30 October 2012

Chief Tecumseh's words of wisdom

"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

"Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

"When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.

"Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.

"When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled
with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep
and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home."

28 October 2012

Week 16 from Afghanistan

"I spent the early part of the week with some NATO leaders and Afghan Generals out on the border of Pakistan. We were looking at ways to improve joint communications regarding insurgent threats. It was an interesting experience.
"First of all, Jalallabad is a beautiful lush valley in the mountainous border region of Pakistan's tribal areas. So different from Kabul, which is a dirty, filthy city. Unfortunately, I understand that the lush fields were planted with poppy, so its not as picturesque as it seems, but it is still pretty.
"As we were flying in, it reminder me of Germany, with lots of very orderly cultivated plots of land and smaller villages sprouting out around the agricultural areas.

"This was my first real interaction with Afghan leaders. On the staff I deal with NATO forces, and when I travel it tends to mostly be to visit US forces. It was quite a thing to see these rising leaders in their ranks. They were very frank about the problems of corruption within their government and within the senior military ranks. These were men who have fought Taliban for decades and are now in a position to set their nation of a better course. They are fathers with great hopes for their children, most of whom are attending university.

"... they are men that can lead their country, and whose children may be able to build a better future. Spending time with these leaders convinced me more than ever that we need to be out of their way.
"We were on a tour when I slipped away from the group to get a side bar with a US Army intelligence Captain. I found him in their operations center--manned primarily by Afghans. As I entered the representatives from the Afghan Army, Police and Intelligence service were having an intense discussion about some issue or other. I don't know the substance of the discussion, but here they were, fully engaged in some debate about a report they had in front of them.
It gives me hope. The solutions here will not be American solutions. They will be Afghan solutions. They may not be pretty, but I am of the mind that the sooner we can transition out to a small advisory force, the better. These folks need to be in the lead. It will probably be bloody--we loose something like 10X the Afghan security forces in combat each week, primarily in areas we have turned over... They are brave. It is their country. I hope that after the election is over, we will draw down as quickly as possible."

21 October 2012

Week 15 from Afghanistan

"I am writing a bit early--I have a trip this weekend and am not sure if I will have internet access where I am going.  That may give me some interesting things to write about as I'll have some good engagement with some Afghan leaders, but I wanted to write a quick note now."

And the rest is a personal note to me and the kids... :)

14 October 2012

Week 14 from Afghanistan


I hope you had a good week. The longer I am here, the more the days blend together. As a staff officer, your efforts do not yield immediate fruit, and all you can hope for at this headquarters level is to make incremental progress each day.
I am thankful for opportunities I have had to work with and develop young people--that is likewise incremental, but it is wonderful to see folks you have worked with for a long time improve in capacity. We get to see that as parents, as members of the Priesthood in our callings, and professionally. In most of our field units in the states, we have a regular crop of new agents rotating in each year direct from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. They come in as "probationary agents" who have to accomplish a number of required on the job training experiences over the course of a year before they become fully accredited Federal Agents. Usually about 1/3 of our agents at stateside offices are filled by probationary agents. Since 9/11 we have had a pretty standard process of bringing these folks on board, giving them an intense professional experience during their probationary year, and then sending them off for about three months of advanced and pre-deployment training before we send them off to a unit performing a mission where they ply their trade against terrorist, insurgents and spies.
They hit the ground and don't stop for their whole 6 months--16-20 hour days in hazardous and austere conditions. By the time they come back from that, they are among the most competent agents in Federal Law Enforcement. I have been a commander four times; twice in the states, once in Turkey, and once in Iraq. Of all the things I have been able to do as a leader, one of my favorite has been to develop these probationary agents and prepare them to the very best of my ability to be ready for what they will face in a combat environment. In my units, we press them and challenge them to ensure they conduct their operations to as high a standard as possible, because once they are chasing Taliban or al-Qa'ida, the environment is unforgiving. I've got five folks from my ***** team deployed here throughout the country. I see the statistics for all the counterintelligence forces here in theater--Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force--and week to week it is our Air Force units that are taking most of the enemy off the battlefield. I got a note from one of my former probationary agents today. He is doing amazing work and is loving the opportunity he has to serve. Its great to see the folks you have worked so hard with move from a crawl to a walk and then off to a sprint.

11 October 2012

Never Fly American Airlines

This is a complaint I sent to American Airlines, hoping to be refunded money I had to pay because I missed my flight... well, you'll see..

This was my first international flight out of *******. I read on your website that I needed to be at the airport 2 hrs early. (See www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/checkingIn/arrivalTimes.jsp)
I even printed all my boarding passes.  I arrived at the airport at 8:45 am for my 10:55 am flight.

I stood in line at the curbside check in for 10 min until an attendant told me I couldn't check my 1 bag at the curb if I was traveling internationally. He showed me the line I was supposed to get in inside to check my bag. All American Airline passengers are required to go through the self serve kiosks to get to a counter attendant to check their bags. ONE line for all passengers and only 3 attendants at the counter. I waited and waited and finally got to the self kiosk 5 min after 45 min cut off to check my bag. I was then told to get in another line to see a counter attendant. I was in that line for 30 min. I asked a passing attendant why there weren't more counter attendants.  She said

07 October 2012

Week 13

I spent most of my week in Belgium.  My lovely wife was able to meet me out there, and it was great to be able to see a bit of that country with her at my side.  I returned to Afghanistan Saturday morning, and I am right back into the swing of things here.

Update Afghanistan Week 12

From hubby while we were in Belgium:


This a bit delayed as I traveled this weekend to Brussels to attend a conference at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE/NATO).  I'll write about that when I return, but I just wanted send a quick note out to say hi--most of my week was preparing our presentation for this conference--so it was long days but fairly boring staff work.
I did have a chance to write my oldest son this week.  He has been interested in attending a military academy for some time.  Apparently, some folks have been giving him a hard time about this when they have asked about his career goals, and he wrote me telling me about that.  It is a sad statement of our society that we have people that would discourage a young man from service--it is a fundamental responsibility of those in a free society, to be willing to serve when called upon. 

Brussels

Photos from Belgium

 Grand Place, Mons Belgium
Good Luck Monkey.  They say if you rub the monkeys head with your left hand you will have good luck all year. His head is pretty shiney from all the rubbing.
Door lock to the Town Hall in Mons, Belgium
Only baroque belfry in all of Belgium.  The bells play a really cool chime every 15 minutes.  I was sorry I didn't record it.
St Waldru Church in Mons.
The Belfry

St Michaels Cathedral in Brussels
St Michaels

02 October 2012

01 October 2012

A monkey, banana creeps, and a walk

My first day in Belgium. The lady at the front desk told me it wasn't far to walk from the hotel to catch the bus downtown- I wanted to get some sightseeing in before hubby finished at his conference. Wasn't far turned into 2 1/2 miles down windy road with not shoulder and cars going really fast.
And there was no bus stop so I stopped at gas station and asked the attendant to call for taxi.
Got all the way downtown and first stopped at the tourist office to get a map and find out what I could easily so on foot. The lady very nicely old me I came on the wrong day bc all the museums are closes on Mondays. ??
She said I could go see the mayors gardens, rub the monkey for luck,and go shopping. I wondered why it was so deserted at 10:30am.
So I saw those two, took a pic of the monkey the gardens with were really small, had some great banana creeps, and started off to find a taxi back to hotel.
I walked and walked and walked until I ended up at the train station before I found a taxi. Made it back to hotel at 2:30pm and am now in desperate need of a nap- jet lag and walking catching up to me.
I'll post pics soon.

EU Rendezvous

After having the most awful experience with American Airlines (who I will avoid in the future even if it costs me more), I'm finally at my destination.
Had a nice small four cheese pizza and a cup of fruit for dinner.

Hubby comes in a couple hours. I have his uniform and will be ironing and pinning things on, then some reading until he gets here. Can't wait to see him!