AfghaniDan

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...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Hitchin' the Pech

Once again in eastern Afghanistan, we mourn the loss of four soldiers who gave their lives a few days ago in ongoing operations just north of where these photos were taken. RIP.

Picking up where I left off, I had to get from A-bad back out to the operation in the field. Unfortunately they seem to lack subway or even bus service in Kunar, so it became a game of how to get there from here. Complicating my effort was the fact that helicopters were not flying that direction from where I was, so I decided to take one to where it was going, and hitch from there. Wing and a prayer, you might say...

The Pech River Valley is a dicey place to be if you're an outsider, and it had provided sanctuary for the past few years to bands of enemy who regularly launch attacks on any representatives of Afghan government as well as Coalition forces and nongovernmental organizations. That's why the heart of the operation was establishing a presence in the middle of this fierce region.

Hardscrabble villages dot the rocky valley. There is no shortage of stone with which to expand your compound to accomodate those additional wives!

The Pech River is the defining feature and primary route of the region, and all settled areas spread outward from and its tributaries. So if I was an insane realtor and you were an insane speculator, I would say "buy riverfront."

Here is where the blackhawk dropped me off...as a matter of fact, there's the bird. I had landed at a vehicle patrol base, which isn't a base at all but a temporary staging point for convoys and route-clearing vehicles. That river looked awfully tempting as the mercury continued to rise...

Here's a look at the VPB, manned by more Afghan troops than Coalition. Actually the platoon there was short enough on troops at the time that they happily took me along a mission as soon as I got there, since there weren't convoys going my intended direction for a while anyway. And hey, I did have two loaded weapons on me, so why turn down some extra firepower?

Convoying to the suspected IED site made me realize once again the extraordinary risks that most Afghan soldiers must take in service to their still-new army. Of course sitting arse-out over the edge of an open pickup on a rocky road may be more risk than necessary, but they live life on the edge, these crazy buggers!

Providing security at the rear of the column, we waited while engineers checked out the site...and we weren't the only ones waiting...

Once again, locals are upset that we've caused a traffic delay. Sorry guys, we'll be done in a second with our efforts to make sure you don't get blown up on your way to your friend's house.

A suspicious car is checked for explosives before the site is secured. I was impressed once again with the professionalism of the soldiers who calmly assessed threats without offending sensibilities of the local residents.

Another look at the first waystation on my journey back to the Korengal valley. I learned on the mission that a Route Clearance Package (convoy with vehicles designed to detect and disable mines and IEDs) was heading further west. Their destination was past where I needed to turn off, but it was another step in the right direction, so I jumped in with them.

Would you look at that? A snack shack had sprung up after this small patrol base just setting up. There are enterprising individuals everywhere, I'm telling you...

Next up: Getting from the first stop to the valley I needed (aka- feeling like a hobo jumping cattle cars in a West that's still wild).

5 Comments:

Anonymous JG said...

Capt Dan,
Thanks to all of you brave guys for all that you do for us. Thanks for the coverage of the Afghani soldiers you have featured.

I salute and mourn the lost, bless them and indeed RIP. I pray for their families. I also pray for those of you who are hard at work, in the hardest job description on earth, right there in Afghanistan's moonscape environemnt. God bless and keep you. As always, got a good laugh from your incredible sense of humor !! You crack me up!

June 25, 2006 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Excellent photos.

June 26, 2006 at 11:00 AM  
Anonymous gerry said...

Excellant info, keep up the good work and keep those pictures coming. It gives people like me some insight as to what we're dealing with . Every little bit helps. Now I think I'll go drink a beer

July 1, 2006 at 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Tim said...

CPT. Dan, I am one of those engineers actually the monkey at the L.Y. (now called the KOP) belonged to my PLT. I have great shoots of the finished product, and the improvements. Send your email to: alesapper@yahoo.com and i will send them to you. Also will enclude the baily that is at the ford site. We finished it in AUG. Be safe. SFC T A/27 EN

October 13, 2006 at 2:13 AM  
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