Monday, November 13, 2006

Kuchis Tribes Then Suicide Bombers

Hello all,
Today was a study in extremes. I verified again that in order to stay interested and productive it is necessary to go out to the people in the area and interact with them. I enjoy that and it makes the time here seem worthwhile. Today my crew and I headed up to Shindand in order to take care of some paperwork, and attend a meeting. On the way up we stopped by a Kuchis Tribe located in between our start and finish point. They had approximately 14 tents and maybe 200 people along with assorted dogs, sheep, goats, and camels. It has begun raining and getting cold here. So we took the tribe a 50 lb bag of rice and some cooking oil. Once we arrived I realized that it is merely a token, but as I pointed out to the village elder we spoke with, it was better than nothing and something for the children to eat. We also took many toys that many of you all have sent to us over the past months. Children are simply the best. Their wide eyes and smiles innocent of the trials and tribulations that arrive with knowledge and age, are a joy to behold, and I want to than you all for allowing me to be one of the ambassadors of your good will.
The dogs that they have are some kind of cross between a horse and a Shepard. They have big feet, long legs and strong jaws. They are docile with their owners, but definitely protective of their herd of people. I did not get a firm count of the children but certainly more than 30 and less than 60 kids. This tribe moved in to the area about a month ago, and why they chose there location is a mystery to me as there is not water located nearby.
I was given the opportunity to go into their tents, and was impressed with how much ground is covered. They dig the ground flat where they are going to pitch their tent. They build up walls about 18 inches high and maybe 6 inches thick of mud and stone, inside they lay out areas for the people to sleep, areas where sheep and dogs lay down, where the fire is laid, and where storage is done. The top of the tent is about 10 feet above the floor, which is dug down from the surface of the desert by almost a foot. This gives them 3 feet of earthen shelter above which they pitch a heavy black porous tent cloth. The tents that I was in were approximately 14 feet wide and 30 feet long. Over the floor they use rugs woven from sheep and camel wool in the local tribal patterns. The rugs are very pretty and are of the type that I have sent home already. They burn scrub brush inside the tents in very small quantities, but the heat is held inside the tents relatively well, and the black color absorbs what ever solar heat is available. It was noticeably warmer in the tent. The sheep, goat and camel dung is used for fire as well, once it dries out, so essentially from birth to death the animals in their herds earn their keep on a daily basis. There were brand new babies there, and of course their moms, many of whom I am certain are not yet 20, but look 30, and have multiple kids of their own. We handed out stuffed animals, Barbie dolls, cars, and various other things that might be enjoyed by the children. When we go back we will take children’s clothing and shoes, as I really doubt I can find people who need it more than what I saw.
From this location, we headed to Shindand where we conducted the business of the day. Not extremely exciting, however I did get to speak with SGT Nelson who is from Bend Oregon and who actually mobilized with me. She has a mission that brought her out from Camp Phoenix, and it is always a pleasure to see someone from my home state. As we were preparing to leave we got word that an explosion had occurred on the route between us and our destination. It seems that someone had decided to target coalition forces with a VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devise), I am sure that some news source will provide more details, all I will say about the casualties is that the driver did not survive the explosion. The damage was extreme, and quite literally the point of explosion was in the center of a 600 meter in diameter circle of car debris. There was nothing larger than a regular phone with the exception of the car rims. The response in a situation like that is almost surreal. You assist any victims if possible. If that is not necessary, and the area is secured, there is not a thing that a normal soldier can do. The road is damaged, there is much debris to get off the road, CSI Afghanistan might have a field day, but trust me, they don’t exist, and they wouldn’t get here in time anyway. I really don’t have a lot more to say about this experience because I don’t want to give anyone a battle damage assessment. I will say it demonstrates that the Taliban doesn’t want anyone to get to comfortable, or underestimate them. I am sure that we will spend a lot of energy thinking about other potential threats. The reality of a VBIED is that it may or may not be driven by only one person, that person may or may not know what they are driving, and you have approximately 30 seconds when you see it on the road to determine if the solitary driver is a threat to you or not.
I used to say in ranger school that you could be walking along and have a refrigerator drop out of the sky, and the next in the chain of command would move up. That is kind of what a VBIED is like, no warning, no rhyme, certainly no reason.
Tomorrow is a new day, we have kids to take things to, and it has been raining, so maybe the desert will bloom eventually. My Aunt Dixie and Uncle Les had their 50th Anniversary, and I was the only family member unable to attend, Congratulations you two, I love you. I would say it has been a very very busy day.
A couple of quick answers to questions posed to me. I am going to try and get pictures of the babies in the caps that have been sent. This maybe a problem as the women who live in the Adobe Huts will not allow their pictures to be taken, in fact I have really never seen one unless we were searching her compound, and trust me, I keep my eyes averted as much as security allows. That is one good way to really irritate all the men. My call sign is Mac, which is what my grandfather McNeilly went by. He was born in 1896, and was in WWI although where he served I am not sure. I have wanted to post a page or two about women here, but I am beginning to think I might have to find a female soldier to write it for me and allow me to post it, as I doubt I will ever get more than a glimpse of what their lives are like.
Okay, that is all for now.
All my best to all of you, and thanks for the kind thoughts.

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