Thursday, May 15, 2008

ASSIGNMENT AFGHANISTAN: More Interviews from FOB Salerno!

Continuing our discussion from last week we'll hear more interviews from Jerry's recent embed with the Angels of No Mercy Dust-Off crews!
- For the past seven years, Sgt. Lewis has spent Christmas away from his family, working as an E.M.T at the 48th CASH in Afghanistan. His focus is "winning the hearts and minds" of the Afghani people. He speaks with us about treating the injuries suffered by nationals and soldiers alike.
- CW3 James Vanmeter explains the treatment equality provided by the Aero-Medical Evacuation crews; treating everyone from American soldiers to working dogs.

HOT TOPICS: Lies earned big disability checks for faker! l Family shout-outs from the troops in Afghanistan!l New G.I. Bill's current status!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Assignment Afghanistan: Entry #1

Five days of exhaustive and less-than luxurious travel to reach Afghanistan has left me more than irritated with the entire process of achieving embed status and questioning if it was worth it.

Stiff, tired and sore, finally reached FOB Salerno and after grabbing a few hours of sleep, a shower and some much-needed coffee, I feel somewhat restored mentally and decide get my bearings. FOB Salerno is located in the Southeast portion of Afghanistan, adjacent to the city of Khost, on a broad plateau and consequently is referred to as “the bowl.”

Looming ominously and ringed on the near-horizon are the precipitous, snow-capped mountains and the nation of Pakistan. The peaks, crags and foothills offer avenues of opportunity-freeways for insurgent and Taliban forces smuggling food, weapons and medical equipment into the country.

So I get to work, do some nosing around, make acquaintance with a couple of people: one from the U.S. State Department and a U.S. Army Major, both of whom are members of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT’s). I explain that I had been in-country a couple of years ago and was curious as to how/what things may have changed since then. They first gave me some background on the region, explaining that during the Soviet-Afghan War, Khost was the object of a siege which lasted for more than eight years. Soon after the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet troops, Afghan guerillas took control of the only land route between Khost and Gardez, effectively putting a stop to the Soviet advance.

But in spite of its violent history and its fierce and ferocious resistance to authority or semblance of governance it seems as though out of all the provinces located in the eastern part of the country, it’s here in Khost that the Taliban are all but a defeated military force. They’ve learned that attempts at going toe-to toe with U.S. forces is futile-if not foolish, militarily. Instead, the bad guys rely on IEDs or VBIEDs. And it’s here in Khost, that counterinsurgency directed and implemented by U.S. forces have met with success by way of roads, schools, clinics as well as establishing and improving economic opportunities.

Okay, so now that I’ve heard about all of the success, I want to see it…experience it. Haven’t even started the embed with my assigned units and I already know that I have to get off of the FOB and out into the countryside to see what’s going on. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way so it’s time to ingratiate myself to the right people so as to open up the door for additional opportunities whilst here.

But it’s also time to meet the commander of the 48th Combat Support Hospital…and since I want to spend time with the Dust Off crews and fly some missions with them, need to meet the commander of the aviation battalion and get his okay. Hmmm, looks like things are going to be busy.
- Jerry