I've added an email address, as I've had a comment or two that I responded to but couldn't post due to the inclusion of an email address as part of the comment. I won't publish those for the privacy of the reader, and I can't edit the comments. I have corresponded with several readers who have asked specific questions or who have expressed a desire to do so in the past, but it has been pointed out to me that I could make it easier and more secure, so I have.
My counter exploded, so I "fired" Tech-Counter and "hired" Site Meter. Wow. I'm such an amateur! Wish I had known about that before. Now I can see that the DOIM in Ft Leavenworth is checking on me every day.
(Private note to DOIM guys: Uh, hi guys! Love love love your work!)
This weekend I'm headed to the DC area for MAJ Stone Cold's promotion party. He's been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel! Woohoo! I have nothing but good things to say about that guy, and I know that everyone on the team would agree.
I will also get to see O, will likely get to see Rick Dyn (one of the two best DynCorps contractors ever to work in Afghanistan*,) and it's quite possible that there may be an appearance by the famous SFC Jacques Pulvier!
Be still my beating heart!
Seriously; there aren't many people who aren't my children that I would drive 500 miles for, and those guys are most of them.
My previous post was for continuity; I'm working my way forwards in telling the story of what happened to us in-country. It is also the story of our part in the huge changes in Kapisa Province, and the area of the Tag Ab Valley during 2007. That change is still in progress, but there has obviously been a changing of the guard.
The 82nd is gone and the 101st has taken their place. We have gone and new teams have taken our place. Now, months later, stories can be shared of the efforts to shake that area from the hold of the Taliban and the HiG.
When we first moved from Camp Dubs to our new team, the plan was to mount an operation to improve the standing of the ANP in Tag Ab and to begin to establish a coalition presence there. That operation was aborted at the very last minute, to be replaced later by a much larger operation. Operation Nauroz Jhala (New Year's Hail) was only the second Afghan-led operation of the war, the first being Operation Maiwand only a short time earlier in 2007.
For the second time in the war, the coalition forces seconded themselves to Afghan leadership in such an effort, advising and mentoring the Afghan leadership during the planning and execution and filling a vital role in the success of the mission, but not maintaining overall control. This was obviously a historic operation.
In doing some retrospective research, I discovered that a website ( http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2007/09/22/afghanistan-the-not-so-obvious-problems/ ) had linked to one of my posts and a report from Al Jazeera on the same page. I laughed out loud, especially at the context. The Al Jazeera crew was literally boasting about how easily the Taliban could walk around in the Tag Ab District of Kapisa Province.
That was my valley; the Tag Ab Valley. I have been in the spot where that video was shot. I have been down the road in the distance countless times. I have walked in that area unfettered myself, have been greeted by the villagers with warm smiles and handshakes.
Here is the Al Jazeera propaganda video on YouTube:
I think that Oji Mullah would be a great name for a Taliban rapper, but whoever the hell he was, he didn't make much of an impression on us in the valley.
Oh, keep in mind that most of those guys walking around trying to look like badasses with their Kalashnikov's and RPG's have already gotten to be on the receiving end of the Muslim burial rites. The attack that they ran off to make didn't happen, either.
Mind you, this crew was the second Al Jazeera crew in the Tag Ab Valley during the operation. We knew that they were in the valley and were looking for them that day to invite them to join us for some chai. Sadly, we were not able to make their acquaintance. Oddly enough, the first crew didn't return with such video, but was able to accept a gracious invitation to stop by for some chai. I was not able to attend that tea party, as I was busy elsewhere in the valley that day, but I understand that everyone had a very nice time.
The funny thing is the commentary on Global Voices Online about the Al Jazeera video, in context with the quote from this blog further up the same page which said largely the same thing about the people of that area.
Here's a relatively accurate depiction of Nijrab, Tag Ab, and Alasay from The Long War Journal.
Anyway, I will tell a few tales from behind the scenes of the fits and starts and the execution of the operation from the ground level. What turned out to be tiny snippets of news and a few seconds of propaganda video from some guy who said his name was Oji Mullah (never heard of him other than that piece of video... imagine that) actually involved hundreds of American soldiers from the 82nd Airborne and the Special Forces, a couple of dozen Marines, a few Norwegian Special Forces, a few French Mountain troops, hundreds of Afghan Army and Police troops and their mentors, dozens of vehicles, and lots of fixed and rotary winged sorties.
It also established a brand new firebase in the Tag Ab Valley. That firebase has since been named Firebase Kutschbach, after the first American soldier who was killed working out of that base, SSG Patrick Kutschbach, KIA in Tag Ab Valley 10 Nov 2007.
What Oji Mullah didn't tell on that snippet of jihadist propaganda, and I couldn't clarify at the time due to OPSEC, was that prior to August 1st, 2007, the Taliban and HiG controlled all of Tag Ab and that when that video was shot with them parading around in a remote area of the valley, the road from Tag Ab to Mahmoud Raqi was being paved for the first time ever and the Afghan Government was roaming freely for the first time in years wherever they wanted to go in that valley. He made it sound as if they had gained ground; quite the opposite was true.
But I had to keep that to myself. Now that story can be told.
I hope to get O and the newly minted LTC Stone Cold to tell the tales of their exploits which earned them each a BSM(V.) They are both very humble individuals, but perhaps the anonymity of pseudonymity will empower them to tell their tales.
I did, in fact, serve in the company of heroes.
Our stories are intertwined with the stories of the excellent and audacious LRSD of the mighty 82nd Airborne, whose combat patch we proudly wear, and the equally excellent and audacious platoon from the 158th Infantry, Arizona and Hawaii National Guard, who was attached to TF Gladius of the 82nd Airborne and spent most of their tour in the Tag Ab Valley. We all worked with and around these guys, and our paths were wrapped around each other like wild grape vines.
The LRSD put a few videos on YouTube as well. The videos are very well done and very enjoyable.
*The other half of that legendary duo is Rick Dyn's brothafromanothamutha, Chris "Look at the Size of that Mellon" Dyn. The two of them are the best team that DynCorp ever sent downrange.
This reference is not an endorsement of Global Voices Online.
The other reference is certainly not an endorsement of Al Jazeera.
I wholeheartedly endorse the LRSD, 82nd Airborne Division, who made Tag Ab their own private Mosh Pit.