31 Oct 2005
Its been a while since I've wrote. All is well. All appendages are still attached.
OPERATION PIL was conducted here in Kunar over the past week or so. The intent was to capture and kill bad guys. Some of that was done. Spent most of it, though, walking up and down mountains. After returning from OPERATION PIL, I wanted just four things, 1) a shower, 2) read my email, 3) open the 21 boxes of mail (19 are Afghan Kids Donators), and 4) some peace and quiet. I got my shower, after two hours of interruptions trying to get to the faucet. I opened my mail, finally getting the anticipated package my wife sent with the DVD she had burnt with home videos on it of my sons first birthday. Email was down, again/still. Peace and quiet continues to elude me.
The DVD was the best thing received in the mail yet. I loved it. Buddy sure is growing. I can't believe all that I'm missing. Seems just days ago he was crawling around the hotel floor in North Carolina. Now, I see through tubes and lights a little boy taking sturdy, stable steps. Alicia looks beautiful. She was a pretty girl when we met. Now she is a beautiful woman.
Want to send a thank you out to all the people that have been supporting us over here. We have received numerous donations of clothes, blankets and toys for the Afghan people. We distributed mass quantities this past week at the medcap conducted at the end of the operation. I have attached a picture to show you your donations at work. Thank you again. I would like to send a special thanks to the Girl Scout Troops 15, 114 and 141. I have received at least 30 boxes of donated items in the past month. Thank you, ladies, from the bottom of my heart.
I tried to keep some notes of what has happened over the last seven days. Tsangar is the home of many bad guys and some former bad guys. This area is used as a hospice for all the arabs, Chechens, and other foreign fighters traveling to the Korengal. It was also known that there were substantial weapons caches. The hope was that we would catch some of these guys with their pants down, as well as capture their caches.
My part of the mission was to be the Commander's conscience… advise him on Afghan law, culture and customs… how it would affect or sway his decision making. More so my job was to be the liaison between the populace and the military. First thing I did was meet with the teachers and some of the students that had an open air school some 200 meters from our initial patrol base. Met with him just yesterday at the base and gave him a pick-up full of supplies. He was very grateful.
I am sure everyone understands that there isn't much I can say about the Operation itself. Most of the things that are pen-worthy aren't about any of the fight anyway. Most of the stories to be told are memorable because they're humorous. For example, Bess (my lone Civil Affairs female Soldier) got proposed to again by one of the ANA Soldiers.
Afghanistan continues to amaze me. I am humbled by how little these people have and survive. What little they have they continue to offer to us, who have so much. Their homes have no furnishings other than worn wood beds, sleeping mats and blankets. A clock may hang on the wall but it has been many years since it last worked. Clothes are few, and what they have is tattered and mended again and again. Work is the main focus of the day. Work starts before sun up and ends shortly before evening prayer.
The view from the corn fields we used as a patrol base one day is amazing. It's almost as if you could grab the corners of your poncho, take a running leap off the edge and fly into the valley air. The sheer drop off gives each terrace its own finite feel to the space it occupies, and an appreciation for your place on earth. The irony of the location of our patrol base is that I grew up in Iowa with corn fields all around me, and here I stand in Afghanistan, in the midst of a corn field all around me, again.
Hafiz, our terp [interpreter], was telling us about his fiancé. The Afghan culture varies greatly with American culture in this respect. Most marriages are arranged and most engagements made as a family decision, rather than the individuals. This is the case with Hafiz. His mother chose this girl for him. He says it is not the girl he grew up with and loves passionately. But, he says, this one will do. I asked if she is pretty. He said she has big eyes and is kind of short. She is ‘not too pretty for me' is how he put it. Wow, what a culture.
During the night of day five the 155's (big artillery cannons) fired some illum rounds for one of the other companies. As they popped and crackled above us in the deep valley space, casting a glow a little more powerful than the moon, Bess asked “Do you think we have anything to worry about?” My response was, “Well, we are in the middle of Tsangar Village, home to most mid-level terrorists in Kunar.” We all laughed. Humor is the only saving grace here.
The op ended with a long forced march down the mountain. Nothing significant other than I fell a half a dozen times, and my feet and knees were killing me.
Looking back on the last few days I found a few things to be ironic. Only in the army will you stand around a trash fire and use it to roast corn. Funny when there is more dirt on your hands than the M-n-M you picked up out of the dirt and ate.
The Op ended with a medcap and HA (humanitarian assistance) give-away. Since the Op we've been going non-stop. Just dropped off some assistance packages to Nowabad. Delivered over 100 pounds of donated school supplies and clothes to the people there.
My best goes out to you all. Thank you again for all of your support. Take care.
15 Oct 2005
Please update my address on AnySoldier. Thanks.
10 Oct 2005
Been gone a lot over the last month. Not sure when I last updated. We've been quite busy since the elections ended. All the projects we've had on the burner needed to get started or assessed for progression and quality. We have been all over the province in the last few weeks. More notably, we have administered many of the donated school supplies, clothes and toys to the children and schools of this province. The need is great, especially now that its getting close to winter and the refugee camps are full due to the forced exodus from Pakistan.
Above are a couple pictures of some of the items donated by US citizens toward the cause being distributed last week. The quicker we win the hearts and minds of the people, the quicker we will win this war… and then I get to come home to my wife and kid… can't wait.
Us fording the Pech Valley River going into the mouth of the Korengal (the most dangerous place in Afghanistan). Went all that way just to flip them the bird… just kidding. We're building a road down the valley. Went down to conduct an assessment. Just ironic to be standing taking notes on the road that is the same place you got ambushed six weeks ago.
The CAT-A conducting an assessment of the construction of a cable bridge that can support small vehicles. This will be the first and only way to transport sick and elderly to medical facilities that have been cut off from them previously, because of the natural barrier the river presents.
Big Mc checking out the ridge line between Abad and Nangalam. We were moving westward conducting assessments. When we stopped here we sent a group forward to sweep for IED's with metal detectors. The site has had three IED's detonate on convoys in the same spot. Working on a non-kinetic solution to this problem.
A pic my medic took while we were playing cards at Camp Blessing between missions. Note the puppy that took a nap in the middle of our game.
Spent some time in Nuristan. It is most undoubtedly the most beautiful part of Afghanistan I've seen yet. It looks a lot like Colorado. The mountains are huge, the streams crystal clear, the air rich and clean. Not too many CF have been to that neck of the woods yet. Interacting with many of the locals was like stepping back in time a hundred years, even though the elders were more educated than most of those in Kunar. I was surprised to see how many spoke some English. In the 1960's and 70's, Nuristan was quite wealthy and had a very tight nit governmental infrastructure. Due to its isolation (the mountain ranges), it actually became somewhat of its own country… speaking its own language and having its own culture. Great place, less the bad guys.
Me in Nuristan.
I wish I had more time, but time seems to be a valuable commodity these days. I am going to have to cut this update short, but do know that I have received numerous care packages and we appreciate each and everyone of them. The magazines, books, head-lamps, coffee pots and coffee grounds, cigars, candy and snacks, soda, etc have been great. Coming back from mission and being able to unwind with a good cigar has been a large stress reliever for me and my team. They have been greatly enjoyed.
My apologies for not writing much lately. Hopefully in November I will have more time, but it does not appear to let up until then. Thank you for your support, and all your prayers.
25 Sep 2005
Been meaning to update for a while, but been very busy with the Parliamentary elections that took place on the 18th of this month. The elections were a success. Very little harm was done by AQAM (bad guys). They planted a few IED's and fired a few rockets, but were mostly thwarted by countermeasures taken by coalition forces. Our role during the elections was to maintain a coordination cell between the non-government organizations in Afghanistan trying to help, the UN, the Afghanistan Security Forces and Government heads, and the Coalition Forces on stand by (to squash any aggressive moves the Afghan Security Forces could not handle). Though that was the main effort of my unit, my team's job was to continue on with reconstruction efforts.
Spent the last few days conducting assessments of the refugees that came back from Pakistan about a month ago. They took refuge in Pakistan when the Russians invaded, and had been there ever since. They are now returning because they were forced out by Pakistan. We saw two camps of about eight in the province. One camp had 360 families, which is about 3000 people. The other camp had about 550 families, or about 6000 people. Their conditions are very poor. The water they drink is from the river, which is not a clean source. Thus, 2-3 people per family are suffering from diarrhea and vomiting. Most of the sick are children. The money they left with is depleting, so at some point in the coming weeks food will become very short. Even if they were to have land to settle today, they would not be able to raise crops quickly enough to sustain themselves in the short term. When visiting with the kids I expected them to ask questions like ‘do your sunglasses let you see through walls?' or ‘does your vest keep you cool in the heat?' but no, these kids had survival at the forefront of their mind. They asked the same questions the elder refugees asked, ‘where the land grant was' and ‘when could they settle since winter is coming'. Before that, their biggest concern was if there would be more food assistance coming. Most families were down to one meal a day, and that was a scant meal. Makes you feel awful fortunate.
The part that amazed me was the middle school that was being conducted by some of the teachers that came over as refugees. They placed stones around a patch of grass down by the river. The kids sat there in rows, listening intently to the teachers, not causing one bit of trouble. I asked my wife how we could get our son to behave so well. Speaking of my son, he is growing like a weed. His little arms and legs are stretching out. Even though I get pictures, I can see how his walking is getting better. Alicia sent me this picture last night.
If anyone knows of any charities that want to give winter clothes to needy people, we would love to facilitate. We are working with Red Crescent and other organizations to meet the needs of the people. I hope we can do enough. The support that has come for children, more specifically school supplies, has been awesome. We have distributed multiple boxes to different schools throughout the province. Thank you for sending what you have.
We have received many wonderful things in the mail lately. Mountain Dew, snacks, snacks, more snacks, magazines, CDs, DVDs, etc. Loved everything. Thank you all for sending stuff over. We really appreciate it. The microwave, crock pot and coffee pot are the best. I don't ever have to leave my room now. I can eat, sleep, submit reports, and even fire my weapon from the window. Just kidding… We broke in a new pair of binoculars and a field coffee pot this last mission too. The binos thwarted a possible incident where an off duty border cop was walking around with his AK (not a great idea). And, the coffee pot was awesome to use in the morning. I think the best thing of all was the Tostitos and salsa con queso. I forgot how much I love my chips and dip.
The picture of the dirty Marines is from the convoy back. As you can see, they hit every mud hole on the road. They sure enjoy coming along with the PRT on missions. We get outside the wire often, interact with the locals continually, and sometimes find more action than the kinetic forces do (just the nature of our duty). I do enjoy being here though. Next to being a husband and father, this is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I know my troops feel the same way. We have created something good out here, something we are proud of. It is a spot in a bad place that we call home when we return from missions. It is a time that we know we will always remember. It is relationships that may not last forever here, but will always be remembered and difficult to find again. I do not dare to compare this to a time in my life that is happy, fun or exciting. This is none of those in the way most people mean it. I'm not sure how to explain, I'm just glad to be here doing what we are doing.
Thank you again to all that are supporting me and my troops here in Abad. Until the next update….
17 Sep 2005
This update is to let you know that all my troops are doing okay in regards to being affected by the storm Katrina. We are deeply moved by the outpouring of assistance directed towards us and now ask that you please direct any and all support to the victims of the storm. We may be in a hell hole, but we have clean water, food, blankets and a few of the luxuries of life many are now missing. Please, again, I ask that you donate your assistance to the victims of the storm, they definitely need it much more than we do here.
I thank all of you that have sent news updates via email and letter. I have been slow to get on MSNBC.com and look at the damage. Our internet connection is slow. Many of the webpages with the stories are blocked by the DOD computer. Again, thanks to all keeping me in touch with whats happening back home.
We received packages in the mail today. Someone was really thinking out of the box, sending two stadium chairs. I would have never thought of that on my own… they're great. Used it today to sit on top the humvee monitoring the radio.
Spent the last few days here and there conducting project assessments. Building many basic necessity projects such as water pipe schemes to bring fresh water from the mountain springs down to the villages in multiple locations, hydro-electric damns to create energy to power local businesses, police stations to better provide for the security of the people, etc. Went to the Dangam District for the first time, which is next to Pakistan. Had a little excitement there, but nothing of too great an interest… wouldn't make CNN anyway. Met with the Governor there. He speaks English fairly well. He spent some time in the US going to school to get his Masters degree. You find the darndest things in the most remote places. For example, the other day I saw an Iowa Hawkeyes T-shirt on one of our ASF (Afghan Security Force). Couldn't believe I saw a t-shirt from my birth state. A week ago I met with a contractor. He had invited his cousin to sit in on the meeting. I thought that was weird, but said nothing and conducted my business. About half way through the conversation the cousin speaks up in flat out, plain English, “Hi, my name is Robert, I'm from California.” Of course I asked him what he was doing here. He replied, vacationing with his extended family still here in Afghanistan. Wow, was that a shock.
Parliament Elections are just around the corner. The air of anticipation is filled with concern from the younger troops, and some of the older ones too. Its kind of like worrying about getting in a car wreck. Take the necessary precautions, but try not to occupy your time with needless emotions. Trying to get the troops to focus on mission accomplishment, not solely danger avoidance. Our team travels light, and we are not intended for prolonged engagement with enemy forces. Over the next week, things may turn out more sticky than usual. Still, we must press on and focus on our mission. If the enemy is going to step up his game, then we must follow suit, plus some.
On our last mission we made good use of the large orange igloo cooler sent. We spray painted it tan, green and black, then attached it to the back of the humvee. The troops got a kick out of it, and said they were going to send in the photo to Pimp My Ride. I guess I'm showing my age, because that was the first I'd heard of that show.
Not much else new in these parts. Waiting on post election time frame to start handing out all the school supplies and donated clothes. The contributions made have been very generous. Mrs St. Onge's Girl Scouts have donated a ton of stuff and I want to send an extra special thank you to them. They are the future and we are very proud of the generosity they have displayed.
I must go for now, but leave a photo taken the last couple of days.
13 Sep 2005
Another 9-11 has come around. We flew the flags sent us by family, friends, sponsors, and well wishers over the base between the hours of 0800 and 1200. We paused for a moment of silence, remembering those that were lost and remembering that we are here so that our sons and daughters should grow up in a safer world than what we live in now. It was a somber moment, unlike other days of the year we celebrate. My thoughts are with those around the country morning the loss of loved ones and friends, again.
I attached a couple pictures of us raising the flag to half staff after 8:46(L). The detail consisted of one Soldier, Sailor, Airmen and Marine. The remainder of the PRT stood at attention to the rear. The PRT also consists of all four branches. This is the first time in my career that I have worked with the Navy, the second with the Marines and Air Force. Regardless of uniform, regardless of rank, we all share one mission, one concern, one bond. From the Soldiers, Sailors Airmen and Marines, we extend our condolences to all those morning loved ones lost at the towers or across the ocean since that day.
Thank you to all of you who have been sending the troops of PRT Abad letters and packages. The troops have enjoyed them a great deal. Before I go any further, I must say that we overly enjoyed the music CD sent to us by Robert and Cindy from Louisianna. Although most of my troops listen to either country or rock, we did get a kick out of the Music that makes you want to Dance! Very ironic when played by loud speakers in the middle of the mountains of Afghanistan. The irony was very much enjoyed and created amusement for the troops and the locals watching on.
We received a letter from a World War II veteran who told us of not only his service, but his life since then. He was a POW in Italy, and made mention of a few details that still hold true today. Look for things out of place, and be aware of hidden bombs and ambushes. Although our weapons and tactics change, the simple things that keep you alive don't. A special thanks to Mr Powell out of Georgia.
Definitely did like the DVD's of the Lone Ranger and Dragnet Episodes. Hadn't seen either of those programs in two decades. Definitely enjoyed by our more seasoned Soldiers. Enjoyng the heck out of the coffee sent. Great stuff. Well, we did until my coffee pot went to crap on us last night.
Got a great deal of items donated for schools and the clinics for the kids. That is great. Will be distributing after the parliamentry elections. Things will probably be kind of rough until then, so our focus will be elsewhere for the time being.
I hate doing this, but here are a couple things we could use: coffee filters (small), coffee cup, DVD's, home made CD's of music (enjoy hearing what everyone listens to), scotch tape, thumb tacs, plastic bowls, plastic plates, plastic silverware, pudding packs, CD holder/carrier, HP 27 and 28 print cartridges, glossy photo paper, cheap picture frames (5x7 or 8x10 from Dollar General) would be great. We take pictures when we go out to the project locations. Never fails that a government official shows up and wants a picture taken. It goes a long way to give him a picture the next time you see him. Its one of those cultural things. Pictures here mean a great deal more than they do to us at home, and this is knowing how much my family cherrishes pictures. Some Tostitos bite size chips would be great. Love them by themselves, or with salsa. Best chip on the planet.
Here is a strange request, but we have an Afghan Police Officer that is learning English. He speaks great Russian, but his English is rough. If anyone can find a Russian to English book/dictionary, that would be a great help. Currently, he listens to the American Broadcasts on his hand radio, then listens to us talk and tries to put it all together. You can almost carry on a simple conversation with him. He learns quick.
Troops are really digging the candy and snacks. Last, magazines are great entertainment. If you have old copies that you're just throwing away, we'd love to read them. Got my first stash of cigars. Thanks.
Again, thank you to all. A special thanks to all the little guys and gals out their drawing us pictures. We love them. Please take care, and God Bless.
PS: If anyone wants a flag carried by a Soldier or flown at the base for a day, send it over. We'd be happy to do that.
06 Sep 2005
Just a quick note on the greatest things deploying Soldiers can use. These are some tips for parents, friends, etc looking to get something for them before they leave or while they are away….
Binoculars… most of us are not issued any, and those that are are stretched between large audiences. The power is important, but so is compactness. Don't substitute size for power though. Being able to see bodies at 1 to 2 km is necessary for them to work at all.
Rhino GPS. I have a Garmin and it doesn't work. Need an external antenna for them to work in the up armored humvees. Color graphics is great, but not necessary.
Head lamp. Got one in the mail, it's a rayovac. Love it. My troops all want one now too. Some have them, most don't and could use it.
Cheap digital watches from Wal-Mart. I've gone through two and am on my third in three months. I keep breaking them. Action has been hard on them all.
Plate carriers with good shoulder straps. Color doesn't matter, unless your command deems it. Over here, blending in is just for snipers. Whether tan, od, or coyote brown, the enemy knows your coming. You either get hit or you don't. There is no hiding. Of course you don't want bright orange, but you know what I mean.
Mini DVD players are great for missions that aren't all that active and there is a lot of downtime.
DVD's are the greatest thing. Movies are awesome. TV show collections are even better. Over lunch or dinner you can pop in a 30 minute show and watch it. Stuff like the Andy Griffith Show, Friends, Night Rider, A-Team, MASH, Hogans Heroes, Star Trek, are all great. They always get passed around so they are watched several times.
Just wanted to send a quick note. Things are extremely busy here these days prior to elections. Had a mission out to Watapor District to conduct a ground breaking for a bridge we have funded. This will be the first vehicle bridge to connect the north and south side of the Pech River, west of Asadabad. People are very pleased. Before they had to carry their sick and dieing across a very poorly constructed wooden foot bridge and take a “taxi” to the city. Now the time to transport their sick will be cut down by hours, not minutes like we all tend to fret in the states. During this mission, a subsequent event happened. The village elders from surrounding villages came to the ground breaking. For some, it was the first time they had contact with coalition forces. I think the youngest elder at where we had tea was 70 years old and had a 20 inch beard. I told them to not be dismayed by my young looks and short beard, that I was pretty smart and wouldn't let them down. They thought that was funny. It was a good mission. We got good face time with local leaders and collected some intel. Got to run. Things to do.
03 Sep 2005
Just want to clear the air. Perhaps the message sent earlier may have cause some confusion. Bill McKuen is on his way home to his family. He is alive and well after a long tour in Afghanistan. Please forgive me if I have miscommunicated in the message below. The long trip home was only in reference to how long it takes to get out of this country and back to the states, because of debriefing, outprocessing, etc. Again, my apologies for any miscommunication.
Tobias C Meister
02 Sep 2005
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Just wanted everyone to know that we got mail today. Thank you to all that sent care packages to me and my troops. I saw Melissa Bess jump into the air and squeal when she got a package from someone in CT. Not sure what was in that package, but it sure made her week. I must say as well, though I do not squeal or jump into the air with excitement, I was overly delighted with the headlamp that was sent and the orange igloo cooler. We're going to spray paint the cooler today and attach it to the humvee so we can take Gatorade with us. The head lamp will be used shortly in a few hours. Perhaps I can make it to the latrine now without twisting an ankle or falling. Many other wonderful things were sent. We really appreciate the DVD's (the troops love the DVD's. If anybody sees some old 80's flicks for a couple bucks at Walmart, those are great. Got a couple request if that's okay: Red Dawn, Rocky 1-5, Top Gun, Dumb and Dumber, anything with Chris Farley, anything with Adam Sandler, comedies in general), batteries (which are great, we burn through them all the time with our GPS, cameras, lights,etc), pens (use what we need and give the rest to schools), candy, food, toiletries, books, etc. Again, we placed all the items in the MWR room for the soldiers to pick through for what they need. It was like Christmas morning for these guys. Many thanks again from all the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines at PRT Asadabad.
We lost a Soldier today, but not to the enemy. Bill McKuen started the long trip home. He has been an outstanding example of what is great about our Military. He is a credit to this unit, the USMC, and our great country. Bill “Mr Orange” will be greatly missed out here. On that note, we did receive over a dozen more to try and take his place. Our numbers here have increased greatly. The influx is mostly due to the upcoming parliamentary elections. Not sure what the news is covering, but things of course are becoming a little more tense around here. Of course the bad guys are concerned about the establishment of a working government body, so they are in the process of trying to disrupt things. So, life will be interesting for the next month, atleast. I got some great advise from one of the school kids that have wrote us. He said to not get shot. Please pass along to him that I am trying very hard not to. Sure do get a kick out of the letters and pictures kids are sending. Please pass along our special thanks to them. They are why we are here. Hopefully things will be less threatening during their generation.
I have included a few pictures. The first is of Sgt McKuen, our friend that is on his way home to his family.
The next is of SGT McLaws, my Ops Sgt for the PRT.
The following is me signing a contract for the construction of the first asphault MSR in this province. We are building roads and bridges like you can not believe. We are by far the most busy province in all of Afghanistan, figuring project dollars alone. Creating roads, improving roads, and linking roads with bridges will not only benefit the maneuver commander, but stimulate the economy. A stimulated economy raises the quality of life, and thus creates an atmosphere that is less likely to give up the good that is created, to fire at Coalition Forces. This is winning the hearts and minds. It may cost money today, but it saves lives in the long run, as well as dollars used for fighting the war for the next 20 years. As most of you know, it all boils down to economics, the have's and the have nots.
The following picture is of one of my troops eye balling the ridge line for bad guys after our patrol got hit with small arms and medium machine gun fire.
Lastly, my son drew me his first picture and sent it to me. Of all the things we received today, this was my favorite. My son just turned one not too long ago. He says about a dozen words and drives his mother nuts (in a good way). She said he's all over the house getting into everything. I think that's great. Wish I was home to see it. She also said he learned to blink. So now when he gets in trouble he blinks his long eyelashes and smiles at her, then runs like the dickens.
Again, thank you all for all that you are doing. I greatly appreciate everything. One of the DVD's sent is being loaded now by one of my troops into his laptop. Today is our semi-day off. Friday's here are like our Sunday's back home, when you're not out on mission. Good day to catch up on laundry, clean your weapon and relax a little.
Tobias C Meister
23 Aug 2005
On behalf of my troops at PRT Asadabad, I wanted to say thank you for all that you have done for us. We have received numerous packages and letters from you folks in the states. Each one has lifted the spirits of my men (and women) up a notch. We just returned from a two week operation in the heart of the beast (Korangal Valley). After traipsing around the mountainside, we returned to our Fire Base to find over 40 boxes and letters waiting for us. I can't tell you how great that was. I thought for sure showers, sleep and a hot meal would have been first on their list. But, no. It was opening boxes. Still sweaty and smelly, they all plopped down on the floor and opened box after box. Thank you so much for that. It was a great way to come back, especially after all that we experienced out there in the valley.
I have been asked by many of you to be more specific on needs of the troops. I can tell you with great certainty that we have more than enough hygiene items to last for a while. The support in that aspect has been stellar. We also received a great deal of goodies, such as sweets, treats, and canned/packaged meals. I told the troops that all the candy was a conspiracy to get them fat. They loved the candy and goodies. The biggest hit though is the microwavable meals. Many of us miss meals because of meetings with local nationals, meeting with government officials, meetings with commanders… yes, meeting after meeting. I agreed with my troops when they said that going into the valley for two weeks was a vacation from the hardship of a garrison environment. Ha! The other thing that was sent that we thought was very cool, someone sent us a CD they burnt with all their favorite music. The troops passed it around and burnt the music to their computers. They really thought that was cool. We received some DVD's too. Those are always a big hit.
The other great thing was the receiving of boxes of donated clothes, toys, and schools supplies for the local kids. Can't tell you how far that goes when we give that stuff out during our missions. We tell them, through our terp, that it's coming from American Citizens, not the Army. It is a huge IO (information operation) for us in winning the hearts and minds over here. If anyone is interested in doing that type of thing, we are willing to receive it. Pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, school bags are the main needs. Crayons usually don't make the trip, but we have received some that did. Clothes are great, especially shoes (sandals).
Really enjoyed the letters and pictures sent by little kids. We have dedicated a wall in my room for all of the pictures. My room doubles as our CAT-A Office. Kids say the darnedest things and we sure get a kick out of hearing what they have to say. My son is just learning to talk and I'm sure in a few months he'll be entertaining my wife with funny little words at odd times.
The last few weeks have been difficult, but very rewarding. My wife says there isn't much on the news about things going on here, but let me be the first to tell you the war is alive and well here still, and we are winning. The key isn't the short battles in the valleys or mountains, but in the young. If we can educate them, and stop this downward spiral the culture seems to be in, we can leave this place for a generation or two. Until we change these hearts and minds, I'm afraid we will continue to be in a quagmire. Changing their minds is not an easy thing. My apologies, I certainly didn't mean to begin to theorize or strategize.
Well, I best get back to work. I have included a few photographs of our team from the last operation. The one with the flag is the picture we took at the end of the mission. There are all four branches in this photo. We had Air Force JTAC, Marine Infantry, Army Special Operations, and Navy Corpsman. The next picture is of my team. I'm the guy on the far right with the beard. Sorry we don't look a little more presentable, but that's us after some long nights and hot days. I also included a picture of my wife and son when they came to visit me prior to our departure to this place. The last photo is of my son enjoying his first birthday cake. Sure miss a lot of milestones over here, but its worth it.
Take care and keep saying prayers for my troops, please.
Tobias C Meister
PS: I hate to ask this, but if anyone could send me a pipe and some tobacco I'd appreciate it. Don't care for cigarettes and just quit dipping, but need something to pass the time. Cigars are great too. I love cigars, but I know they're kind of expensive. Thanks again.
31 Jul 2005
Just returned from our first mission into the Korangal Valley. We conducted numerous CMO missions in that area. My job is to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. My 4 man team is part of a PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team). The majority of our focus is on reconstruction of the government and the infrastructure. Basically, we are trying to work ourselves out of a job by getting the local, district and provincial governments to take on the responsibility of caring for the people and their civic needs, as well as maintain law and order. The PRT has a CAT-B which deals with the macro-economic effects of the government, a CAT-A (my team) which deals with the micro-economic issues by going to the different areas to conduct village assessments, talk with tier