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...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

St. Paddy's in the 'stan!

Well, it may not be the most typical location to take in the most holy day of the AfghaniDan's calendar, but damn if a nice surprise didn't bring a smile to my face on this March 17...a freakin' bagpiper! This is what the writeup might look like, if I was a reporter or something like that...

JALALABAD AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The sounds of a routine afternoon at Jalalabad Air Field in eastern Afghanistan were interrupted by the strains of bagpipes Friday, marking Saint Patrick’s Day in an unlikely location.

The lone piper, Army 1st Lt. Richard W. Powell II of Albany, N.Y., was merely keeping up his practice on an instrument that’s no stranger to warfare, but still an object of curiosity in this corner of the world, and even among the members of Task Force Spartan.

“My interpreters saw me practicing on the chanter earlier, and asked what it was,” said Powell of the flute-like device that the piper uses to play the notes by hand. “They had never heard anything like it before.”

It was no accident that Powell, the fire support officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, was playing his bagpipes on this day, and an appreciative audience of soldiers and Marines was happy to take it all in.

“This is one of the best things ever on St. Paddy’s Day, and something I’m not forgetting,” said Marine Pfc. Arthur E. Reynolds, Jr. of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who never had seen bagpipes played in person before. “It’s simply amazing.”

Powell, who is a proud member of the Schenectady Pipe Band of Schenectady, N.Y., has been playing the bagpipes for eight years. He once played for Bravo Company while marching off the objective in a training mission, as soldiers passed by and a controlled detonation exploded directly behind him.

The bagpipes originated in Egypt, according to Powell, made up of a camel’s gut, one drone and the chanter. They later migrated all the way to Ireland, then Scotland. Their use in warfare became legendary due to the bravery of the Irish and Scots who employed them for communication and motivation.

Powell credits his father, a retired Albany police officer who helped start the Albany Police Department’s bagpipe band years earlier, for stoking his interest in taking up the instrument. His friend Matt Kelly, who plays the snare drum in the Schenectady Pipe Band, was another influence.

“I figured, what the hell…he can keep the beat while I play,” said Powell with a laugh.


Anonymous Emily said...

Hi Paco! Just wanted to let you know that we raised our glasses to our favorite Irish Mexican in Boston on Friday! Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

"Look at this America! Look at how Tron is livin' in the citaaaaaay!"

March 19, 2006 at 7:11 PM  
Anonymous chad hunt said...

i just wanted to say hello and let you know that i have enjoyed reading your entries and your photos are great! I am a photographer based in new york city and i am looking into being embedded with a unit at FOB Salerno. any advice you have woudl be greatly appreciated . thanks - chad

March 20, 2006 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Major John said...

Heh. And if the Afghans didn't think we were odd enough already...
That is a pretty cool, and I am sure, fairly unique report!

March 20, 2006 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger PLAINJANE said...

Just wanted to send you my props and let you know that your next Allmans show is on me... sending good vibes your way...

March 22, 2006 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger kbug said...

Well, nothing says St. Patty's day quite like the bagpipes, well unless you have an Irish piper and Irish dancers handy. Glad you guys were able to step back and embrace the day, that is except for the green beer part...... :) Stay safe!!

March 23, 2006 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Army Mom said...

Thanks so much Capt. Dan for the article about my baby boy!!! Rick's sure a twinkle in our eye - we are so proud of him and you and all of the rest of the wonderful men and women in uniform who are serving this great country of ours.

March 25, 2006 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger Deb Casey said...

Capt. Dan,
What a great article and wonderful pictures! It made us so happy to see our son-in-law playing the bag pipes- we know how much he loves to play. Listening to him should help pass the time for Rick and all the troops there. We wish them all well.
Tom and Deb Casey
(Army Mother and Father-in-Law)

March 25, 2006 at 6:05 PM  
Blogger Deb Casey said...

Capt. Dan,
What a great article and wonderful pictures! It made us so happy to see our son-in-law playing the bag pipes- we know how much he loves to play. This should help pass the time for Rick and all the troops there. We wish them all well. Thanks.
Army Mother and Father-in-Law

March 25, 2006 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger LaurenP said...

Capt. Dan,
Thanks for writing the article about my husband, Rick. He really enjoys playing those bagpipes, and it sounds like everyone enjoyed listening to them on St. Paddy's Day. Thank you for all you do for our country. I look forward to reading more about your tour in Afghanistan.
Lauren Powell

March 25, 2006 at 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Tonia Dandrow said...

Boy, the Schenectady Pipe Band sure turns up in the most interesting places. Hope you are safe and return home very soon to rejoin the band back here.

March 27, 2006 at 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Brigid Rufo said... was great to see Ricky playing his pipes...I'm sure he put a smile on alot of faces. That's Ricky for you!!!! We thank God everyday for guys like Rick and all of our soldiers who are willing to sacrifice the comforts of home and family life for our continued freedom. No one deserves our respect and gratitude more and you are all in our thoughts and prayers. Hang in there Ricky-ticky-tombo!!!! You'll be home with Lauren before you know it. Liz's Mom and Butchie

March 27, 2006 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger spbdrummer said...

Thanks a lot for posting this. It's good to see Rick can play with out his drummer. I have tought him well.


March 27, 2006 at 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you! My daughter is in JBad with the 10th Mt. Division. It's really great to see pictures of where she is living for a year! God Bless you and we pray for your speedy/safe return home.

April 17, 2006 at 3:00 PM  

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