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, November 19, 2010

School's out

The flamingos have taken to the camp...

Last week was the conclusion of our latest Public Affairs Course in Kabul, and the graduation was appropriately filled with ceremony and speeches.  This version of the course was a great leap forward than the previous ones though: much more practical application and less theory, more testing and evaluation throughout, and my Afghan colleagues even taught a few days of it themselves.

Colonel? Nope...on this day he is Professor Paiman.

The sign explains that the 'Media Center' is inside.
Not exactly Advertising 101, but c'mon - it's Kabul.

Hafiz takes charge. His development over the past few months as a deputy spokesman has been incredible. People on our side tend to forget that there are NATURALS out there.

The joyful "I serve Afghanistan!" moment I can never get enough of.  They had each of us present a few certificates, a very cool gesture.

Navy Lt. Joe Holstead, more responsible than anyone else for the successful strides the Afghan army and police have made in Public Affairs, spoke a few words on what would be his last graduation after a year of service here.  BZ, Joe!

While I've been known to rail against the incessant coverage of graduations around here (it's true -- there is a massive amount of graduation obsession in this command), I simply had to show off the one by my guys.  And yes, I suppose every advisor and mentor feels the same way when it's theirs.  So, the Dude abides...

This patch -- the coolest I've ever seen -- was commissioned by Johnny Kabul, aka John House, my senior statesman, trusted advisor-to-the-advisor, and workhorse.  Even though we Marines don't need no stinkin' patches, I'd be tempted to attach a strip of awful velcro to my sleeve just to attach that baby. "Far out."

Incidentally, the fact that Marines don't wear patches but the other services do (yes, old Navy salts, it's true - your brethren are in those awful velcro-overloaded Army uniforms) creates some humorous when the commanding general of your entire multinational joint organization says that you better be literally wearing the NTM-A patch on your sleeve.  I like to look at my arm in those moments and shrug, then raise my hand and ask, "Can I go home, then?"

Kickin' back over chai and sweet cakes.  
Kinda like "Miller time" in Afghanistan. 

 Hangin' with Holstead, Huvane & Hafiz.
(coming soon to daytime TV near you)

Please read this if you have a moment, or even if you don't.  It's an outstanding essay by my friend Victoria, who I was fortunate enough to meet here in Camp Eggers while doing the advisor thing...and it's easy to see why it was voted the winner of the "Welcome Home Essay Contest" by the American Women Veterans.

I especially liked these lines...

Though the best of intentions may be from where we start, I have come to realize our objectives are almost always lost in metrics and want for numbers.

I have learned that it will take time, perhaps more time than we are willing to give. We have an obligation to be honest with ourselves and what, as a nation, we are willing to give.

The former Rose Garden, suddenly stripped of life.

I learned that three cups of chai is just one meeting.

I learned that to get anything done in Afghanistan you need to know somebody, but that took me back to NY, “I know a guy…”, which reminded me that perhaps Jim Henson was up to something in The Muppets Take Manhattan, “peoples is peoples”.

Progress, around here. Another triple CONNEX.

I learned that coming home can be lonelier than I ever imagined.

Regarding that last one, my return won't be until the new year -- it got pushed a bit further once again due to the timing of my eventual successor's arrival.  But I already remember that feeling from last time.  Even with the love of family and good friends, it's a very strange thing to uproot from what's become your reality and adjust to one you once knew...or another new one entirely.  It always is, for anyone who moves...but when you leave something like this "war" and it's still going strong, you start to wonder immediately about the initiatives on which you worked so hard, or the personalities you only truly began to figure out after six months.  It's not hard to see why some people never leave.  (Don't worry -- them people ain't me!)

Kabul street, November 2010.


Anonymous Broseph Slappy said...

Congrats to the new PAO class! And while it's an extreme bummer we won't see you for Christmas or Mule Year's Eve Eve, you are going the extra mile for something you've invested the better part of a year of your life in ... something you believe in ... and you're doing the right thing. Semper Fi.

November 21, 2010 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger FrenchFried said...

Bonjour AfghaniDan,
Sorry to learn your deployment is extended again...Well, sometimes the marathon runner gets to wonder if the finish line is really his goal.
I've been reading the essay by your friend Victoria and it really moved me, as well as some other very heartfelt written posts on the AWV website. Thank you for allowing me to discover it.
Hang in there. Bon courage.
And btw Happy Thanksgiving!!!! How is the turkey à la mode afghane?

November 26, 2010 at 2:04 AM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Slap, thank you immensely - as I wrote just recently, I'm humbled by the overwhelming support & understanding of such a family as ours. Youse got my back, always.
Now let me find something appropriate to send over the rippin' red to Queen Liza & her ladies...

November 28, 2010 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

FrenchFried, Gap-e neist ("say nothing"), as they say here. Not a problem. But your sentiments are appreciated...the extension was my choice anyway.
And thank you- the turkey in the chow hall was only half decent, but the Afghan lunch was as delicious as ever!

November 28, 2010 at 2:03 PM  

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