So this will be my final entry as, in a few days, I will begin the odyssey of my return trip home! February was a tough month. In addition to burn out, snow and mud, the cold and a general running down of my body-there were a couple of attacks in the area and when we weren't out on missions in the freezing cold we were stuck on base fighting boredom because our helos were grounded by the bad weather. Most of the month I was also busy investigating a suicide bombing at the base on the Pakistan border. It is a tiny base shared with the Afghan border police and few comforts from home; (ever seen the movie "Platoon" with the wooden toilets that have barrels underneath, the waste is collected there and has to be burned by some unlucky joe three times daily)and obviously dangerous. I can't go into the circumstances but I do want to tell you the story of the three dogs that saved US lives that night. The dogs were all local mutts friendly to the Americans (maybe because we treat them well and don't abuse them like the locals). On the night of the bombing the suicider knew exactly where to go (the US barracks) but fortunately the three dogs were outside the door sleeping. They not only alerted the guys inside but also held on to the bomber until, in frustration, he detonated himself in the doorway. A soldier lying on his cot had gotten up to see what was going on and had he stayed on his cot he would've died. One of the pooches (appropriately named VBIED) survived. Although deafer than a post now, the medic cleaned him up, shaved him and sewed up some cuts on him. Otherwise he is fine and being treated like a king by the US soldiers. As soon as I can I will post some pictures of it as the soldiers there are trying to adopt it and take it to a good home back in the states.
These months have been the longest of my life but it has been an experience to grow and learn from, as well as to make me more thankful for all the blessings of living in the US. I feel for the Afghan people since all they have known is war for 30 years. I have also seen how pashtunwalli and religion can be used only for individualistic or clan benefit. I really think education is the key. Our team has gone on over 300 convoys and completed over 60 projects (leaving the next team a much more manageable number, thus helping keep better tabs on quality and preventing graft and corruption). We conducted dozens of rule of law, women's rights, and vocational classes. Still the road is going to be a tough one and this country will likely remain very impoverished. The key is to empower local government until an educated population can be attained in the far future. Then through good intelligence work prevent al qaeda from returning; we can leave this place one day but cannot ignore it like we did after the Soviet pullout. thanks for tuning in. MAJ William Hogan-out.