A Soldier’s Letter

“We arrived in Kabul in early April of 2008.  Since then we have been to almost every part of the country.  I hold the rank of 1LT (First Lieutenant) and am a Platoon Leader for an Infantry Platoon of 17 Soldiers.  We are a heavy weapons company and our primary missions include base defense, rapid response force (RRF), convoy escorts and mounted combat patrols in and throughout the capital city of Kabul.  Our convoy escort missions take us throughout the entire country.  I have been to major cities including Jalalabad, Ghazni, Qalat, Kandahar, and Herat Province.
“I’ve found the country to be dramatically different in each region.  Kabul is a city of 3 million Afghans that has the infrastructure to support less than 500,000.  So, you can imagine the stench of garbage and sewage which flows directly from the mud huts into open trenches in the streets.  Kabul is relatively peaceful for the most part.  When you head down South, it is a totally different story.  The trips to Ghazni, Qalat and especially Kandahar are especially dangerous and often include small arms fire, RPG’s, and IED’s.
“Once in a while, we make trips to Jalalabad (J-Bad) which is a great trip.  Kabul is at an elevation of about 5,800 feet where as J-Bad is at about 1,700 feet.  We pass through large mountainous passes with a number of switch-backs that drop you hundreds of feet in a short distance.  The route follows the Kabul River which is black as mud in Kabul but turns to a teal color as you get closer to Surobi.  I believe it is from the glacial melt that runs from the towering mountains that makeup all of Northeastern Afghanistan.  J-Bad is a great city compared to the rest of the country.  It is much more humid than the higher elevations but is a little bit cooler.  Many people migrate between Kabul and J-Bad depending on the season.  Summers are spent in Kabul and Winters are spent in J-Bad to take advantage of the weather.
“As the Platoon Leader for 3rd Platoon, Delta Company 2-108 IN, I plan and execute all of the different missions my platoon is responsible for.  We spend a lot of time patrolling the city and talking with the local nationals.  We listen to their problems and concerns, treat wounded children, conduct village assessments and provide security for humanitarian aid missions where food, clothes, toys and medical supplies are distributed throughout the city.
“My platoon has essentially, for lack of a better term, “adopted”, a Kuchi village which we have named Garbage Village.  The Kuchi are a nomadic tribe that makes up a large percentage of the Afghan population.  They are one of the most oppressed groups in the country and are a very poor, desolate people.  We saw them from one of our routes living in an actual garbage dump. They burn the garbage for heat in the winter and live off of anything they can find.  Their goats eat the garbage and the people use the goats for dairy and meat products.  This group had never had any assistance until my Platoon entered the dump.  Since we first met this group, I’ve organized multiple humanitarian aid missions to include: food, water, and clothes drops; medical assistance for issues such as chemical burns, broken bones, cuts, and infections; veterinarian assistance for vaccinating and de-worming their livestock; and water sample testing.
“While we are a heavy weapons infantry company tasked to engage and destroy any enemy threat, we have run into very little threat in the Kabul area.  Part of our mission is winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and the humanitarian aid missions do help that goal and are part of our Counter Insurgency (COIN) Operations.
“As much as I enjoy what we are doing here for the people of Kabul, I really look forward to coming home.  In my civilian life, I work as the Legislative Assistant for the Broome County Legislature responsible for the day to day operations of the legislature and the research and drafting of legislation.  I currently live in Endwell, NY.  My family still lives in Spencer.”
-Lieutenant Christopher Marion

Big Buddy

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