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Bad timing

Camp Hero | Day 9 – A Marine, I highly respect, told me before 30 Days started, a massive operation in the South would limit our project and in some regards overshadow it.

I told her our project wouldn’t be affected because we weren’t trying to tell the operation’s story, but sideline next to it and share the stories behind the headlines. I never took into account the massive amount of resources an operation can take up.   

We weren’t able to make it to Bastion, as we hoped we would over the weekend because the massive influx of international media heading into the area. As much as Ken and I would like to pretend we compete with the big boys out there, it’s just not the case. Military resources go to those who utilize them to the greatest effect and unfortunately, they have a lot greater audience than we do.

Ken and I have been quite disappointed in ourselves for lacking the opportunity to showcase what southern Afghanistan is like. The original plan was to show Kabul, the area I consider to be one of the most promising, then coming down here and showing the “flip side of the coin.” An area that is still highly contested for government control … at least I think it is because that’s what I’m reading. Seeing those two perspectives, I hope we could start to see the entire Afghanistan picture. Now that we’ve been in the FOB for the past four days, we’ve only seen how operations are sustained, not conducted.  Ken and I simply haven’t had an opportunity to talk with any combative service members yet to share their stories and find out what’s happening outside of the wire, where the heartbeat of counter insurgency and the Afghans reside.

There is still hope. We have something planned, which we hope to share with you before we head off to the next region.

As for today, we went to Camp Hero, which is an Afghan National Army camp. I’ve patrolled with the ANA before. From my experience, they still have a way to go before they’re capable, as a whole, of conducting self-sustained actions. There are pockets of successes I’ve witnessed across the country, but at the ground level, its known there’s a lot of growing, mentoring and training required.

Where does Camp Hero fit into the picture? This is one place they are trained. I’ve been to two ANA training camps now and from what I’ve seen, they’re pretty much self-sustaining with ISAF teams mentoring where they can. There are ANA commanders working with the troops, instructors teaching literacy and mechanics learning how to fix vehicles. On top of all this, coalition forces come in, such as today, to teach topics like sanitation.

There were just about 20 soldiers in the class I saw today; while they were attentive, you could tell their eyes were a little blank. That’s what an hour of translated instruction and PowerPoint will do to someone. I give them a lot of credit though; many of them were asking questions and participating during the class. Although Ken and I had to head back to get the stories and photos done, the ANA and the instructors headed back to class after lunch. They completed some hands on sanitation training, which I bet was a lot more interactive and interesting for them.

The goal for this class was to teach them about purifying water and other sanitary procedures so they could take the knowledge back to their units farther in the field. I was also told the Afghan doctor at Camp Hero is huge on sharing knowledge, so he hopes they will take this information they’re learning here to the communities they’re protecting.

If we were out in one of the combat posts with these guys, would I go out and patrol with them again? Of course I would, as long as I had a platoon of coalition forces there to help mentor them. It’s the mentoring, training, education and experience, which I believe will make them a good Army someday.

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