Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Finishing up

One of my last nights in Afghanistan. Just chilling, talking outside the coffee shop and we met some brits. One had this new grenade launcher so I grabbed a picture. Note it looks like there is a little gun on the front of this rifle. That is the grenade launcher. It is removable if you want to use it by itself. Some U.S. SWAT and other teams use them. Just thought it was cool.

Here is us getting on the plane out of the Stan. Just trying to give you some idea of how big it is. I was one of the last ones on. When I got in, 6 of us didn't have seats. They said they were going to have to leave us 6. I lost all control. I started looking all over for a seat. THere were plenty of seats (a lot of bags were on seats that just got put on the ground) However, for like 30 seconds I was very concerned. I made it out though, so no worries.
Here is me about to get on the plane. This picture doesn't do justice for how excited I am.

I am currently residing in Manas, Kyrgystan. I stopped here on the way in you may remember.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

End of an Era

I am writing this entry as a farewell to Afghanistan. It will likely be my last entry form this country. I wanted to thank my family and friends for all the support they have given me and my fellow servicemen and women, these past months. It truly has been an honor and a pleasure to serve my country and alongside my fellows. As much as I miss my family I will certainly miss this place somewhat. I could talk for hours on the problems and trouble here but the reality is that I have grown fond of some aspects of life in Afghanistan. I suppose there is something positive about the what we did here to feel that way.

One interesting thing I have seen here is how many people figure things out in their life when away from everything else. Certainly for some, being away from family and home and being around the troubles here distracts them from what is important. However, it is truly surprising how many individuals get their lives back in step with where they want it to be. Many are able to sift through the chaff and prioritize the important goals in their lives. A great man once said (I'm paraphrasing here) war makes some men hard and callous, while it makes others grateful for what they have. I am truly more grateful for my family and our freedoms being out here.

Lastly I wanted to thank you again. As Shakespeare wrote: "we few, we precious few" for those who read with me on this blog shall forever be my brothers. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience with me and I hope to see many of you in the near future.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Osprey Trip

The other day I finally got to ride in the osprey. We flew all over the area of operation. It was a long day but I got some cool pictures and had a great time. The best part is that apparently we were the first Osprey to do a 30 degree take off here. They just got cleared to do them and I happened to be on board. 30 degrees may not sound like much but it is powerful. Well, there is a strap around your waist, connected to a bolt in the floor so you can't fall out the back of the bird. However, I was not ready when they did their first 30 degree take off and was standing up. Well, when they took off I hit the floor. I didn't get hurt but it was pretty funny. I lay there unable to move, (because the force was so strong) just laughing.

Here is a picture of a waterway in the 'Stan. Didn't know they had that here, it is so bleak everywhere else. There were actual green areas (farms mostly) in parts we flew over. I was so surprised. This picture was taken looking out the back of the Osprey. We flew with the back open all day.

Me in front of the back of the Osprey. Note the crewmember putting gas in - like we just pulled into Chevron back home. While this system is slightly more complex, refueling here follows the same basic principles as filling up your car.

Me looking out the back in flight. You can't see the horizon but take my word for it we were up in the air. It was a great time to say the least.
Capt. Scotti had a birthday out here. We were able to talk a Gurkha into giving us his Kukhri knife. Scotti liked it (I think) and showed us his best pirate face. The Marine Corps, after all, has a strong naval tradition. For the party we blew up rubber gloves for balloons and strung bandages for streamers. It was what we had in the BAS left. I think everyone had a good time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fun in the 'Stan

Tactical grater in the background, motivated Marines in the foreground. Money, all around. We went out to see the Marines "getting some" one day. I love being around them. They work so hard and take pride in what they do. One has to say "Semper Fidelis".

Our Marines building an extension to a runway. Note the birds in the background.
A picture is worth a thousand words. I wish I knew the 1000 words these guys were saying.

So in the British coffee shop, just shooting the breeze, Scotti looks up and says "I don't believe it, it's Ollie North". I didn't realize he was on a first name basis. We went up to the Colonel and asked for a picture. Lewis said "Sir does this get old, taking pictures with Marines?" The former embattled leader said "No, I love to be around heroes". No matter what anyone says about him he will be classy to me.

So the other day these 2 Lieutenants wanted to practice putting I.V.'s in each other. It is actually a good skill to know and since we are not so busy I had them over. Our resident expert Corpsman showed them good techniques and helped them through it. Both did a great job and got the needles into the vein in each of their first tries. Very impressive. Here are some other photos from the event. I left the extra bloody ones out for the faint of heart. No, nobody got a purple heart for this.
Mckillop, though bloody, still very proud (and rightly so) of his phlebotomic handiwork. Partridge did cringe at first but toughed it out in the end.

Partridge and Capt. Scotti (he came over to get one because he thought it would give him more energy for his workout) making funny faces. Note the writing on the wall. That is not a joke. During a heat casualty we use that to get an accurate temperature. It is also a good deterrent for Marines that come into the BAS with attitude.

Scotti and I living the I.V. dream.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Random Pics

I was looking at pictures I didn't think I had posted already.

Below is a British friend who was going home. He gave me his Beret to wear for the picture and keep For-ev-er. He is a cool kid. Raised in the U.S., moved to England after a girl, became a nurse, a citizen and joined the English Army. Cool kid.

This picture is a throwback from those old pictures of men working on the Empire State Building. These hard-working Marines are about to finish work on a magnificant airstrip, months in the making.

Sweet laceration we saw the other day. The best part was that this guy was seen the next day in the gym. He was lifting a barbell with this hand, like we wanted the stitches to bust. Let's just say Dr. Tucker was less than kind when he saw him and expressed his displeasure succinctly.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Endings and Finalizations

Hello friends. Yesterday, the 26th I received my FMF pin. We also took our last pictures as an ANA group.

Below, our ANA training group posing for one last picture. We will disband tomorrow. We have had a good time and worked hard. Hopefully, the ANA have learned something and will be prepared to defend their nation as we (NATO and ANA) work together in the future. I certainly learned a lot and had some great experiences. I am back row 2nd on the left.

At the risk of offending you all, I was trying to get this picture the first day I saw a TATA truck. It ended up taking me 5 plus months to get it.
Below is CDR Tucker, LCDR Chaplain Coffey and myself the day we received our FMF pins. Note the large shiny gold pins on our chests.

Me getting pinned by the C.O. In the past they used to punch you in the pin before they put the backs on them so they would puncture your skin and make you bleed. That unfortunately didn't happen. We are living in a softer time.
All the officers attended. It was quick but a proud day. The Marines are all flattered we got it. It took a lot of studying, we had to run Marine Corps standard physical fitness test, Hike 6 miles with a pack and generally carry ourselves in a Marine Corps manner.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gratitude and Apology

Let me start off by saying thank you to Mrs. Kawa's class for the wonderful Valentine's box. I loved the candy (obviously) and the valentines. All those artistic and creative, handmade valentines were a great pick me up that everyone here loved. I really appreciated receiving a package from a class who don't even know me, from thousands of miles away. I hope you kids continue to keep that same spirit of giving throughout your lives, it will serve you well. Thanks for all you do and a late Happy Valentines day to you all!

The incredible valentines and a picture of the class!
O.K. so I am sorry it has been so long since I blogged. I had IT problems and then got complacent. Below is the Hind. I have had pictures of it before, but not so close. This is over on the ANA base.

Me our interpreter and one of my corpsman. Just posing with the great Russian helo.

A few weeks ago I went down to a place called Dwyer to help set up an ANA camp for them to move in. Why is a Dr. doing this? Good question but it was a fun trip and I enjoyed mixing it up. This room is where we stayed. The focal point of the picture is the metal stove we used to burn wood. This was the only heater we had down there. Pretty fun. Pictured are two of my Marines and our interpreter.

So, I am sorry for the delay and hopefully will have more to show you soon.