Monday, July 30, 2007


Soph has found a new level of fun on her Giddy Up Play mat. (I honestly never thought I'd ever be writing a sentence like that I noticed that she has been interested in brighter colors lately and her eyes are following it was time to buy a toy.

George saw a picture and said that he'd like one for himself. So, in case you are stuck thinking of the perfect birthday gift...look no farther!

She really seems to enjoy seeing herself in the mirror.

Dear Family and Friends

With little fanfare, yesterday marked the halfway point in our deployment to Afghanistan. The boys are still doing great, and continuing to make a difference in the various jobs that we do. We are also getting more of the team out on leave right now, and everyone will get home before the end of October and the beginning of November. So after you see your Soldier, all we have to do is get through the "shorter half" as my wife Nikki describes it.

1SG Walter is starting his leave just in time. I am happy to announce the birth of his third son on 27 July at approximately 8h00 PM EDT. Both Deborah and Evan are doing great, and from the pictures, his two other sons are going to be proud older brothers. 1SG Walter should be home in a few days to spend two weeks of sleepless nights with his family.

One thing out of the ordinary this past week was the death of the former King of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah. The King had been deposed over 30 years ago by the first communist dictator of Afghanistan and had lived in exile in Italy until the fall of the Taliban. When he returned in 2002, he was treated with respect, but to his disappointment, was not asked to participate in the government. Our 1st Kandak provided security in the Kabul area, and his funeral was non-eventful.

Some of our guys have been assisting in the relief of our second Marine team. We are happy to be continue to be working with a new Marine team, and they are off to a good start. We wish our old 2nd Kandak Marines a safe journey to their homes -- they have a long trip back to Okinawa. About a half-dozen other members of the 1st Brigade Team, Guardsmen from Utah and two USAF intelligence analysts, are also getting ready to depart.

This coming week will be -- yes, I am going to say it again -- business as usual.

Enjoy the rest of your summer,



Team Leader/Senior Mentor

1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Oooh Baby We're Half Way There....

Family and Friends Update:

Well, gang, we are approaching the half-way point this week -- July 28th is the six month mark!

This has been a relatively quiet week for us, while there seems to be a lot of news about the country. The latest item today was about the death of the old king. King Zahir was 92 years old and had returned to Afghanistan from almost a 30-year exile after the Karzai government was established. The jirga recognized him as the Father of the Country, but little else -- I imagine to his disappointment.

As a unit, we have a couple of indirect connections to him. I know that you have seen the pictures of the Queen's Palace which looms over Camp Darulaman, the ruins of the King's Palace is about 3/4 of a mile from that and also visible from Darulaman. Out in the east, we have ANA and Marine ETTs in an outpost that used to be the old royal hunting lodge. In that area of Nuristan, he used to hunt deer, jackal and wolves from what I have been told.

His funeral will be held tomorrow and Tuesday and Wednesday will be national holidays. Some of the ANA soldiers at Darulaman will be helping with security in the Kabul area, but we are not expecting any trouble really. The King was not controversial, and his reign was the last period of peace in the country.

In Jalalabad this week, the temperatures have only reached 100F which believe it or not, has been a welcome relief from the 120F degree temperatures of the preceding weeks. Kabul is practically frigid with temperatures in the 80s.

We are helping the second set of our Marines to be replaced, so soon both of our USMC ETT teams will be new. The first group has been working out great, and we expect the same from our new group. Working with the Marines has been a real pleasure because they are very professional. I think we must be doing things right because we have garnered their respect as well.

This coming week should be business as usual for the teams. We offer birthday wishes to SPC Gerrity (25th) and LT Mitchell (26th) this week, and a happy leave for SGT Argonish.

Team Leader/Senior Mentor
1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Family and Friends Update

Dear Friends & Family,

I am very sorry for missing last week's update. I wasn't able to get it done over the weekend because 1SG Walter and I have been traveling, and then we have had another one of our internet blackouts for a couple days at the beginning of the week, so I just decided to just wait until the next update.

It has been another couple of hot and busy weeks here with temperatures above 115 degrees Fahrenheit during the day in the Jalalabad area and almost 100 in Kabul. The Pennsylvanians are all doing great. For instance, during our travels, we visited with MSG Ball at Camp Fayez. He has really done a lot of improvements at the camp, putting his stamp so much on it that we have taken to calling it "Ball-istan".

We celebrated two national holidays in the past two weeks. Our own Independence Day was rather low key, it was a busy day, but we still enjoyed BBQ and cheeseburgers for dinner. Yesterday was Bastille Day, the French Independence Day, and at lunch we enjoyed some special "fromage" and sausages; unfortunately, there was no wine...

For the past three days, those of us in Jalalabad have been enjoyed great meals courtesy of KBR. KBR is the civilian firm that provides life-support at many of the camps in Afghanistan, most notably at Camp Darulaman (remember the steak and lobster dinners?). Now they are up and running here

Two of our battalion-level mentoring teams are US Marines, and both are in the process of switching out with new Marine teams this month. We have really enjoyed working with them. When we first arrived, they had the experience and they were very willing to share their techniques and learnings with us. Although we will miss working with our comrades, we are glad that they get to go back to their families.

This coming week, we have a meeting with all of the kandak commanders and team leaders to review our operations thus far and to set goals for the remainder of the deployment.

I hope this note finds everyone enjoying their summer back home.

Warm Regards,

Team Leader/Senior Mentor
1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

She's Got Leeeegs, And She Know How to Use Them.

This is the beautiful smile that she had on just seconds before I went to pick up the phone. Now, the phone is a mere 5 feet from where she lay on the "dining room" floor.

Looks perfectly innocent doesn't she?????

On the second ring I get up and walk to the phone. UGH! Telemarketer.
Innocent no more!!! I hang up and turn around to THIS:

They really mean it when they say "Never leave your child unattended." I thought for sure that I had turned a pale shade of grey until I heard her giggle while I'm taking giant steps over to correct this situation. That's right. SHE THINKS THIS IS FUNNY!

I step over her only to see that she is having a grand ol' time!

Isn't life grand?

(ps. Yes, folkes...that thing on her bum is a cloth diaper. They're much nicer than the fold and pin ones of the 70's and 80's. These are all in ones. Very nice. No plastic cover to be worn. They're generally trimmer than other diapers but we have a Super Soaker so I have and extra insert stuffed into hers. Yeah!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Letter to My Pea

Ms. Sophia;

Today you are two months old. There are so many things that you've taught me in the last 8 weeks. I have never had more fun learning about someone as I have had with you.

The day you were born you made me a strong woman. Not that I wasn't one before, but as we walked through that long day together I transformed into something much more than I had ever been. Something more that I had ever dreamed of. I've never felt more confident, capable and beautiful that I do today. I just can't thank you enough. Our relationship is indescribable and though I'd love to, I fail to find words to describe the depth of our connection and the beauty of our energy.

You have the most amazing spirit. This was something I learned on your birthday. On your first day of life you decided to make an arduous journey into a very scary place. You were willing to fight your way into a world filled with intense energy, bright lights, loud sounds, and cold air. It was your faith, determination and courage that brought you into my arms. These are qualities that you share with your Dadder. Your presence keeps him close to home because of all the things that you two share. (Especially your toes. I'm amazed at how similar they are to his.)

You're one of those babies that people dream about having.I've learned that you prefer to go to bed early and sleep in late. No problems feeding and you love to sleep all night. Why bother waking up to be changed or to eat when you're dreaming of playing soccer in the backyard with your Dad? Not much bothers you. You adapt well to changes...just goin' with the flow. My yoga baby.

We have done more traveling than the average Mom and Daughter at 8 weeks, and so long as I stop to nurse you upon request, you don't ever seem to mind being on the run. So long as your close to me you're happy. You love to be carried and are the world's best physical trainer...reminding Mom that she needs to walk...walk....walk. As a matter of fact, you prefer to be walked to sleep.

You don't like curry and would prefer that I give up cheese. You have the hiccups at least twice a day just as you did inutero. I MUST stop everything and tend to these darn things. A few minutes of nursing and you're good as gold. You're a feisty one, my dear. Not feisty in that "fussy, inconsolable baby" sort of way...but you're not afraid to express yourself. You want what you want when you want it. I love that about you. No screwing around. You tell it how it is, girl. I think you may have inherited that from me...tee..hehe...

Your Dad and I love you more than we could ever possibly express in any spoken language. We hope to hold you close so you can feel it as our hearts beat close to yours. We hope you can feel it when we whisper in your ears as you sleep and bathe you in sweet kisses. You Dadder has a fascination with blowing raspberries on your belly...yeah...the real loud ones that I do for him before you slip off to sleep at night.

He loves loving you. I love loving you.
We're honored that you chose us as your parents.

the mommer + the dadder

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

We're Half Way There

Sophia and I have been on an unplanned vacation at my parents' house. We packed for the weekend and ended up staying for the week. (Glad they let me use the laundry!). Soph is still eating about once an hour, and I am eating three meals a day for the first time since before she was born. Hope this finds everyone doing well. Have a happy and safe 4th!


Dear Family & Friends,

I know that I speak for everyone on the team when I say that although our mission is very fulfilling, we are glad that another month is down. Our next milestone is the half-way point in the actual deployment with the six month mark on 28 July!

The ANA brigade and the ETTs continue to stay busy across the seven provinces where we are operating. In addition to security missions and training, this past week we had to provide disaster assistance to the local population in Kunar Province.

This is the rainy season in Southwest Asia. Further east in Pakistan and India, they are clearly having monsoons, and we have had a few hard storms come through too. Much of the rain in Afghanistan is falling in the Hindu Kush mountains to the north, and the run-off has caused flooding in some of our areas, especially in Kunar.

This past week, the ANA led an effort to evacuate some 3,000 residents of a village along the Kunar River that was in danger of being washed away. The residents were primarily neutral to the government and security forces because they are often caught between the Coalition and the anti-coalition militias (ACM), who are not afraid to use intimidation tactics on them. The ACM did not do anything to help, but as a result of the assistance they received from the ANA, they are firmly in the pro-government camp now.

Also this past week, some of us had the opportunity to journey up to Nuristan. This remote, mountainous province was the last area to convert to Islam, only 110 years ago; fellow tribesmen across the border in Pakistan reportedly still practice their ancient pagan religion. Nuristan is another one of those areas that has its own unique language (not like Dari or Pashto) and culture that somehow fit into modern Afghanistan. (I was told that there are 33 different ethnic groups in the country.)

The link below is to our higher headquarters' web page. It has not been updated since May, and I am not sure how often it will be updated. Most of the information and pictures is from Camp Blackhorse where the headquarters is located, but I hope you find it interesting. (You will probably have to copy & paste it into your browser's address bar.)

This coming week is business as normal. We have not decided how we plan to celebrate the 4th of July, but we appreciate the holdiay packages from "Mrs. Tato" to help us liven up the day.

Best Regards,
LTC, ARCommander1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)