Mission Complete
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Sunday, 14 March 2010 18:30

FOB Shank | Day 35 – This is it, the final blog and the end to the greatest military experience of my life. Looking back I hope this project has not only opened civilian eyes to what life is like in Afghanistan, but opened military eyes as to the power of social media.

In many ways this project has been a massive success. I still have all of the rank I carried before this project started and none of my words have been censored in anyway. I had the complete freedom to write anything I wanted to as long as it didn’t violate operational security and was honest and truthful.

When we first started, this freedom really scared me. I didn’t know how I was going to touch on topics like government corruption and the varying opinions on strategy in Afghanistan. I found that if I stuck to the

truth, and kept those negative aspects within their place and talked about them honestly without sensationalizing, I could write a product that both respected my integrity while acknowledging the challenges that lay ahead in Afghanistan

I’m honored to have been part of this project and I’m even more surprised it even happened. While it hasn’t been a perfect path traveled, riddled with travel delays and missed opportunities, I can say Ken and I did the very best we could with the very limited resources available at our disposal. My simple hope is that huge organizations like NATO and the U.S. Department of Defense see this as a success and find some small way of incorporating our ideas into the various ways they communicate with their bosses, the taxpayers.

I would like to end this blog with a staple of military culture. Awards! Throughout our journey, we’ve come across great people and organizations and faced some interesting experiences. This gives us a chance to highlight some of the most memorable aspects of this project and also relive some of the experiences of the past 35 days. So here we go, the Official 30 Days Through Afghanistan Project Award Winners.

Most critical single person to the entire project
Sia Soroui. You have never seen him, but he’s the muscle behind the web site. I designed the thing, but he’s maintained its security since we left Kabul. Without him, the entire Web site, and the project with it, would have crumbled to pieces.

Most patient point of contact
U.S. Army Sergeant Bailey. He’s Public Affairs at Bagram Air Field and despite all of the travel delays leaving north a nd trying to get east and then ending up in west; he stuck with the project and believed in it. His patient professionalism allowed us a chance to finally travel from west to east unhindered and we truly appreciate everything he has done for us.

Best last minute helping hand
The 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs office at Kandahar Air Field. After some coordination problems, we arrived at Kandahar to the surprise of the Public Affairs office there. The 451st jumped right in, gave us a place to sleep and internet. Without them, we would have been homeless at Kandahar.

Unit that best optimizes counter insurgency
The Lithuanian led PRT outside of Chaghcharan, Afghanistan. While we never got to visit them during 30 Days, we really tried to because we know how good they are from previous experiences. We went out with them in January and they took us to a village to teach children about mine awareness. The entire trip they were waving and smiling and genuinely being kind to everyone around them. Once in the village they set up security and those within the “safe zone” took off their body armor and shared a great afternoon with the Afghans. That PRT was filled with true professionals and they worked at levels of counter insurgency we haven’t seen repeated anywhere else in the country.

Most interesting interview
We’re awarding this to three people because we couldn't decide between them. This goes out to the two college students and the grape farmer. The three interviews really amazed Ken and me. The college students were so full of hope and future while the grape farmer has seen too much war to believe in hope (taken from Ken’s vlog).

Best food
The Italian’s food in PRT Herat was on a levels of yummy words cannot describe.

Most exciting day
This one is easy. The day we found the IED in southern Afghanistan with the Canadians. Hearing those gunshots and then running down the road to catch up to the ANA was quite the experience. Then, seeing that ANA soldier pulling and tugging on the IEDs pull cord was really scary, until we were told the line was cut.

Favorite mode of transportation
Ken:
Canadian Chinook because they flew so low to the ground with smaller attack helicopters escorting.
Nathan: Canadian LAV because I got to poke my head out of the top and wave to the children and take some good photos of southern Afghanistan.

Most interesting sleeping accommodations
When we were at Camp Julien, internet issues prevented us from sleeping in the hut, so we set up camp underneath a table. Ken was sleeping away when Col. Agoglia walked in and asked us “What the hell are you doing sleeping under the table?!” He’s a rather scary man and Ken just laid there pretending to sleep while the good colonel showed me another room where we could lay our heads. Ken eventually “woke up” after Col. Agoglia left.

Most enjoyable experience
By far the Finish sauna in northern Afghanistan. The greatest part about the sauna was afterwards they ha d a “hot house” where it was basically a campfire inside a hut. They grilled us fresh food and vegetables and we sat there in our bath towels in the hot house eating fresh BBQ. The best part, it took very little resources for them to have these facilities, unlike massive operations like a TGI Fridays or Burger King. They built the sauna themselves and it was one location where all of them could get together and spend time together. It was awesome.

Most likely place we’ll return to someday on vacation
Herat, it was too beautiful a place not to go back.

Best aspect of the project
No oversight of the project and no approval chain. Granted, my blogs were riddled with grammatical and spelling errors which a few people caught me on, but it was worth it. The freedom to say whatever I wanted gives me reason to stay in the military… to make sure everyone in our country enjoys this freedom.

Most rewarding aspect of the project
The comments, period. I’m not sure everyone understands just how much these meant to Ken and me. We literally waited on baited breath for the next one to come in and as soon as we got back to internet after missions, we would both run to the computers to see what happened next. Don’t tell Ken I told you this, but we both cried ourselves to sleep during the nights we didn’t receive any on our blogs or vlogs.

Most enjoyable interaction with our visitors
BUSES!!! With Dylan Matheson. I originally shot a picture of a bus stop figuring nobody would think of something like that. I was actually quite worried about my photographic reputation being ruined after taking those photos. Then Dylan questioned it and I was really worried until I asked some other question and he was genuinely interested in this small part of life here. So I took pictures throughout the trip of buses for Dylan and it’s been a great experience.

Scariest topic brought up by a visitor
“Question: Views of COIN, Eagle versus the Mole” posted by Erik Nemeck. Registered members can still see this one in the forums. It was the very first post on the forums and it questions the total overall strategy of ISAF in Afghanistan referencing a report titled “One Tribe at a Time.” Absolutely astounding question that I’m sure I didn’t answer completely. You really should read the forum thread and the corresponding report. I believe if it had been the strategy from the very beginning of international forces in Afghanistan it would have worked superbly, I talked with a few people throughout 30 Days and they agreed with the report also. But now, there are tons of politics and timetables weighing on the minds of world leaders which I believe prevent something like this from realistically happening. Now, we have to do the best we can to enable and support the Afghans to handle the security situation so the country thrives when we do eventually leave. I really like seeing how various aspects of that report are intertwined throughout all of the regions we’ve visited, such as the seven Canadian infantrymen living and working with the Afghan National Army in Strong Point Khyber.

The last award doesn’t have a name, but it goes out to the upper leadership of the ISAF Joint Command Public Affairs Office, more specifically U.S. Navy Capt. Campbell and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Inglin. Without their faith and trust in us as professionals, this project never would have happened.

Finally, I want to thank all of you. It has been an honor and a privilege to work for you. I wish I could express how much I truly appreciate all of your participation in this project. If there’s one thing I hope everyone takes away from this, it’s that the Afghans are good people worth fighting for. By securing their country, we help to secure the world by preventing one country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. I just hope there’s enough national will within all of our countries to see this mission through to the end, because it’s the only way to honor the sacrifices made by our wounded and fallen brothers and sisters.

~ Nate, out.

Day 34 Home
Comments (24)add comment
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Carolyn said:

...
Miss your daily comments and vblog, but hope that you are both home and enjoying your families. Uncensored freedom is important and I think it was well handled and balanced.
Good luck in your future endeavors.
 
March 18, 2010
Votes: +0

Sue said:

Thanks for bein so awesome!!! Can't wait to read you blogs...!
Hey Guys,

I didn't see your blog until Tonight, but I can't wait to catch up on what is going on over there. It seems like you all had a pretty nice time on this assignment, you are awhfully brave in my book. I wish the best for you. Thanks for doing what you do out there to get us a story.

Gratefully yours,
Sue
 
March 18, 2010
Votes: +0

anysia gomez said:

...
It was a journey to watch the videos and even saw my brother on day 34. It is also a learning lesson for his children. People get to see the soldiers and hear there stories
 
March 18, 2010
Votes: +0

Nathan Gallahan said:

Tammy,
Don't feel bad! We definately understand a lot of people are busy and mayb even shy. Great to see you on here now though! Thanks for posting smilies/cheesy.gif
 
March 17, 2010
Votes: +0

Tammy said:

...
Okay. Now I feel bad that I didn’t comment before now. Please know that I read each blog post and watched every Vlog (after finding the link on day 15). I read all the comments and went back to see if there were any responses. I did not get on the Forum because I just didn’t have the time between work, college and my family.

You have opened my eyes to a part of the world I knew nothing about and gave me a look through a point of view I never would have had the opportunity to see this world through. I work for the military as a civilian employee. Even though I have nothing to do with the deployment part, you have given me a new outlook on what I do on a daily basis and I now understand just how much my small part affects what happens “over there.”

Thank you for this journey!

Tammy
 
March 16, 2010
Votes: +0

mom23 said:

...
i have so enjoyed following you lads through Afghanistan. My son is serving over there now, and it helps to see what is going on without all the media hype.
Thank you so much for sharing your days with us.
 
March 16, 2010
Votes: +1

Lou Grant said:

Missing Award
You forgot an award - Pulitzer for you guys!
 
March 16, 2010
Votes: +0

Jim Gallahan said:

...
Great job Ken and Nate, what an experience. I wrote a long comment yesterday and lost it in the internet mists somewhere, man, I hate that and I didn't have the energy to rewrite it:-(. Basicly I was saying how proud I am of you both. You've opened my eyes to realities over there I had no way of knowing till you did this project. Oft times we sit back in our comfortable lives and lose sight that perhaps we have a responsibility to help others in need rather than ignore them. True, we may have entered Afghanistan because of threats to our country but once we did we have taken on responsibilities to the Afghany people. You have showed us that many people of the multi-national forces care about these people and are not there oblivious to their plight. Now I also care about these people.
I also offer kudos to your support team, incredible job guys, taking care of Ken and Nathan, you have no idea how grateful I am of this.
 
March 16, 2010
Votes: +1

Torben said:

Thank you
It has been an amazing 30+ days. The internet is full of blogs, lots of mil.blogs too, finding a good one...well...the signal to noise ratio has never been strong point of the net. Following your stories has been a highlight of my day for a month. Even if you feel you should have covered more bullet whizzing combat, i think your stories are equally important and definitely under-blogged/reported. Your stories are what will provide inspiration to see this through and allow history books to write about how we walked out of there with a sense of success and dignity.
Hollywood may always make another D-Day movie but how the allies rebuild germany after the war will never be a blockbuster. In the long term those efforts are what matter more than CQB tactics or gps mortar rounds.

I hope one day you will be able to write a book or documentary with the parts and pieces of info which fall under OPSEC at this time.

THank you, your team and everyone involved again.
 
March 16, 2010
Votes: +3

euclidcreek said:

...
Thanks so much, your efforts make a difference in the world. Be safe.
 
March 15, 2010
Votes: +0
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