Friday, August 31, 2007

Memorial for the Fallen

Family & Friends,

We had our memorial service today for MSG Ball, SGT Argonish and MAJ Henry Oficier.

"Hank" was the third US Soldier who was killed in that ambush. He also worked out of Camp Faez, with our LT Joe Mitchell and MSG Kevin Bittenbender, as the chief of the Provincial Police Mentoring Team. He leaves behind his grieving family in Guam and a fiancee in Georgia.

I did not know him very well, but others -- including LT Mitchell -- spoke highly about him. In addition, CPT Pat Pellegrino paid a tribute to his friend Scott, and CPL Robert Gerrity honored his good friend Jan. I said a few remarks about Scott and Jan, which are below. Words just don't suffice though...

It was a wonderful ceremony, and the 5th Kandak team led by MAJ Rob Jorgensen truly honored our fallen friends. It was a typical hot, humid August day here so our tears mixed with sweat, and there was a lot of both.

Naturally, everyone from "Team America" (that was the name Jan gave us) is in mourning, but grief is a process, and we all seem to be grieving in a healthy way.

We were very fortunate to be able to get everyone (with the exception of LT Green) from the team together too. LT Gallagher arrived at Bagram last night from leave. As I mentioned, LT Green is not here because he just arrived home for his leave. He plans to attend all of the services as our Unit Representative.

Please keep Leslie, Tyler, Allie, Jakub and Talia in your prayers. I know that many of you have plans to attend some of the services, and I speak on behalf of the team when I thank you for honoring our fallen.

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


Simple words can not be used to describe MSG Scott Ball and SGT Jan Argonish. You really had to know them like we knew them—serving with them, living with them, and sharing with them—to understand what extraordinary men they were. We are fortunate to have had that opportunity.

They were of different temperaments, but their legacies are much the same: they leave loving families, they had many, many friends who admired them, and they demonstrated that they were willing to die for what they believed in.

They recognized that this war is our war, and they answered the call to duty. The fact that they served in the Army in the first place is more than what most people have done. On this mission, they were a part of something greater than most things one can experience in any lifetime—they (and us) have been liberating an oppressed people, an entire country, and they were helping to create the army of a democratic nation so that they can protect their freedom.

In 11 days, this war -- our war -- will be six years on. We have to accept the fact that our war is not going to be like former wars. It is clear that this is going to be a long tough struggle.

They died the way we all said we wanted to go if it was our time; they went down fighting. They made their sacrifice so that Tyler, Jakub, and Allie would not have to carry on the fight. And I am certain because of their efforts that our Nates, Sophias and Evans won’t have to either.

To have something so precious as was our relationships with these two extraordinary men and then to have it suddenly taken away, is painful. The pain is inevitable, our suffering is optional. They would be the first to remind us that the job is not done. We have an army to build, we have more fights ahead of us, and we have to get the rest of us home to our loved ones.

Scott, Jan, I am heart broken that you are gone, but I am a better man for having known you both. I thank you for the examples that you gave us, and I want you to know that Team America is going to pick up where you left off. We’ll carry-on.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fallen Heros

Dear Family & Friends,

It is with great sorrow that I want to inform you of the deaths in combat of two of our great team members, Master Sergeant Scott Ball and Sergeant Jan Argonish during a patrol in Kunar Province yesterday.

MSG Ball is survived by his wife, Leslie, his son, Tyler (10 years old), and daughter, Allie (6 years old). He was constantly thinking about them. When we were at Fort Riley, the guys called him "Clark Griswold" after the character in the "Vacation" movies because he was always walking around taking pictures to send home. Since arriving in Afghanistan, he also must have doubled the business at the Camp Darulaman bazaar with all the things he bought to send back to his family.

Scott was very proud to be a motorcycle trooper in the State Police, but his ambition was to earn his pilot's license so that he could fly for the force after we got back. Despite urging from people like me that the Guard needed great leaders like him, Scott was going to retire from the military upon our return to focus on his family and flying career. He had certainly done his duty to our country, having previously served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division during DESERT STORM and a deployment with the PA Guard to Europe to provide force protection for US facilities immediately after 9/11.

SGT Argonish is survived by his young son, Jakub (8 years old), his parents and a loving family. Argo will also be deeply missed by Talia, whom he was very much in love with. He would proudly let us listen to Talia's music on his iPod while showing us pictures of Jakub and his "monster" pickup truck. While he was a very dedicated and skilled Soldier, Argo was also quite the subtle clown too. For instance, in the warren of bunks and wall lockers that we lived in at Fort Riley, the guys would start games of "Argo Polo" with him and he always played along. He loved to make people laugh as much as Scott loved to laugh.

Although a traditional Guardsman, this was Argo's second deployment since he was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom-II. During that mission, he put his skills as a Federal Prison Guard to good use when he was part of the company from the 28th Infantry Division that guarded Saddam Hussein and his fellow war criminals. Sadly, Argo had made a deal with his son that this was going to be his last deployment, and he was looking forward to working on his pickup, fishing with his son, and spending more time with his loved ones.

Both were outstanding in their roles as mentors, and had been making a big difference over here. We used to joke with MSG Ball about all the improvements that he had made to Camp Faez, that we should start calling it "Ball-istan." SGT Argo had been learning Pashto while training the ANA mechanics.

Both also strongly believed in what they were doing. This is a truly war of good versus evil, and Scott and Jan were most assuredly two of the best good guys. I am convinced that we will be victorious in this struggle due to the service, courage and sacrifice of men like them. They remain an inspiration to us who remain, we are very proud to have served with them.

At this point, their families have been informed and the Casualty Assistance process and their mourning have started. Please keep them in your thoughts and intentions, but please give them some time for now. An announcement regarding the fallen will be made by the Pennsylvania National Guard later today.

Because they were so loved, everyone here is in mourning—US, ANA and even the interpreters—so I ask you to lend your support and prayers to your Soldier and the rest of the Pennsylvanians as we carry on. Despite our pain, everyone recognizes that the job is still not done until the rest of us are safely home with you. We plan on holding a memorial service for our heroic comrades this Friday at Camp Faez.

...edited to exclude phone numbers....


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

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Update from the Field

Dear Family and Friends,

We are just two days away from the seven month mark! Already thoughts have started to turn towards and actual plans are starting to be made for our departure. Things are looking more likely that French ETTs will be replacing us too, so we will have a unique challenge to work through, unlike the average team of ETTs.

Everyone that is here is doing weill. We have quite a few of the guys either on leave, getting ready to come back or getting ready to head out. It is a tiresome process that starts with waiting around an airport here, then flying to Kuwait for more waiting around, etc. -- the old Army process of hurry up and wait. 1SG Walter is back from leave and Deborah, Evan and the older two boys are really doing well; he said that it was the quickest two weeks of the deployment!

As you know, a lot of the Pennsylvanians are in the 5th Kandak. They were busy this week with guiding the ANA medics to train Afghan Police n first responder skills; the training process ended with a "MEDCAP" for the police and their children, where they received a free medical screening and any prescriptions that they required. Unfortunately, we could not get a female medical professional to help out, so they were not able to provide service to any of their wives or older daughters; that's the way things go in Afghanistan.

This coming week we continue a staff training process with the brigade headquarters here in Jalalabad. We are taking them through the planning process and in the process, creating the plan for the hand-over here in the east to another ANA brigade and then our movement back to Darulaman.

I imagine that school is getting started soon for all of the kids back home, and we all hope that it gets off to a good start!

Warm Regards,

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

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rising Moon Birth Scholarship Consignment Sale

Rising Moon Midwifery believes that all women, regardless of income status, should have access to homebirth. It is always a struggle for us to not have the ability to care for all woman. Until PA allows CPMs to bill all insurance companies, including Medicaid, we are developing this fund to help make that access possible. If you have other ideas for fundraisers, please let us know! Directors of the Birth Scholarship fund are Nicole Schwartz (, and Amy Borelli (

Rising Moon Birth Scholarship Consignment Sale

Saturday and Sunday, October 6th and 7th 9am-6pm
(1/2 price Sunday afternoon!)
Presale Friday afternoon, October 5th 1pm-6pm
mark your calendars for a day of great shopping!

Location: 104 Leonards Lane, Phoenixville, PA

Clean out your closets and turn clutter into cash!!!
Do you have baby clothes, furniture, and toys piled up in your garage? How would you like to get rid of it and turn it into cash? Just bring your new or gently used items to us and we’ll do the work for you. All you do is sort and tag your items, drop them off at our designated locations, and wait for your check in the mail!

*Anyone can be a consignor, just register for a number.
*Consignors are invited to our Presale, where you get to shop the pick of the sale items before we open to the public!
*You must submit at least 20 items or a total value of $75 (this could be just 1 or 2 big items!) to shop at the presale.
*You get to set the prices.
*You make 70% of your sales.
*Checks are mailed within 2 weeks.
*There is a $5 participation fee which is deducted from your final check, so there’s nothing to pay up front (or get it waived, see Incentive below!).
*If you don’t have $5 worth of sales, there’s no charge.
*Unsold items can be picked up at the end of the sale or donated.

EXTRA INCENTIVE - Want to have that $5 participation fee waived?
Have your friends sign up too! When 2 new consignors reference your name during registration (and show up with items to sell), your consignor fee will be waived. Get out there and spread the word. Another way to get your fee waived is to volunteer to work during the sale (setup to teardown). We'll waive the fee for ALL workers, plus you get to shop even earlier than consignors!

To register for a consignor's number, call Amy Borrelli at (610)765-1252 or email her at

Don't want to be bothered with the tagging and sorting? Feel free to donate your items so that all of the proceeds of their sale will go to the Birth Scholarship Fund, and we'll tag and sort for you! Call or email Amy for more information!

Don't have anything to sell? Your munchkins all grown up? You can still make a donation to the Birth Scholarship. Please contact one of the Birth Scholarship Directors to arrange to make a donation.

See you at the sale!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hail to the Brits!!

Dear Family & Friends,

Today was a special because the unit celebrated Afghanistan's Independence Day in Jalalabad. Tomorrow is the actual Independence Day, but because the unit has to provide security in this area, it was celebrated today.

Today made me appreciate that we actually have quite a bit in common with the Afghans. Both our societies are multi-cultural and diverse, our peoples desire freedom and security, and although we both won our freedom from the British, the Brits are now -- for both our countries -- one of our closest allies.

We were joined at today's celebration by our US comrades from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, who operate in partnership with our brigade. Both brigade commanders had some remarks for the assembled soldiers and guests, and then some soliders were recognized with certificates of acvhievement. After the official proceedings, a band played for the soldiers and several groups of soldiers did traditional Afghan dancing. (See attached picture.)

Another big even today was the arrival of the 5th Kandak resupply convoy to Jalalabad which brings us our mail. Many of the Pennsylvanians work with the 5th Kandak and they receive a hero's welcome when they show up with mail.

The Peace Jirga between Afghanistan and Pakistan ended this past week on a positive note. You probably know from the news that many of the terrorists take refuge in the lawless nowrthwestern frontiers of Pakistan, and both countries are now working hard to eliminate these refuges. The Pakistanis have been having their own problems with "miscreants" in that area this summer.

This coming week some of our US and ANA operational staff will be working with planners from the 173rd ABN BDE and the 201st ANA Corps on upcoming operations, inlcuding our pending relief from the eastern zone. Also this week, the 5th Kandak is going to be doing first aid training for Afghan Uniformed Police and then will conduct a MEDCAP (medical civil assistance program) in Asadabad.

Best Regards for a Happy Summer at Home!

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

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fun, Food and Fantacy

Yesterday was the Family Readiness Group Picnic at Knoeble's Grove.
Since Sophia is still a little short to ride the rides we walked around the park enjoying the people. We stopped to watch The Waltons at the Bandstand. They were a talented pair!
A trip to Knoebles isn't complete without a visit to the Fudge and Nut Shoppe. I bought Peanut Butter Cup and Rocky Road Fudge. With the purchase of one pound of fudge you received one square of the Flavor of the Day: Cinnamon Snickerdoodle. I haven't tried it but it smells like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.
I was glad to have my sister along with me for the picnic. She's great company and because of the distance between us (PA to NC) we don't get to spend as much time together as I'd like to.
After having our fill of walking, the three of us sat under the shade trees and watched the famous Knoebles stream.
She makes me laugh.
A lot.

It was a great day. Everyone had fun.
Now I have to get some more fudge.....

Monday, August 6, 2007

OH HO HO How I love to swim

Just Keep Swimming
Dory, Finding Nemo

"Hey Mr Grump Gills
You know what you gotta do when life gets you down?
Just keep swimming
Just keep swimming
Just keep swimming swimming swimming
What do we do we swim, swim, swim
OH HO HO How I love to swim
When you WAAAAAANNTTT to swim you want to swim"

Friday, August 3, 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope this note finds everyone enjoying their summer. We are all doing well here, and actually some of us are at home now, enjoying leave with our loved ones. This includes 1SG Walter who made it home safely yesterday to meet his new son.

I know that the family group picnic is this coming weekend, and hope that the turn-out is good. We have really bonded as a result of this experience, so I am sure that we will all be seeing more of each other after this.

We continue to make improvements at every location that we have ANA and US troops. Our "home" garrison in Darulaman has constructed several new living quarters for the coalition forces, and we have many new tenants who are advisers to the Police. Here at Camp Darulaman, we are leading the charge to make improvements for the ANA. We have completed a new consolidated dining facility for them that is more efficient and drastically improved the sanitation.

I honestly cannot report on anything special occuring this past week. The news from distant Ghazni has, of course, been terrible with the kidnapping of all of those Korean hostages, and we all hope for their safe release. We did wish SPC Gerrity and LT Mitchell happy birthdays; well, we had to remind LT Mitchell that it was his birthday...

Best Wishes for this Coming Week,

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

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Our Picnic in Reeves Park

It was an amazing day today. I was happy to have kicked my cold and we needed some fresh air. The weather this summer has been terribly hot and humid so Sophia hasn't really been able to experience the beauty of nature yet.

This morning I packed a nice lunch and we headed to Reeves Park for a picnic. I've been driving past the park since we moved to Phoenixville thinking :
"My... what a nice park. I should stop there one day. "
We mailed off a package to The Dadder first and hiked through the grass to find the perfect picnic spot.

We found it below the huge trees. They provided just the right amount of shade .

We had all the ingredients for perfect fun: The Babe, picnic bag, diaper stuff sack and yummy German mineral water....

She loved it.

She really loved it.

She really, really love it.

We (heart) naps.
It was great day!