Friday, December 31, 2010

Home on the Range

Paul Riley and I out on the rifle range a few days back. Going to the range here means bringing an interpreter, a medic, riding out in uparmored SUVs with at least one rifle per vehicle, traveling with at least two vehicles, etc., etc.

It was the first range that I have ever been to where we didn't ensure that all of our weapons were unloaded and clear at the end, but we actually took the time to reload all of our expended magazines and ensured that all weapons were Condition 1 (i.e. loaded) before mounting back up for the ride home. Better safe than sorry, and this is Kabul, after all.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I get to meet Lewis Black

Made my week, just as I am sure that meeting me made his. Again, I can't say enough about how gracious they all were to us. And this was an additional show that they had not signed up for, wedged into a little space before their departure from Afghanistan (they flew in from Kandahar just this morning before the show). They could have said no, but they didn't. They stepped up to the plate and made a lot of people happy.

The USO did a great job. It wouldn't hurt to throw a little donation their way this holiday season. Between getting these folks over here (the funding goes toward transportation; the entertainers volunteer their time) and putting together gift packages and staffing reception rooms at a myriad of airports for troops coming and going, the USO - and guys like Lewis - are doing the Lord's work.

Robin Williams!

Funny as hell. Made fun of the voice of his Garmin navigation device, wished it had a Scottish voice, made fun of that, then realized these was an actual Scotsman in the audience, and then made fun of him. And the lady with the faux fur hat. And Afghanistan ("We landed and my cell phone said to set my clock back a half hour. I looked around, and said "#(*&, are you kidding?!? Set your clock back about 1000 years!""

Jumped into the crowd with both feet afterwards. They loved him, and he clearly loved them.

Lewis Black!

One of my favorite comedians EVER. He brought the funny. Again, like Lance, just very gracious to everyone.

Lance Armstrong!

Tried to get to him afterwards to tell him that Godin says hi, but he was mobbed. He and Robin Williams were the clear favorites. Very funny in his own right, and very gracious. "When my kids ask me on the phone at night what I am doing over here, I tell them that I'm spending the night with heros."

The USO comes to Kabul

The USO came today for a brief show with Robin Williams, Lance Armstrong, Lewis Black and a couple of other folks. Here for about 90 minutes. They were AWESOME. Did a great job in the very brief time they were on the ground, stayed for pictures and to autograph as many things as they were asked. Waded right into the crowd in order to do it. They made a lot of servicemen and women and DoD/DoS civilians very happy on a chilly Friday morning. This pic is of Ambassador Eikenberry introducing everybody.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter in Kabul

1970s soviet aircraft at a 1950s airport

Like I said, a time machine.

Frankly, I was surprised that there even was a modern airport down there.

Kandahar Airport

Built in what looks like the late 1950s / early 1960s by... the United States!

Beautiful curves, classic 1960s architecture. Marble floors (still intact), very solid. Very strange to walk into it; felt like entering a time machine.

Except for the Predator UAV that I watched taking off as I stood outside. Those things were science fiction back when this airport was built.

The Afghan airport manager was really impressive, really sounded like he had a plan, and while he needed the help of ISAF to ensure good security, I didn't get the feeling that he was looking for a handout.

The L/EMB crew with Ambassador Eikenberry

This is inside the main lobby of the Embassy. The Seal of the United States was locally made; the blue ring around it is lapis lazuli, mined in Afghanistan.

You have to admit, this is a pretty awesome picture.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Biggest. Rose. Ever.

This rose was in one of the beds directly in front of the Embassy. It was HUGE - big as a baby's head - and the craziest pink/fushia (sp?) I have ever seen. The roses are cut down now for winter, but this was only last week. Got cut the next day, I believe. Damn glad I got the shot.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Better than a day in front of a computer

Damn skippy.

However, I was not having my best shoot.

I am trying to get my Advanced Combat Optic (ACOG) battle-sight zeroed. It was a pain in the ass. First off, I am still used to iron sights (these new fangled optics are still pretty new to me); second, I had not BZO-ed my rifle since I got it, and it required a lot of adjustment; third, doing it with gear on - pretty important since that's how I would be coming to the fight - is not NEARLY as natural as I am used to. And finally, we were rushed for time to finish up before we had to go cold on the range. In short, while I had a great time, it was not my best performance.

But far better than ANY day in the office. And you can quote me.

L/EMB goes to the rifle range

Well, the Dirty Dozen we ain't, but there are definitely some shooters in our crowd. We got out to the rifle and pistol range a couple of weeks back to break some rust. The carpentry shop here at the Embassy built us some truly fantastic two-piece target frames that break down to fit into our vehicles; print off some targets on 8 x 11 printer paper,zip tie or duct tape some cardboard to the frames to mount the targets (that's what I need the staple gun for, Dad), add a can each of 9mm and 5.56mm ammo, and you have a happy office.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veterans Day at the US Embassy

Some Marine who clearly needs to be on weight control at the head of the military formation.

(In my defense, I am wearing a sweatshirt underneath as well as a concealed 9mm pistol).

According to my friend John Piedmont (now back in VA, but here a year ago), he spotted me on the NBC TV news covering this event back in the States.

My 15 seconds of fame came and went and I didn't even know it.

Veterans Day at the US Embassy

At 0700 yesterday, visiting Senators McCain, Lieberman, Gillebrand, and Graham participated in the Embassy Veterans Day remembrance. Senator McCain gave a brief, but quite moving speech. It was the first time that I had heard that 2nd Lt Kelly, USMC, son of Lieutenant General Kelley, USMC, Commanding General of Marine Forces Reserve, had been killed in a roadside IED only two days before, serving with 3/5 in Helmand Province.

A hell of a way to reinforce the importance of both the birthday of the Marine Corps (10 November) and Veterans Day (11 November).

“It’s an honor to spend this Veteran’s Day in Afghanistan among what I believe to be the greatest generation of men and women serving in our military. Today we honor you. We are humbled by your example, and chastened in our pride that we, too, in our own way, have tried to give our country some good service. It may be true or it may not, but no matter how measurable others’ contributions to this blessed country, they are a poor imitation of yours. But they know the solemn and terrible sacrifice made by those who have not returned to the country you loved so well.

“We recently lost three brave young sons from Arizona, and Lt. General Kelly’s son who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.

“Our country doesn't depend on the heroism of every citizen. But all of us should be worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf. We have to love our freedom, not just for the private opportunities it provides, but for the goodness it makes possible. We have to love it as much, even if not as heroically, as the brave Americans like you who defend us at the risk and often the cost of their lives. We must love it enough to argue about it, and to work together to serve its interests, in whatever way our abilities permit and our conscience requires, whether it calls us to arms or to altruism or to politics.

“If war has any glory, it is a hard pressed, bloody, and awful glory that no one who hasn’t experienced it can ever completely understand. It is the glory of knowing you withstood the savagery and cruelty and madness of war to do your duty to the country that sent you there, and you were not found wanting by the comrades who stood next to you.

“Today, Americans are fighting in faraway places, like many of you here in Afghanistan, a place that most Americans will never see. They suffer as you have suffered. They are brave as you have been brave. They, like you, will never be the same again. You know the world we live in is an uncertain one. It still holds dangers for us and for everyone for whom freedom is the habit of their heart. Man’s inhumanity to man is an evil that will never be entirely extinct. And no matter how long a peace endures, it is always temporary. Americans will always be asked again to bear burdens that only the brave can endure. That burden will be their duty, as it is yours now and likely will be again.

“History does not remember all of our brave veterans as individuals. We don’t even know where they all rest. But we must not forget what they have done. Their honor is eternal and will live in our country for so long as she remains worthy of their sacrifice. Our veterans were family and friends to some, heroes to all – who lived, fought and died for the safety and future of a great and good nation.

“God bless them. May God grant them perpetual peace. And may all of you, who are serving in their hallowed footsteps, return home safe one day, with honor.”

Saturday, November 6, 2010


The Marine Security Detachment threw one of the best USMC Birthday Balls I have ever gone to last night. Pictured are myself, LtCol Ian Brasure (friend from my Phoenix days 15 years ago), and LTC Paul Riley (one of my compadres in the L/EMB office I work in. It turns out that the Birthday Ball is one of THE biggest social events going in Kabul, period. What is normally a chance for brother Marines and their significant others to celebrate the birthday of our beloved Corps morphed into Ambassadors, Generals, every Marine in town, and quite a few good looking ladies from the Embassy and the Kabul area. Fantastic ceremony with Major General Mills (CG, I MEF (Fwd)) as the guest of honor introduced by Ambassador Eikenberry, followed by a tremendous meal, and dancing - all in an enormous tent floored with Afghan rugs. Marines in cammies, Marines in cammies armed, the Marines of the MSG in Dress Blues like myself, and a couple of Marines in Mess Dress. A crazy Ball, but a hell of a lot of fun. I prefer my deployed birthdays like the one I celebrated in Ramadi, but this one was probably the best I ever attended, in spite of the location and being dry for us subject to GO #1, and in spite of going "stag" this year (again).