Hello again. As always the list has grown a little from people asking for it. It's interesting right after I send one out because I always get auto responses either from spelling emails wrong, or because someone's filter put me in the spam box (Thanks for that Megs, Moe, see if you can't square her away or something).
So lets see whats happened since last time. I've been deployed for just over 2 months now and for you math wiz's out there, thats almost 14% done. So still aways, but I will be home before then (more about that later).
The base is holding together and getting better everyday. We still have our share of problems (like a fuel pump that first wouldn't start, and then was a little overzealous. Apparently it pumped too much for our hoses to handle and was heating the fuel due to friction. Let's see heating fuel near our 40,000 gal diesel ........ nothing to worry about.) but we do ok. We've made more progress with the locals too. They especially like the radio station we have on the COP. It's called radio Jaji (Jaji being the district) and we've hired LN (local national) DJ's to run it. Now I know what you're all thinking and yes we do overwatch it a little and give them some messages to put out for us, but it is their radio station, and since we don't speak the language we have to just trust them. It's very useful to get our message out, but more then that, just getting information out to people. Much like folks back home, the people don't always have oversight about whats going on in these towns and the message that is being played is usually biased by the presenter (Geez, that sounds like you're comparing the Taliban to the media......no I would never do that). As you can imagine, the bad guys don't like it very much but thats a good sign that its working. We also invite the local leaders to come and be interviewed and get their message out, which they are only too happy to do.
Other interactions we have with the locals is pay day. We had a road improvement project where we (The US) hired a local contractor to come and improve the road (still just gravel but better gravel now, with less pot holes......we're sending them to NYC next). Well every two weeks we pay them 3000 Afghani for the work (they work 6 days a week over here, wouldn't that suck. Still, its better then working 7 days a week, in a country far a...........um I digress). The conversion rate is roughly 50 Afghani for 1 USD, making there 2 week salary 60 USD. Huge huh. Well we just completed this project and have already submitted the next one. At the end of the project we took some extra money and gave gifts to the workers a new pair of clothes for them (we affectionately call them Man pajamas or man jams for short, the interpreters have adopted this as well which is comical to hear them say). So we went down for the ceremony and it turned into a shura (a meeting for locals to air complaints and discuss things within the village). This is kind of how any meetings go, but such is life. Well we packed about 35 people into what is roughly the size of a college dorm room (don't worry, the pictures are attached) on a getting to be summer day and of course the CO and I are in battle gear which doesn't breathe very well (something about air holes defeat the whole bullet proof idea......I dunno). On top of that, the day before I was running around trying to get 10 vehicles prepped for transfer that had never been looked in before and fielding questions that go with that (hey sir, are we supposed to be giving them batteries with the trucks, because this truck is missing them) and never changed out of PT's (short for PT uniform, with PT = physical training). Now pt's are shorts and a T-shirt as opposed to a full pants and jacket uniform (If you see where this is going, bravo). So I get sunburned, pretty well. Now fast forward back to the hot room, in battle gear, with 35+ other dudes and every time I get bumped (which is often, since it was crowded, 3.......I think you get the point) and you can see I probably wasn't in the best mood. Well luckily they had something in store for the CO and I, brand new turbans.
Now the turban over here is a sign of respect and maturity (no laughing, I hear it) so its a pretty big deal for them to give us them. Also these turbans cost about 50 USD (keeping in mind that the avg workers 2 week salary is 60 USD) so this is no consolation prize. Well they brought them out and wrapped them for us and put them on and they were ecstatic about us wearing them. We kept them on (until we went outside again, then back to brain buckets, for security) and the locals loved it. Yes, I got pics of that too. So that was a pretty big event and pretty cool. The CO and I will be bringing them and wearing them again for the next local meeting. Much to everyone's liking.
The other cool event was an internal, US Army, event. We got a visit from the DCG (Deputy Commanding General). He's a one star general and is the deputy commander for the division. (For those of you scratching your heads, heres the quick break down, all of these numbers are estimates. Start with one soldier; 4 soldiers make up a fire team, headed by a specialist or sergeant; 2 fire teams make a squad, headed by a sergeant or staff sergeant; four of these make up a platoon, headed by 2nd or 1st LT; 3 of these make up a company headed by a CPT (this is my level, I'm an XO, or the number 2 guy for a company); 4 of these make up a battalion, headed by a Lt. Col; 4-6 of these make up a brigade, headed by a Col; and finally 4-6 of these make up a division, headed by a two star general. So this guy is second in command of roughly 30,000+ troops.........he's kind of important). So anyway, he has come to award us our combat patch. Again, for those militarily challenged, the unit patch is worn on your left shoulder, it represents the unit you are assigned to. After being in a combat zone for a set time (usually 30 days) you are awarded your combat patch, which goes on the right shoulder and displays the unit you went to combat with. Now for all it is the same on each, but once we move to a new unit, the combat patch stays until we deploy again, and then we update. But once you get a combat patch once, you'll always have at least one to war. Many use it as the litmus test for whether a soldier is experienced or not and like my CO said, we all became 'combat veterans' that day, and its something that can never be taken from us. Pretty cool. After that the general walked around the COP a little and then got back on the helicopter and left, along with his contingent (various officers and protection detail and even some fox news guys so keep your eyes peeled for the next few days). We got some pictures from that too, notice the long hair on me (well long by Army standards) whoops, CO and SCO didn't like that too much in front of the general, but I said I was too busy for a haircut.........they'll get over it.
Well thats about it for the major items. I'm doing well here and enjoy the items and emails you all have sent. Also I put in my request for leave from 7 September - 24 September. No promises, but thats the plan for now (I centered the wedding date, to protect it..............NOT MINE, for those who don't know what I'm talking about). I'll update that when I hear more. As always, let me know if I left anyone out and feel free to send this to whoever. Talk to you all later.