Letter from T.J.

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2005

Here is more from middle son T.J., an Army captain advising an Afghan infantry company in Zabul Province, near the Pakistan border.

"Today marks two months.  Ten more to go and they're flying by.  I felt like such a rookie two short months ago and now I feel like I know what I'm doing.  All of the little things that didn't make sense, or that I just didn't understand are second nature now.  There's still plenty to learn and I'm learning more every day.

I've been busy on missions; thus, the gap in my log entries.  The most recent significant missions were to the Dab Pass and an air assault today.

Both of the Dab Pass missions were messed up.  The first mission was a plan to escort an Afghan National Army (ANA) battalion headquarters section to the other side of the pass, link up with the U. S. Able company, hand off the ANA, and move out to hit a village from which we've been getting signal counter intelligence hits.

We also had a side mission that was a little scary, at first.  At the top of the pass we dropped off two US AID mission guys, so they could walk the rest of the way, taking pictures, for an improvement project in the pass.

US AID is a private organization that provides aid to developing countries.  I hope I'm home when they start this project.  Security is going to be tough.  My ANA and I had to dismount with them and walk the ridges, providing security.

The mission started going bad when I went over to pick up the ANA Battalion Commander and his element, to get them to join the convoy.  The route clearance team, with all of their mine sniffers, were leading the convoy and had command and control. 

Everyone was briefed that we would depart at 0900 local.  I went to the ANA camp and told the commander, I was there to pick him up, that we were leaving in 30 minutes. 

To my surprise, he refused, "This is not my convoy, my convoy is leaving at 12:00." 

I told him, "Sir, you're right, this isn't your convoy. This is a United States Army convoy and Staff Sergeant Owen is the convoy commander.  He's leaving in 30 minutes and his is the only convoy going to Dab Pass today and the only one available to escort your headquarters to FOB Sweeney, on the other side." 

He actually gave me a haughty, snotty little "harumph" and turned his nose up at me, like one of those brandy drinking, smoking jacket wearing dandies from a 1940's black and white movie.  I returned his "harumph" with a snappy salute, and said "Roger Sir!"  I got my ANA together and made the link up with Sergeant Owen from route clearance.

The mission was uneventful and the dismounted portion was actually a nice six kilometer hike.  The ANA forgot to bring canteens.  I noticed they had failed in this before we left, but didn't say anything, to make a point about pre-combat checks. They were exhausted and begging for water, which we eventually gave them; but, not before telling them we brought only enough for ourselves.  We always bring plenty, but the lesson wasn't lost on them.

The link up with Able was a treat.  It was Lieutenant Bramstedder's platoon and it was great to see those guys, again.  They had a few good stories from their missions at Kandahar Air Field.  We agreed we're eager to work together, again.

We told Bramstedder about the prima donna colonel.  He chuckled and said they'd wait for him, freeing us to head back. 

We were running a little late returning to Forward Operating Base Wolverine, because the link up took longer than expected.  About half way back, we passed the ANA headquarters section, which was the main reason for our convoy in the first place, with the uncooperative commander, running along without security.  They were hauling butt, because it was getting dark.  

About half way through the convoy was the commander, driving his own Ford Ranger.  He had his head way out the window, trying to see what was stopping his convoy.  He looked scared and mad.  I imagined him riding along with his head out the window, in a smoking jacket, with a pipe clenched between his teeth, harumphing at the Taliban, when he came upon them.  It made me laugh.  

I'll have to write about the other mission later.  We just got a warning order about another air assault in the morning, so I must write an operations order and get the ball rolling with the ANA.

Love to all, TJ"

Following receipt of this e-mail, military activity increased a lot as the Afghan elections approached.  TJ hasn't made any log book entries lately, but, after a long time,  we got a brief email from him on Thursday, which contained a promise to write more later. 

Getting that e-mail was quite a relief.