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...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Training a Kandak

A few days ago I tagged along on a media "engagement" to catch some of a Kandak Validation/Assessment.  What the hell am I talking about, you ask?  Good question.  A kandak, as loyal readers of Afghanidan may recall, is an Afghan battalion-sized unit...and a validation/assessment is a necessary step each one must pass, prior to being deployed in operations.  So the kandak is evaluated on its performance in the areas of command & control, training, sustenance, equipment, and personnel...whether it even has soldiers in key positions, for example.

Wagon train in the Old West? That's what I was thinking, too...

This commander wonders when the pie-eating contest portion of assessment is going to begin...

To draw back the lens a bit, this critical series of tests lets the Afghan National Army (ANA) leadership and the Coalition know whether a not a kandak is 'fit for duty', something NATO Training Mission Afghanistan is called upon to do.  The teams conducting evaluations are often U.S.-based, but can be Canadian, German, Spanish, French, Romanian, Hungarian, or -- coming soon -- Slovenian.  There is a significantly ramped-up effort to not only field capable fighting units, but to build a system by which the ANA will continue to certify its units as combat-ready or not...and if they're not, to fix the problems.

"I'm outta here...this gully is definitely ripe for an ambush."

There's no denying that it was a pretty gorgeous day to be spending in the training area...

We visitors got an up-close view of the ambush portion of the validation/assessment, in which the trainers and evaluators spring a surprise attack on the kandak (from a place where the kandak should be expecting one).  After a couple hours' wait and the onset of a minor sandstorm, the ambush was underway.

Red crescent designates a medical vehicle, just like our red cross.

The four photos above were clearly taken by a skilled photog (who shall remain anonymous for now) with a fancy camera and a superlative lens.  But the artsy two below?  That is all me and my reinforced Olympus Stylus Tough, the titanium-plated camera for klutzes.  It's all in the framing, I say...

You're still reading this post?  All righty then, you deserve a reward.  Here are some shots of Kabul Rock City at its morning finest, from the drive out to the training area...

 Bustle and billboards will choke some roads and circles, and then give way the next to open expanses of seeming wasteland.  This city makes Philadelphia look well-planned by comparison... 
(Now don't get all worked up, Philly Pholk -- I'm just in dire need of a good cheesesteak.)

Beverly Hillbillies, Kabul style.

See the bus on the left?  It bears the last message I expected to see in Afghanistan..."Love Not War."  How cool is that?  
Goodnight from Kabul, all.


Blogger Chronicle of the Hoof said...

Just FIY (and feel free to delete this comment; I couldn't find your contact info), your subhead of "A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again" implies a sexual journey. Erotic: relating to or dealing with sexual love. I believe you mean exotic.

I doubt you'd want sexual exploits to be connected with your blog about serving in the Marine Corps overseas. But I could be wrong ;)

Thank you for your service and thank you for your blog!

June 15, 2010 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Joneser said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 16, 2010 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Joneser said...

Actually, he's referencing an old Seinfeld episode - the one where Bette Midler is in a play called "Rochelle, Rochelle."

Paco, another great posting. I'm actually learning a lot about Afghanistan (and the U.S. mission) thanks to this blog!

My favorite was the photo of the Beverly Hillbillies. Nice work!

June 16, 2010 at 2:11 PM  
Anonymous LT Goo said...

I echo Joneser's comment 100%!
Though this may be my first comment on the blog, I have read every post- and it is really interesting to hear about all the different forms of daily training you're doing with the ANA!

The pics are, of course, a great compliment to the narrations!
My favorites have gotta be the ones of the snow-capped mountains from inside the city!
Keep up the good work...

June 17, 2010 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Puertorican girl in Brussels said...

I am a fan! keep the pictures coming! I am living vicariously through you! Bisou!

June 17, 2010 at 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Erotic Hoofs said...

Good stuff as always, bro ... loved the "pie-eating contest" crack, and I have to admit -- at first glance of the post title, I thought you had actually recon'd a KAYAK. But the Kandak stuff is cool too ...

Incidentally, given the powerful, um, fragrances that seem to permeate that part of the world, maybe you should just re-word your subhead to read "A young man's strange aromatic journey ..."

June 17, 2010 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Paco I love the photos! This is a great blog.

June 18, 2010 at 6:12 PM  
Anonymous anton said...


This is great. The training and evaluation system sounds much more developed and organized than when I was in iraq in 2004-2006. Back then, if dudes were willing to put on a uniform and pick up an ak in defense of their country, they were "combat ready" and did ojt under fire. Training and ops were simultaneous.

And the photos look EXACTLY like 29 Palms...crazy.

Take care of yourself man.


June 20, 2010 at 5:54 PM  

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