A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

The details of my life are quite inconsequential, really. Summers in Rangoon...luge lessons...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

J-bad from a Blackhawk

Getting off base last week meant another new mode of transportation: my first ride in a Blackhawk helicopter. Much smaller than a Chinook or the helos I got to use in the Marines, the Blackhawk is a lighter, more enjoyable ride...and not a bad way to skim over river valleys and past those imposing mountains. You can really feel the lift when flying in these suckers! The scenery between Jalalabad and Khost was a trip, as the towns are similarly located in weather-defying bowls that were once fertile. Both are (relatively) green, surrounded by brown hills, then brown mountains, then snowy ridges and finally jagged mammoth peaks.
This is one of the typical valleys that struck me as straight out of an early civilization book...a series of farming communities along the river and at the river's mercy, walled in on both sides. It is an amazing thing to see some of this country from above, realizing how much more of it is at least as inhospitable, and then to reflect on the constant hardships here that have been if just surviving in Afghanistan wasn't hard enough. That's why I love the work that the Provincial Reconstruction Teams do.
The PRTs are set up in each province to assist communities in pretty much everything, often using methods decided upon by local jirgas (councils). From enhanced security to building schools to funding projects that not only build but teach trades to local Afghans, they do it all. The cops I met who train Afghan Police cadets are part of a PRT, for example. So are a number of soldiers and Marines I've met so far in country, and they have civilian representatives of various agencies there to provide know, in areas other than defeating the enemy through fire and maneuever.
Speaking of the fight, we lost another brave warrior yesterday. A Navy corpsman, or doc, from the Marine battalion was killed when his patrol came under fire from some anti-coalition militia. Many of you extended prayers and thoughts for the family of the Marine I wrote about last entry--please do the same for this hero. Truly a special breed, they are the guys trained to save lives under fire. He will surely be missed by his brothers.
The typical eastern Afghanistan town looks pretty much like this...a number of compounds strung together, surrounded by fields. The compounds hold extended families, which are not like American extended family living arrangements or even Huvane-sized ones. They often have 60 inhabitants or so! Five to ten per room is not uncommon...think about that the next time you're annoyed with just the one person whose snoring you're sick of.
I'll close out the gallery with this scene, which I liked because it had captured the region near here. Notice it's back to the springtime temperate weather instead of winter, which resides just a couple dozen miles away. What struck me that day was how peaceful it all looked, and really was...the cartoon furor hadn't erupted across the country yet, and progress could be seen almost everywhere.
The progress is still there, evidenced this time by calls for restraint by influential Afghan leaders throughout this recent wave of demonstrations. But it is up to the people to reject extremism and heed those calls. That's why I spent yesterday searching for statements by their own leadership, to be translated and broadcast on get out the message that calm and forgiveness should prevail.


Anonymous a grateful nation said...

Semper Fi - may God bless him.

February 8, 2006 at 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will definitely remember him and his family. V. Schroeder

February 8, 2006 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Major John said...

Nice camera work! Living back in the flatlands of Illinois, I miss the Hindu Kush always hanging in the background.

February 9, 2006 at 7:28 PM  

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