The Lumber Yard
And man, did they rearrange the dirt of the place every time they did!
Morning sun created a daily haze over the valley, which would then burn off. It was already heating up significantly over the first few days of the operation, which still featured some bitter cold nights.
Afghan workers were signed up for each day's work, which in this case meant retrieving contents of an aerial resupply drop. It was quite an event - the drop, that is - though organizing locals was always an event as well.
And the pallets are off! (the cluster of dots on the left) It's an impressive process to see those seemingly tiny bundles ejected by a large cargo plane way overhead, then remember that those dots are actually tons of supplies...are those cows out of the designated landing zone yet? If not, we eat good tonight!
Drifting to the earth (nowhere near the giant zone marked by green smoke and orange tarps) were the bundles, bringing needed supplies for the planned MEDCAP and humanitarian aid distribution. No cows were harmed in the conduct of this aerial resupply.
"Ayyy, I make you an offer you can't refuse!" So goes the motto of our trusty payments officer, Al the Sicilian. He had a ton of great stories, including golfing with every recent Commandant of the Marine Corps and lots of other top brass. Which is funny, because it really is fair to say that he's "connected."
"C'mon, little fella...here you go..."
"Dude, you are NOT taking my water bottles!"
Capt. Tim Kelly offers to show some young Afghans the photo he took of them, to no avail.
The ANA brigade also had their own command headquarters at the outpost landing zone...though they trusted in Allah much more for protection than we did, eschewing the double layer of blast wall.
Much to my amusement, one unit brought along a little friend. And who doesn't love monkeys? Unfortunately, the hairy biter was deemed a bit of a health hazard and had to be sold to the Afghan soldiers...
So here he is getting a bite to eat with his new friends, outside the wire this time. Monkeys actually seem to be everywhere in this country, though they're not employed as trained killers as often as I imagined.
Far more common, and far less entertaining, were the cows that wandered through the outpost. It was when there were no herders in sight, like this time, that the scene became puzzling.
See, here's one doubling back...there were a few times they'd have to be led on their way by Marines. All this is probably not that interesting to any of you who grew up with cows around, but for me it was hilarious.
"Brother, can you spare an afghani?" (that's the national currency, though US dollars are gladly accepted everywhere) Locals wait for the start of the first MEDCAP held in the Korengal Valley.
The first patients arrive as the medical tents were now open for business. A team of doctors, nurses and medical support flew in from Bagram to provide the staff needed to host such a large clinic. More on that later...
One of the battalion's mortar teams poses for a group shot. They kept us, and the smaller ground units, safe by suppressing the enemy, often striking their movements late at night. Great weapon to have on your side, though when there's no heads up, nothing quite prepares you for that eardrum-shattering shot out if you're dozing a couple hundred meters away!