Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Recent Attack on Bagram Base

Just a note to let you know that I talked with George this afternoon. There was news of an attack on Bagram where VP. Dick Cheney was visiting. George was in a two day conference and heard of the attack, but assured me that neither he nor the unit were near the site.

Below is news from the Stars and Stripes in case you're interested in more details on the story. There were several civilian deaths as well as one GI.

Cheney called target of attack on Bagram base
By Joseph Giordono, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A suicide bomber attacked an entrance to the largest American base in Afghanistan on Tuesday morning, killing several people and causing a heightened state of alert on the base.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who was visiting the base at the time, was not near the blast site. He met with Afghan and U.S. officials in Kabul later in the day.

The suicide bomber struck one of the gates of Bagram Air Base around 10 a.m. local time. There were varying reports on the number of people killed and wounded.

The military command at Bagram said nine people were killed, including a U.S. servicemember, a coalition servicemember, a U.S. government contractor and the bomber. Later, the South Korean defense ministry identified the coalition casualty as a South Korean army sergeant. The other five victims were identified as two Afghan laborers waiting for entry to the base, and three bystanders — including a 12-year-old boy — who were brought to the base medical facility but died of their wounds.

Some 20 Afghans outside the gate were also injured in the blast, the military said.

The Associated Press and other news agencies — citing Afghan military and civilian sources — put the number of dead closer to 23, with around 20 more injured. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy in figures.

Speaking to reporters later in Kabul, Cheney said he was moved for a brief period to a bomb shelter on the base.

“I heard a loud boom. The Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate,” Cheney said. “As the situation settled down and they had a better sense of what was going on, I went back to my room.”

Cheney left the base and headed to meetings in Kabul about 90 minutes after the attack, U.S. military officials said.

Later Tuesday, a reputed Taliban spokesman called news agencies to claim credit for the attack, saying that Cheney was the target.

When asked about the Taliban and the attack, Cheney said, “I think they clearly try to find ways to question the authority of the central government. Striking at Bagram with a suicide bomber, I suppose, is one way to do that. But it shouldn’t affect our behavior at all.”

Military officials said security at the base helped prevent more serious casualties.

“We maintain a high-level of security here at all times. Our security measures were in place and the killer never had access to the base,” said Army Lt. Col. James E. Bonner, the base operations commander. “When he realized he would not be able to get onto the base he attacked the local population.”

Bagram is home to some 5,000 U.S. troops and another 4,000 from other coalition countries.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

One Month Down...

All is well on the Homefront. I am spending the weekend with my parents. I heard a rumor that my brother was also in town...but haven't seen any signs of him. We have begun the 30th week of pregnancy...only 10 (or so) more to go! Feels like cruch time. This weekend is my final birthing class, so in theory, I should know how to do it when the time comes....but the big test in fast approaching!

Here is the most recient update from Geo:

Dear Friends and Family,

The weeks have started to go by rather quickly now. Actually, next Wednesday we will have officially completed our first month in country. (The next month should come around even quicker.)

The weather has been varied, and we continue to go a couple days with snow and then a couple of really nice, sunny days. I love those days after it has been snowing because of the way the mountains look. See the view in the attached picture; it also shows the perimeter wall of our camp, which as you can see, is very secure. As I understand it, we are getting ready to go into the wet period here in March and April.

Everyone is still learning the advisor business and buidling relationships with their ANA counterparts. More and more, our folks are spending time up in the ANA camp, mentoring their counterparts. The work that they have been doing has been positively received because in many cases our predecessors were not able to advise the ANA in those functions or they were not doing it as effectively as we already are.

The major event this week was that the 1st Brigade had to provide support to the civil authorities because of a demonstration that was planned yesterday. Some of our units moved out to assembly areas in case they were needed. Fortunately, the ANA were not needed because it was a peaceful gathering. This was encouraging for many Afghans because it demonstrated free speech in action in Afghanistan -- the people acted responsibly and the security forces demonstrated restraint.

I'll work with Gayla to get our Family Network website up soon. I think that this will be a great way for us to share information.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Free Speech in Afghanistan!!

This is from an email that I received from George today:

We had a long day here. Early this morning, the brigade moved out into positions in the city because there was a demonstration planned. Supporters of former warlords in both houses of parliament passed a law granting amnesty primarily to former members of the Mujahideen so that they cannot be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. President Karzai has not said whether or not he will approve it, and this demonstration was meant to help convince him.

The ANA were available in case there was violence that would overwhelm the Police; us Americans were given strict instructions to take a low profile and let the Afghans work out their problems. Fortunately, there was no violence and it turned out to be good sign for free speech in this country.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Organizing a Fine Arts and Craft Auction

Hello everyone!

I am organizing a fine arts and crafts auction to benefit Operation First Response. This is a 501(c)3 (ie. registered non-profit). The mission is to provide supportive services to family members of injured soldiers from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The agency puts together backpacks that are given to injured soldiers which include some clothes (because soldier's uniforms are often cut off when they sustain an injury) and toiletries. In addition, they also fly families to see their injured soldier after they are returned to the US, or provide car services and financial assistance for hotels so families can spend time with their loved one.

If you are interested in donating a piece of fine art or a craft please email me. Just an FYI: Things such as culinary arts, web design and graphic design are also considered fine arts. You can donate a website, the design of a company brochure or certificate for two dozen pieces of fine chocolate if these are your mediums.

This is an amazing organization and the chapter here in PA is experiencing serious financial strains due to the large number of injured troop being cared for at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. (The volunteers have even paid for fights with their own credit cards).

I am collecting donations over the next 60 days and plan to organize and ONLINE auction. You donations are tax deductible and I can arrange for you to receive the appropriate tax info if you request.

If you'd like more information on Operation First Response, please visit http://www.operationfirstresponse.org.

Also, please feel free to repost this any and everywhere.....Email it to friends, mention it while on a call to another crafter, organize your knitting group, post it on your blog, copy and paste it in all your listservs, craft a beautiful handmade card and send it to everyone in your black book....(you get the point). I'd be happy to answer any and all questions (via phone or email)

Thank you in advance for your support and interest.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Blog World...Here We Come

Hello family and friends.

On the advice of a few people in our social circle, I am starting a blog to document our families journey throughout George's journey to Afghanistan. It seems as though there are so many new things going on in our lives, that the Family Update emails just aren't cutting it for some (yes, that's you Eileen). This should be a good forum for the exchange of information.
These are the housing units that Geo and the guys are living in . You can see the beautiful landscape in the back. There are several breathtaking views of the mountains and some of the ruins that surround them. This is another view of the scenery. On the hill stands the ruins of the Queen's castle.

There have been several days of rain and we were told that February and March are the rainy months in Afghanistan. This generates quite a bit of mud in the lower elevations and can can have devastating effects in the mountains. During the last heavy storm there were several roofs that collapsed in the Afghan communities and similarly to the PA National Guard, the Afghan soldiers were there to assist.

If you'd like more information on Task Force Phoenix please feel free to check out the website. It's filled with great information.

I have to say that things on the Homefront are going well. The Pea and I are both growing quickly but are feeling great. We have fairly regular computer contact with George ("The Dadder") and although we miss having him around to fix things and pitch in on the chores, we're managing in his absence. The emails and pictures surely help and keep us feeling very connected. We're blessed to have such strong technological tools in our lives. In addition to the technology, I'm blessed to have sure wonderfully supportive friends and family. There are always replies to the Friends and Family Update email that I send out and just hearing from you is wonderful beyond words. Thank you for your support!