Sunday, July 8, 2007

Independence Day

This week we celebrated Independence Day! This has special meaning for all Americans and is especially significant to military personnel as it was our military force that made our independence possible. It was a regular work day here in Afghanistan, but there were some celebrations and a special meal of barbecued ribs and chicken. We actually did a few more events on Friday, July 6 because most people have that as a low operations tempo day. There was a 5K run and volleyball tournament. I was not able to participate in either of them because my ankle is still healing, but I did watch.

Also this week I had to the opportunity to go to the range and fire a D30 Howitzer. This is basically a big cannon-like gun. Pat Meriwether, Chief Spinelli and myself arrived at the range in the morning and observed as the ANA soldiers did their training evolution. It is interesting to watch them as they train. They are very excited and very professional in the way they operate the weapons. When they are not in the training cycle they wait while squatting as if they had to pee really bad. This is very similar to the Asian culture where squatting is quite prevalent. Here is a quick language lesson just for the fun of it. The words fart and poop are very funny especially to my kids and most kids. The word for fart is "gouz" and the word for poop is "go". I started thinking about how the ANA squat and wondered if I could squat like that for very long, I could not. If you did not know, the local toilets are holes and the people squat over the hole to do their business. That explains why they are so flexible. I am sure if I had to squat every time I had to "go" I am sure I would be more flexible.

After the ANA finished the their training, I had the opportunity to fire the howitzer. It was a simple operation, load the round in the chamber and then stand back and pull a cord to fire the weapon. It makes quite a blast and blows dirt in all directions so you get pummelled with sand and pebbles after it fires. The round lands on its target, hopefully, and blows it up. I did it once and that was enough.

Once we finished shooting on our range, the ANA was still firing mortars on the range just to right of our position. As they were finishing, we heard a blast and then a whistle above our heads. A mortar had misfired on the range and blew up in the weapon killing 3 ANA soldiers and wounding 8 others. It was crazy after that with the ambulance rushing in and people running to the scene. It was a terrible accident and reminded us all how dangerous it is even during training.

I mentioned in previous updates about the humanitarian missions that Camp Phoenix and the military perform to help the people of Afghanistan. I and many others, mostly Navy folks, are involved in something called Operation Not Forgotten. Our focus is on providing school supplies to needy schools and children and providing clothes and toys to villages and orphanages. There is a great deal of work to receive and sort all the supplies that wonderful people donate to the cause and we spend about 2 days a week in the evenings doing this sorting. Once all the supplies are sorted we plan the humanitarian mission and go out on a convoy to the schools, villages and orphanages. If you are interested in contributing to this worthy cause, you may send your donations of school supplies (crayons, notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, and toys etc) clothes and shoes (please separate them by gender and size, it makes our job easier) to the address as follows:

Operation Not Forgotten
Camp Phoenix
APO AE 09320

In addition we are looking for corporate sponsors, so if you know of any companies that would like to contribute, please give me their contact information and I will make introductions and let them know how they can help. E-mail addresses would be best, but mailing addresses will work as well.

Back on the homefront, Rebecca and the kids along with their cousins Kathleen and Elizabeth celebrated the Fourth of July at our old neighborhood where they hold an annual block party. They also started a short summer vacation at Del Mar Beach in Camp Pendleton where they are celebrating our friend Linda's birthday. Peace to you all, and remember to watch where you "go".


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