Camp Life, Kabul
Today was my first Friday back in A-stan, which here at Camp Eggers means a light day if work permits...a day to do some laundry, spend a chunk of time reading with some coffee, sleep late and re-charge the batteries (not that my newly-arrived butt needs re-charging!). I still took advantage of that particular privilege though. For one thing, no amount of military service has converted me from a night owl to a morning person, and for another, the two all-nighters spent traveling earlier this week still left me bleary and far from 'caught up.' I don't take my time easing into a job or location; I do everything possible to hit the ground running, and some of my new crew here were happy to oblige.
The net result is that before I even had an e-mail account created, I'd been out to the Ministry of Defense for a half-day, the Afghan National Civil Order of Police (ANCOP) compound for another half-day, and the U.S. Embassy for a meal and a quick look around tonight (they are livin' LARGE, by the way!). I went for the pleasant and informed company, and to get out of the camp any chance I get, but must admit that it's simply fun to walk around saying "Oh, I just had dinner at the embassy." Like I'm a rare foreign service officer or an NGO coordinator in Nairobi rather than one of a couple thousand uniformed military at a camp in wartime.
So what am I doing, anyway? Good question, (Dad). I'm here to supervise the mentoring of the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of the Interior in their public affairs operations. The leadership of the Afghan National Army in particular seems to highly value the importance of information, and that philosophy extends to some of the other agencies...but it has never been much in their model to share info, either with each other or up/down the chain of command. Some hardworking people have been growing this particular mentoring program from nothing, and now I join the surge of new trainers to expand that effort. Mentoring is the focus of my command, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, and truly can be considered the main effort of the Coalition's campaign now. It gives me a good feeling to know that most of those I encounter or just pass by each day in this cramped little base are here to train and mentor Afghans as well.
Speaking of this camp and its occupants, there is quite a diverse population. Although the Army has the numbers advantage (as always in joint commands), there is decent representation from the Navy, Air Force and even my own Corps...far more in each case than I saw four years ago. More fun than picking fights with the other services, though, is learning to identify the various camouflage patterns of all the other nations represented here...the Canadians, British and Australians being the most common, but by no means the only ones. Here and at the base attached to the airport, I've seen Poles, Germans, French, Romanians, Bulgarians, Dutch, Koreans, Belgians, Croatians, Albanians, Czechs, Estonians, Lithuanians, Spaniards, Turks, Greeks and Slovenians. The Italian Carabinieri is everywhere, as they are working full-time to train the ANCOP force. But most ubiquitous where I am are the Mongolians, whose heavily armed presence helps dissuade any potential attackers (seriously, these guys look ready for battle).
I look forward to writing more about what I do and what I get to see, as it's already been an eventful first few days here, and posting a ton of photos. In the spirit of the paisanos I chatted with today, Ciao!
"Hey, fancy U.S. Marine, where you think you're goin'?"