Friday, June 01, 2007

Green Berets in Afghanistan

I don't write enough about Afghanistan. Neither does the rest of the world of media, but I wanted to bring to your attention the upcoming National Geographic special on the Green Berets in Afghanistan.

You can see videos starting here:

Interview with the Producer (who was injured, along with his cameraman, in one of the rising IED attacks in Afghanistan)

Goodwill trip to the Afghani people (the special forces intelligence officer explains how the Taliban use villagers to ascertain information and draw out forces for potential ambush)

Facing IEDs (on this trip, a really good look at how the intel comes down about impending attacks and how a stupid mistake -hopefully, a mistake - by the Afghan forces leads to a truck being blown up, dead and wounded)

As the producer states, you can see what these men sacrifice, day in and day out, working on a remote base and largely relying on their own resourcefulness, to win their part of the war; the one that started on 9/11/2001.

You also get a sense of how they are implementing real counterinsurgency (less guns, more politics (backed up by guns) and a lot of chutzpah.

Watch it at 9pm EST, Sunday June 3rd

They also have a blog: NGC Blog (everybody is getting into the show)

Jerry Newberry - Special Contributor and Director VFW Communications

So it's about 0700 and the sun is just coming up over the 8,000 ft. ridge to the east of the Korengal Outpost – better known as the "KOP."

My t-shirt is still drenched with sweat from the exertion of climbing the steep ridgelines to the south of here. My hair plastered flat to my head from wearing a Kevlar helmet during the all-night patrol.

It feels good to sit down, drink some water and Gatorade. It's good to be back. It's good to be alive.

I've got a minimum of 30 years on the Joes of 3rd platoon – and I'll admit it ain't easy humping these mountains, keeping up with 'em. They've been at it for about 6 months, on an almost daily (nightly) basis, so they've grown accustomed to it.

But the old guy kept up, and I wasn't the last man in the column as we returned to the outpost when the nightlong patrol finally ended.

So I guess that's something.

The troops out here don’t have it easy. It isn’t much different than the conditions many of us who served in Vietnam experienced.

The "KOP" is a remote outpost located at about the middle of the Korengal Valley. Just a few ridgelines away is Pakistan, where al Quaeda, Taliban and foreign fighters re-supply, re-fit, and train for their almost constant operations against this outpost and the troops who patrol the valley and surrounding mountains.

What it's like on "KOP" (Korengal Out Post)

Bottled water is used for drinking and a “water buffalo" provides the water used to wash clothes (by hand or in a bucket) or for showering.

Removed from the immediate company area are the latrines and "showers." Both are rough structures constructed of two-by-fours and plywood. In order to take a shower, you need to fill a 5-gallon jug from the water buffalo and then haul it down a steep, rocky path to one of two showers. You heft the jug and fill the canvas field shower and wash as fast as you can … before the water bag empties.

He reports that the re-supply drops (necessary because the roads are dangerous) sometimes go wide and the food and other items are "unrecoverable" because they land in what is basically no-man's land where bad things happen.

Due to the limitations of re-supply, food and other items are limited and, as Jerry writes, "predictable":

The food is predictable, unchanging. The cook makes do with the supplies that have been provided. One "hot" meal consisting of two dishes – an egg concoction with diced potatoes, shredded turkey bacon AND turkey link sausages – is prepared in a MKT (Mobile Kitchen Trailer). MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) are favored over the "hot" meals because at least they offer a little variety.

Battalion and Division HQs are concerned and work hard to improve conditions for the troops. To be fair, to the higher-ups, this IS a remote outpost in every sense of the word.

The final analysis:

The KOP is hot, dirty and dangerous. The troops live in extremely Spartan conditions, in continuous contact with the enemy. It’s amazing how they conduct themselves in light of all the difficulties they face daily.

He says they need some support. This is why I belong to Soldiers' Angels. We understand that these guys are on the "front lines" everyday in some of the worst conditions facing the enemy, time, weather and the extreme conditions of daily living in an outpost.

If you haven't thought about it lately, please remember that you can help support these guys and many more like them. Go to Soldiers' Angels and help us take care of our folks in uniform, fighting the hard fight.

- May no soldier go unloved