She told him I would be back in just a couple of weeks and he responded with, "Oh, he's getting real short now!"

That's the term. When your time over here is winding down, you're "getting short". I've asked a couple of other people and they said the term has been around forever. Just another thing about this deployment that makes me feel like I've become part of a special club. A special club where random people can talk to Kristi about deployment and their concern for me/us is genuine...because either they've been there or they've had family who have.

I still have 2 weeks here but but I'm already "chomping at the bit" to get back home. The other night, I had a hard time falling asleep as I was planning my first 10 days or so at home. All the things I want to do with, and for, my family: family pictures, backpacking, canning peaches, projects on the house, etc. It is going to be a full 10 days but I'm really looking forward to it.

Getting shorter every day.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Brain!

When the boys were little, whenever they bumped their heads we would always ask, "did you smash your brain?"

The other night at t-ball, Matty fell down in the gym and bonked his head so he was sitting out for a bit. Sam yelled for him to come play and Matty replied with "I'm taking a break because I smashed my brain!"

How great is that?!?

I can't wait to see those boys...only a few weeks left.
Fingers crossed that it goes by quickly.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


So I'm back in Kabul more Wardak for me. I'm actually a little bit sad.

Last night, my Wardak team announced that there was a "farewell dinner" for me at the DFAC. I thought that this roughly translated into us all going to dinner together, nothing more than that. I was wrong. When we got to the DFAC, the DFAC staff had arranged the tables and covered them with linens. Atop the table was a big RESERVED sign. I've never seen this before and I said to myself, "wow, there must be a big-shot here tonight" but then I saw some of my coworkers sitting down at the tables. Apparently, I was the big-shot. I was surprised and very touched that they went to the effort...I had only worked with them for a couple of weeks?!?

The Commander and his XOs came and sat with us. I got to spend about 30 minutes having a very nice chat with the Commander about family, kids, and life. It was really wonderful. It may be a hard to understand, if you haven't been in an organization like ours over here, but the Commander is in charge of hundreds of soldiers and a base in a very kinetic part of the world...he is a pretty busy and important guy. For him to take the time to get to know me personally during my time there, even though I was just passing through, was very touching. When dinner was finished, my Captain said some really nice things to close it off. Everything was perfect and totally unexpected...I was touched.

My time in Wardak has been the highlight of my deployment. I really felt like we were doing work that could have a large impact on the people of the Wardak Province. It was a rough couple of weeks, though. The helicopter crash, IEDs, and some recent kidnappings and killings were all relatively close to our base. It elevated the stress a little but I had confidence in the soldiers that went out with us. It is a unexplainable feeling to go out on a movement, site visit, or walk and have someone designated to cover your butt. The soldier in charge of the movement would say, "so-and-so, you're watching out for Engineer Hace!" As we walked the sites, the designated soldier was never more than a stone's throw away. It is surreal putting that much trust/faith in other's abilities.

Most of TF Slugger only has a few months left in Afghanistan. During this time,as I read news reports that flow from that province, I will likely hold my breath a bit until I find out that my co-workers are safe. I wish them all the very best, I really enjoyed the time I spent with them at Forward Operating Base Airborne.

The stress was higher out there, but the rewards were much higher also. I actually miss it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


So it has been a few days since the Chinook was shot down.
It is truly heartbreaking.
Most of us here haven't read very many of the news reports as it is a little too close to home for some of us. The crash happened only about 15 miles from our base.

Equally tragic, however, are the soldiers who are killed and not recognized or mentioned in the news, like the 2 killed when the IED hit their MRAP last week. Even the engineers in Kabul didn't know about this. It is really sad that we have gotten so accustomed to soldiers dying and such that it takes an incident of this size to make the news.

Things are fine for me here in Wardak. I'll be leaving here in just under a week to go finish my tour in Kabul.

Today we went out on movement for a meeting with the DAIL, department of agriculture, irrigation, and livestock. Our agribusiness team is working with the DAIL to set up seed associations and a variety of other agri-business programs throughout Afghanistan, it was an interesting meeting. They needed a quick structural evaluation of a building on their site, so they brought me along.

The interesting part about our trip was that it was all on foot. We took 12 soldiers, 2 civilians, and 2 interpreters and walked from our base through the village to our meeting site. It was hot and we were in our full battle-rattle. I sweated through was hot. It was a pretty interesting walk...a little "higher speed" than I'm used to because you never know who is a friend and who isn't. Additionally, we planned our route before we started moving but as we were walking we turned down a street and it was full of locals working on the foundation for a wall. We had to walk by over 50 people to pass through this is tough on the nerves because I don't have the experience to tell friend from foe. One of the men that we passed yelled something derogative about the women in our group in Pashtu...our interpreter told me. Our interpreter informed the man that language like that was not OK during Ramadan and that he should shut-up.

There is talk that the locals don't really like us, but I'm glad nothing more happened today.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bud Lite

I went outside the wire again to inspect the masonry wall that surrounds the agricultural institute. The work we saw that other day was really poor and we had the contractor in our office so that we could explain all the deficiencies.

We went out today to see if he's figured out how to correctly build this wall. While we were out there some of the soldiers made up a "real American hero" jingle about me. If you don't remember, google "bud lite real American hero" where they would make a commercial about those with really mundane jobs.

Mine went.
We salute you, Mr. Aghan-Wall-Inspector-Man.
You walk this crappy wall under the hot sun.
guy singing in the back ground, "oooo, it's really hot out here"
You tell the contractor that his masonry is not very good.
guy singing in the back ground, "oooo, the wall is really crappy"
...I don't remember the rest except for "So, here's to you Mr. Afghan-Wall-Inspector-Man."

It was pretty funny...

The other day wasn't so fun, though. A patrol from a COP (Combat Out-Post) that is a few towns over from where we are, hit an IED while they were driving on their patrol. They were in an MRAP but 2 soldiers were still killed in the attack and another 2 were wounded. They soldiers were from the same brigade or company as the ones that I work with. It was weird to be in the office when someone came in and announced that, "We lost 2 today and they're bringing in 2 wounded." The people I work with didn't really know the soldiers but you could tell that they felt the loss of their own.

I also found out that I may be moving back to Kabul sometime soon. I guess they found a permanent replacement for me that should be arriving this week.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


So I'm working over here in Wardak Province on Task Force (TF) Slugger. It is pretty sweet being on TF just sounds cool. On thing that the Army does quite well is come up with team names. I'm convinced that corporate team cohesion could be created with some great team names.

"You have a question about your bill? That is handled by Team Ripcord, I'll transfer you now."

"You'd like to speak with marketing? Transferring you to Team Thunder."

I'm going to push for our structural engineering team back home to come up with a better name: TF Blackbird, TF Dagger, TF Tank, TF Hat-Trick...all good names.

We went out on movement today. 4 MRAPS chock full of soldiers and me. We had to go look at a potential bridge project, inspect a wall, check out a building, and meet with the provincial engineer who works for the governor. It was pretty sweet...MRAPs are nice rides! I may have to get one when I get home. Not sure if I want to get the one with the 50 caliber machine gun in the turret or the grenade launcher. We had one of each out today.

Here is a picture of the bridge project we went to see. As you can see the current bridge is having some difficulties. The river bed is dry, but in the spring the snow melt turns this dry river bed into a raging torrent. So raging, in fact, that it has caused the damage to the existing bridge.

Today I felt like I was doing the work that I came to Afghanistan to do. I was working on projects that can really make a difference for Afghan civilians.

The wall we inspected is one of the last pieces of an Agricultural institute that will help teach local farmers about different techniques to maximize their crop yield, irrigation techniques, as well as ways to store crops to prevent spoilage. The area around here is a high apple producing region and part of the Army's initiative here is to teach the locals what else can be done with apples: saucing, juicing, etc. A number of cold storage sites have been built in the last few years and more are planned to prevent this resource from going bad.

Slugger is also working towards procuring ambulances for the 11 clinics that have been built in the region. They are working with various NGOs, and USAID, and others to to figure out how to make this happen. Purchase should be finalized in the next few weeks. It is pretty amazing to watch as the Commander doesn't say "how" to do something or "who" to talk to, he just says..."there is a need for 11 ambulances, get it done"

And the best part about the day...nobody try to shoot us!