Geo's mosts recent update:
Dear Family & Friends,
We seem to be locked in this interminable pattern of two-three days of nice weather, followed by at least three days of precipitation. After a couple of beautiful days here, the wet period is starting again today -- it is gloomy and drizzly and the next couple days are going to be the same.
With a few minor exceptions, the Pennsylvanians are doing great. The Sergeant-Major has been very disappointed with the performance of the Flyers, but is holding out hope for the Phillies. He has done a tremendous job improving the quality of life for service members on our camp, and one of his improvements has been to get delivery of the Stars & Stripes newspaper, which are usually only a day or two after their published date. This has improved everyone's morale except his own because now he gets the most up-to-date reports on their miserable season.
The other point of contention has involved the release of the movie "The 300." Since it has been out for at least a week, we expect to see bootleg DVDs of it available in our bazaar as early as this Sunday. LT Gallagher has threatened to buy and watch a "first edition bootleg" which is sure to be of the worst quality. Everyone else wants to wait for the Russian bootleg version to come out because as everyone knows -- except me it seems -- it will be a much better bootleg version. So, in order to keep most of the troops happy, I had to explicity order LT Gallagher not to buy a cheap first-version bootleg. When we are able to get a DVD that CPT Junguzza and LT Mitchell are satisfied with, we'll have a special movie night here.
I had written before to let you know that Pamela Varkony was going to do a blog article on us, and it was just posted on Thursday. Apparently, there were some technical problems that caused the delay. She is also going to write a Sunday column on us. If you go to the blog (http://blogs.mcall.com/varkony/) there is already a link from the entry to the column that you will be able to check out on Sunday. Due to mission requirements that day, not everyone was able to participate in her interview or get in the picture unfortunately.
Although most of the week was routine, we had a safety stand-down yesterday. We had some presentations in the morning on vehicle safety, and then performed intensive maintenance in the afternoon (see attached). You may have heard about the industrial accident in Kabul this past week too. Five civilians died in the explosion, but there were no coalition forces involved at all.
Next week will be business as usual too. About 400 soldiers from the ANA Brigade have been preparing for a big national parade at the end of April, and there has been a LOT of parade practice. Also this coming week is the Afghan New Year on the 21st; they'll be partying like it is 1386! Their use of the Persian calendar is one of the challenges we have to work through all of the time.
So, I wish everyone a happy and safe Afghan New Year,
GEORGE M. SCHWARTZ
1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)
The aforementioned blog entry:
Home Town Team
I came to Afghanistan to write about the work of the CDHAM team and to report on the status of healthcare in the country, but I was not going to leave without spending some time with the men and women of the Penna. National Guard, stationed at Camp Darulaman outside of Kabul.
125 Americans are at the camp, working with the Afghan National Army. 16 are from the Penna. National Guard, serving as trainers and mentors.You would be hard pressed to find a nicer group of men; dedicated, focused, and funny!!Second Note: The white spots on the photo below are not a technical error, they are the Afghan version of snow; huge flakes mixed with ice. Afghanistan's weather is famous for its extremes.
The camp is on the site of a former Russian base, but has been completely rebuilt, courtesy of the U.S. Dept of Defense.
My visit was memorable not only because I got to spend some quality time with the "home town team" but because every one of them was positive about their mission. There was no one who was downtrodden or negative about being away from home; they made it clear that they understand the importance of what they are here to accomplish. I look forward to telling you more about our dedicated "First Defenders" in the days to come.
Until then, I want to express my thanks to the men of the Brigade Team from Pennsylvania for their courtesy and candor. Your home state appreciates your service and sacrifice and is awaiting your return.
I'll be detailing my time with these wonderful soldiers in my next column this Sunday, March 18, including my first, and probably my last, ride in an armored Humvee.