Bad timing
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Tuesday, 16 February 2010 16:33

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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Comments (7)add comment

Shawn said:

"Military resources go to those who utilize them to the greatest effect and unfortunately, they have a lot greater audience than we do." That is what you just said. Of course they have a much greater audience than you do. They are making a difference. Why is what you are doing in need of an audience more so than them?
February 18, 2010
Votes: -2

Kristin Swanton said:

I'm sorry that you guys can't go into the field. I know many of us are looking forward to hearing your reports about various experiences and encounters on a local level. As the poll the other day asked, I am interested in hearing your perspectives, both before and after leaving the FOB, about what the coalition troops are doing to "win the hearts and minds" of the Afghan people. Are we creating a sense of security by clearing a region, or will it simply become overrun with the Taliban once the troops have moved on? I'd also be interested to know how locals feel about government collaboration with Pakistan. I lived in India for some time, so I know how tensions are on the other side of the border.
February 17, 2010
Votes: +2

David M said:

Trackbacked / Linked
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 02/17/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.
February 17, 2010
Votes: +0

Ema said:

Hang in there!!! As one door closes, another one opens...
You are a part of something wonderful, hopefully more and more Afgan people will realize that education, training etc. will bring them a little closer to some sort of a normalcy in the country, that has been torn for such a long time.
February 17, 2010
Votes: +2

Angel Smythe said:

I've been to Camp Hero! That's also the location of the Kandahar Regional Military Hospital where U.S. Airmen advise Afghan medical professionals on Western medicine. I had the opportunity to spend a day with them and see them in action in the wards, operating and emergency rooms. I actually watched as Afghan doctors re-amputated the leg of an Afghan soldier in order for him to have a fresh, clean cut as part of the preparation for an artificial leg. The soldier had been hit by an IED in Helmand Province. We also sat and had tea with the hospital's commander, Afghan Col. Abdul Baseer Elaj, in his office. We communicated with him and other Afghans in the hospital through a very nice interpreter. Everyone was really nice there. And, boy, did they love having their pictures taken with us! They seem to love what they do and they've expressed a lot of appreciation toward their American advisors.

Headline: Airmen mentor Afghans at regional hospital (
February 17, 2010
Votes: +2

Tommy Moore said:

Now Selling ,'s the Letter "I" and a CAPS key for 25 cents. Sorry smilies/grin.gif

Hang in there you two, hopefully soon you will see things turn around and you can get back on track with your plan. In the mean time, keep finding the story in the nooks and crannies, Ken did a great job with the interview and bringing the Afghan Major's kids college choice and putting it back in context with your goal of finding the human side of this whole thing.

Great work and keep it up.

MSgt Walter Moore
February 17, 2010
Votes: +1

dennis said:

showing the ANA is a good lead in. do they like the M16?. can you talk about the TOC. realy how do you git to point A. to point B. work with the limets.smilies/smiley.gif you can bet the big news hounds have too to. your doing great.
February 17, 2010
Votes: +0

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