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Archive for March, 2010

High five

High fives in Kunar*

Soap bubbles

Bubbles in Kabul**

One of my most popular posts is one from a while back on Dari Phrases You Need to Know.   In case it’s not obvious, this is the sequel:  Ten phrases that can take you beyond the “minimum essential” and into the “nice to know”…

  1. Mushkelnest – No problem.
  2. Qabelishnest – You’re welcome.
  3. Zhwan! – Energy/life.  Soldiers will often say this after being recognized for exceptional performance.  I asked a terp what it meant the other day, and he struggled a little, as it doesn’t really have an exact English translation.  A different terp though, who can speak Dari, English, and Army explained, “It means ‘Hoo-ah!'”
  4. Drust – OK.
  5. Ba’le – Yes.  And its counterpart…
    Ne – No.
  6. Khub’ast – Cool (lit., “good is”).  You can make it a little stronger too, as…
    Besyar khub! – Very good!
  7. Booga booga booga – Say it, say it, say it.  Kind of an all-purpose phrase, it’s sometimes used like, “Blah blah blah…” but more often as the Dari equivalent of, “You go, girl!”
  8. Chitur hasti? How are you?  This is the informal version, used between friends (the formal version is in my previous post).
    Khub hastam – I’m good.
    Chuma chitur hasti? And you?
  9. Zenda bashi – Take care (lit., “health always”).
  10. Yak team wahed – One team together.  I love this phrase because it speaks volumes about the challenge of serving here in Afghanistan.  We have to build enduring National Security Forces in a country that, until we got here, didn’t even have a word for Team (Americans are known for being fiercely independent, but geesh, we’ve got nothing on the Afghans…).  After 50,000 years of history though, the Afghans finally have a word for Team:  team.  Almost without exception, Afghans are quick to pick up the good ideas the Coalition has to offer.  And teamwork is certainly one of our better ones!

Bottom line:  Language matters.  Give some Dari a try!

* Photo by SSG Gary A. Witte, US Army, from Soldiers Media Center on flikr.
** Photo by Stephon M. Sterns.

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HQ ISAF

From the posh courtyard of Headquarters ISAF...

Helmand

...to a shallow pit in Helmand, this country has it all!*

A few folks have stumbled upon this blog while searching for “Poster Experience May Vary”…you may even have been one of them!

And though they found a bunch of cautiously optimistic posts (and a few snarky ones), they never found the poster they were looking for.

Until now.  Here it is, the official Afghanistan: Your Experience May Vary poster!

This poster is also available on a light background, if you prefer.  Both are protected by a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence.

Bottom line: Thanks for reading!  Hope this was the poster you were looking for!

* Photo by David Guttenfelder, from Time magazine.

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IT2 Gonzalez

IT2 Gonzalez, gathering gear for a support mission*

IT1 Beiser

IT1 Beiser and children during a volunteer mission**

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve got a GREAT team of Coalition Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in my organization.  But three have really stood out recently:

IT2 Gonzalez is a communications technician working in my Current Operations section.  He is directly responsible for providing mobile comm support for LTG Caldwell, the Commander of NTM-A and CSTC-A.

Because of his professionalism and expertise, IT2 Gonzalez was my #1 select to provide communications support to LTG Caldwell during his recent visits to forward operating bases in Afghanistan.  He flew ahead of the General and coordinated classified and unclassified telephone and network services with each host site.  He was recognized by the Command Sergeant Major for his ability to anticipate LTG Caldwell’s every communications need.

IT1 Beiser is my Afghan National Army (ANA) Tactical Communications Fielding NCO. In this job, he helps the ANA field the correct number and type of radios to the correct units, ensuring ANA Commanders have the means to effectively command their units in combat.  IT1 Beiser also advises an Afghan Colonel, providing valuable input into ANA radio equipment, supply, and storage plans.

IT1 Beiser assists the ANA Communications Support Unit (CSU) too, advising generator mechanics, radio maintainers and operators, and even First Sergeants within the unit.  While working with the CSU, he’s driven vehicles and been entrusted with Vehicle Commander and Convoy Commander duties as well.

Finally, Capt Grocki is my Afghan National Police (ANP) Budget and Program Support Planner here at Camp Eggers.  As my ANP Contracting Officer Representative, he manages $221M in sales of US communications equipment and services, and ensures 13 multi-million dollar ANP comm support contracts remain in scope and on schedule.

Capt Grocki also worked closely with the Kabul Regional Contracting Center, shepherding four contracts through technical evaluation and contract award.  He developed Quality Assurance plans for each contract and ensured Technical Oversight Representatives were assigned to conduct regular inspections of contractor performance.

Bottom line: IT2 Gonzalez, IT1 Beiser, and Capt Grocki are great Americans, making great things happen in Afghanistan.  I’m honored to serve with them here.

* Photo by LCDR Tony Saxon, USN.
** Photo by Lt Col Fred Kelsey, USAF.

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Afghan Policeman

ANP Policemen in Kunar province*

ANA Commandos

ANA Commandos in Khandahar**

There was a great article by C.J. Chivers in the NY Times earlier this week about the Afghan National Security Forces operating in Marjah.

It’s a great article NOT because it’s got great news.  On the contrary.  It’s great because transparency about ANA and ANP deficiencies is the first step to fixing them.  Some excerpts:

Fundamental to plans for undermining the insurgency is to set up Afghan security forces — robust, competent, honest, well equipped and well led. If such forces can be created, then the plan is to hand them responsibility for the security achieved by the Army and Marines, allowing for an American withdrawal.

But the bad reputation of the Afghan police forces, in particular, along with the spotty performance of Afghan forces in Marja, suggest that the work and the spending of billions of American dollars to date had not achieved anything like the desired effects.

The Afghans in the meeting with the colonels were blunt: ‘We’re with you. We want to help you build. We will support you. But if you bring in the cops, we will fight you till death.’

Afghan soldiers … looted the 84-booth Semitay Bazaar immediately after the Marines swept through and secured it. Then the Afghan soldiers refused to stand post in defensive bunkers, or to fill sandbags as the Americans, sometimes under fire, hardened their joint outpost. Instead, they spent much of their time walking in the bazaar, smoking hashish.

Bottom line:  C.J. Chivers describes the next phase of the Marjah operation perfectly:  “It is a race for Afghan government competence and a contest for respect and for trust, in a place where all are in short supply.”

* Photo by Liu Jin, from Foreign Policy.
** Photo by SSgt Larry E. Reid Jr., USAF, from Defense Imagery.

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NATO Flag

Polish soldiers raise the NATO flag at Camp Eggers*

Guidon

LTG Caldwell receives the Command guidon**

Yesterday marked 100 days since the formal activation of NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan.

The first 100 days have been pretty amazing…from Washington DC to London to Brussels to a dusty town in Helmand Province, everyone is working together to enable accountable Afghan-led security.  And Afghan and Coalition communicators are working together to connect the all the organizations involved.

Here are just a few highlights. from a comm perspective:

  • We expanded the enduring comm infrastructure of the ANP, installing radio systems at ten ANP district headquarters, dozens of radio repeaters throughout Afghanistan, and over 1000 vehicle radios supporting the ANP.
  • Working entirely on their own, Ministry of the Interior communicators installed new antennas and towers, improving the ANP’s long-range communication capability.
  • The ANA deployable comm unit accomplished their first-ever operational deployments…supporting Afghan Special Operations Forces during an insurgent attack in Kabul and operations in Helmand
  • The ANA senior communicator took an extremely professional response to radio shortage, cross-leveling radios between Corps, converting radios when necessary, and purchasing gap-filler radios on their own.
  • The ANA graduated their first five radio repair instructors ever…these five soldiers went on to lead the first-ever radio maintenance course taught by ANA instructors!
  • We worked with Microsoft to produce full-Dari versions of Office and SharePoint software…though Afghans can type using a Dari font, the menus and help screens of our current software all in English.
  • We installed the first military BlackBerry server in Afghanistan, built a deployable comm capability for the NTM-A commander, and doubled the size of our Coalition classified network.
  • We implemented new network permissions, dramatically increasing transparency about NTM-A and the Afghan National Security Forces.

Bottom line:  It’s been a wild ride already, and there’s LOTS more to come!

* Photo by MCC F. Julian Carroll, USN, from Defense Imagery.

** Photo by SSgt Larry E. Reid Jr., USAF, from Defense Imagery.

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