Trooper Sam Lowe (RDG) arrives in Afghanistan

Trooper Sam Lowe

Trooper Sam Lowe

The Royal Dragoon Guards have deployed to Afghanistan as the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group and are also responsible for Mobility Protection, with soldiers working in the Warthog Group. In the second of the Royal Dragoon Guards’ Blogs, Trooper Sam Lowe describes how he has found his first few weeks in Afghanistan. Sam, from Rotherham, is 22 years old. He is working in a Tac Team and this is his first tour.

Go go go…

On our arrival into CampBastion in the early hours of a Tuesday it was all go go go, straight into day one of the Reception, Staging and Onward Integration (RSOI) package. This is the final bit of training that we all do before the tour can properly get started. Day One was a load of briefs that told us all about what we needed to know for our time in CampBastion. Most of the Regiment got a ‘day zero’ to recover after their flights but because the flight was late, we were all pretty tired and so it was a very long day. The remainder of the week involved everything from marching in body armour (to get us used to working in the hot conditions) to stands about Health and Hygiene. Day Four even includes information on the life expectancy of fruit and veg in our Patrol Bases (PBs)! I thought that day 3 was the best day of RSOI because the staff taught us the most up to date life saving techniques and it gave me more confidence in being able to carry out my drills correctly.

Our new home!

At the end of RSOI, most of the lads flew out to their new bases, but not for two lucky people (Cpl Bob Littlefair and me) who had to conduct even more specialist training. But we eventually finished our training, had some time to get our kit squared away, and got on the flight to MOB Lashkar Gah… our new home!

Departure for Afghanistan

Soldiers from the Royal Dragoon Guards wait for the first of several flights taking them to Camp Bastion

A real eye opener

On Patrol in Lashkar Gah

On Patrol in Lashkar Gah

On landing in the base, we were greeted by some of the lads who came out on the earlier flight, and we were able to start the take-over from the Welsh Guards. The Royal Dragoon Guards lads have loads of different roles out in Afghanistan, but I’m one of the ones responsible for driving and patrolling everyone to the locations they then need to get to. The first time on the ground for me was a real eye opener, speaking with the local Afghans and starting up a new working relationship with the Afghan National Police (ANP). It was pretty daunting seeing how busy the area is, but you soon become more used of what’s normal and the way people act around you. Having been out a few times now, I now feel comfortable carrying out my job professionally and have belief in myself.

Going out in the vehicles, is not as daunting as doing the foot patrols, because you have the added protection of all the armour. Vehicle patrols also mean you get to see more of the Afghanistan countryside. It’s not much like our home in Catterick but at least there’s a lot to look at. I’ve had a really varied start to the tour and have visited most areas to protect lots of different shuras, as well as taking some long vehicle patrols. I’m really enjoying myself and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of our tour holds for me and the lads.

Trooper Sam Lowe; Photographer: Lt Crean
Soldiers from the RDG wait for the first of several flights; Photographer Lt Crean
On Patrol in Lashkar Gah; Photographer: Sgt Elliott
All material is Crown Copy Right

Panoramic Views

Cpl Georgina Coupe

Cpl Georgina Coupe

Corporal Georgina Coupe is the video camerawoman for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout summer 2012 as part of 12th Mechanized Brigade.

The current CCT includes me Corporal Georgina Coupe, camerawoman, Sergeant Andy Reddy, photographer, and our team leader Captain Will Campbell Ricketts. Over the next six months we will be providing video, photographs and news articles telling the story of British troops in Afghanistan as we continue to mentor the Afghan security forces.

Since my last blog our work plans changed slightly. We had planned to spend a bit of time covering the Afghan driver and electrician courses but these got replaced with filming the week long training that everyone is mandated to undergo upon arrival in Afghanistan. The course is currently running less frequently so it takes longer to complete and longer to film.  

A view from the skies

A view from the skies

A view from the skies

To fill in the gaps between training and filming Andy arranged for me to go and film the Chinooks whilst they picked up and dropped an under-slung road. Flying is my favourite part of being out here and in the last two weeks I have managed to fly in both a Hercules and an Osprey which were both pretty high on my ‘to do’ list.

The Joint Air Group (JAG) is the air operation unit for the British contingent within the Helmand area of operations. It has the mission to act as the troop carrier and air support for other military units.

 The JAG has numerous helicopters within its detachments, Chinook which is the pack horse of the fleet, it is as well part of the air ambulance Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT), Merlin which acts as a troop carrier and air support to ground troops, Lynx which is used for close support to other air assets and ground assets, the Apache Helicopter which is used as part of the support of ground and air assets and is used for air to ground operations as well.

We have spent a few days up in Patrol Base Oullette, working with Sergeant Colin Fiddy an advisor to the Afghan National Army (ANA)(see video). After moving out onto the patrol the ANA set up a vehicle check point (VCP) whose aim is to provide security for the local village, by monitoring the traffic moving in and out of the area.

Setting the scene

Afghanistan Backdrop

Afghanistan Backdrop

This was the first time that we had been that far north of Helmand and the first thing I noticed was the difference in landscape. We had an awesome backdrop of the mountains on one side with a great expanse of desert stretching out to our front. On the other side was a village backing onto the lush green zone, and walking across in front of us were local children herding a caravan of camels, if you didn’t know better you could be mistaken for thinking we cinematographers.

Explosive shooting

After a few flight issues (i.e. we couldn’t get any) after various road moves across Helmand Province we finally arrived back in Bastion. A few days later we moved across to Shawqat, whilst we were there I filmed a piece on Corporal Tony Sivo who is in charge of an EHRT course (Explosive Hazard Reduction Team).

This course is designed to enable Afghan soldiers to become instructors themselves and the next step up  from the Explosives course we covered a few months ago in Camp Bastion with Sergeant Major ‘Moxie ‘ James. Once the Afghan students have completed their training at Bomb Disposal their next step is to learn to teach the explosives courses. Tony’s role is to advise and assess the Afghans teaching on this course. (see video)

A ‘cut-away’ to Kabul

Afghanistan artefacts make their way back.

Afghanistan artefacts make their way back.

Just after this we had a last minute tasking taking us to Kabul to film the return of artefacts to Afghanistan from the British Museum. Afghan artefacts from a number of different historical ages have been returned to Kabul by the British Museum with the assistance of the British military. Flown from the UK into Camp Bastion, Helmand, the crates were then transported by Hercules aircraft to Kabul, where they were collected by Professor Omara Khan Masoudi, General Director of the Kabul National Museum.

Unfortunately for Andy he wasn’t feeling too well, but this gave Corporal Dec Traylor, a RAF photographer out here on a short visit, the opportunity to come out with us. Whilst we were in Kabul we managed to get out on a Humanitarian Aid Drop (HAD) patrol this is a MSST (Military Support Stabilisation Team) led initiative which helps to provide some of Kabul’s poorest citizens with food and other essentials.

Signallers work with Afghan Police to deliver essential aid

Signallers work with Afghan Police to deliver essential aid

With security for the event provided by the Afghan Uniformed Police stationed in the area, the soldiers from 16 Signal Regiment, based in Elmpt, Germany, are heavily involved with assisting the local population in the delivery of rice, blankets and cooking utensils. While usually the aid is delivered from the gates of Camp Souter, the decision was made to move to the Khuja Rawash Secondary School in the heart of the community to hold this event. The aid activity is conducted with heavy involvement from the community, and the local tribal elder, or Malik, is integral to deciding which families in the area are most needing and would benefit most from this aid.

Our next stop will be R and R (flights dependent), we will be back on screen at a blog near you soon.

A new career in journalism

Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman MBE REME is currently serving as the Task Force Helmand Spokesman and SO1 Media Operations with 16 Air Assault Brigade in Lashkar Gah on Operation HERRICK 13. In his latest blog he looks back on going out to report personally on an operation.

We have had an extremely busy week since I last reported – unfortunately it has also been a sad one: we lost one of our Royal Engineer Search Team members, Corporal David Barnsdale, and a Danish soldier working with Task Force Helmand, Private Mikkel Jørgensen.

With much of the focus of the Brigade on Operation OMID CHAR in Nahr-e Saraj, I had no resources left to cover another operation (Operation ZMARAY SARAK 5) with the Royal Highland Fusiliers (2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland), so I took one of our cameras, donned my gear and  embarked on a new career in journalism.

At 5 o’ clock in the morning I joined a 2 SCOTS convoy, in the back of a Ridgback protected mobility vehicle, heading out to a rendezvous – or RV – with the Afghan National Security Forces.  As dawn broke we approached the RV and were greeted by the sight of hundreds of Afghan National Police, Afghan Border Police and National Directorate of Security troops in their 4×4 wagons and Humvees waiting for us to join them.

Me with Colonel Kamalluddin

Me with Colonel Kamalluddin

The aim of the operation was to clear through a large area to the east of Lashkar Gah that was suffering from Taliban oppression and a lack of engagement from the Government. The operation had been put together by Colonel Kamalludin, the District Chief of Police for Lashkar Gah, and was being supported by his British Army mentor, Lieutenant Colonel Dougie Graham, the Commanding Officer of 2 SCOTS Battle Group.

Within minutes of the operation beginning we found our first Improvised Explosive Device (IED) not far from where we stood in the RV. Luckily for us a local national had seen the Taliban placing it and he came over to point out where it was before we set it off – a promising start if all the locals were going to be this cooperative. Colonel Kamalludin sent his men off in all directions to the compounds surrounding our Line of Departure and we sat with him in the centre on an old blanket in true Afghan fashion discussing the plan, coordinating the troops and drinking tea.  After half an hour of discussion it was time to move on. Given the potential for insurgent activity we had intended to mount our vehicles for the 10km or so route to the limit of exploitation for the operation, but Colonel Kamalludin had other ideas. “We must walk,” he said, “firstly because it is healthy and secondly to show that we are not afraid.”

ANSF troops preparing for Operation ZMARAY SARAK 5

ANSF troops preparing for Operation ZMARAY SARAK 5

Our luck continued for the rest of the day and on nearing the end of our planned route, the locals came to our assistance again, warning us that the area ahead of us was “seeded” with a large number of IEDs and insurgents waiting in ambush – this was not to be their day. By the end of the operation, Colonel Kamalludin’s troops were able to capture a member of the Taliban, including one of their prestigious white flags, three drug runners with 250kg of heroin and some weaponry, and we were attacked only once.

From my perspective, this operation was very much a glimpse of the future. Afghan conceived, planned and led with cross-government support from the Afghans and minimal support from our troops, an area that was formally under the control of the Taliban is now firmly in the sights of the local Government. There is much more to do here, and more operations of this type will be necessary to ensure that the population is protected from the insurgency; there is also much scope for infrastructure development, but the mere fact that the locals were willing to talk with the Afghan Security Forces and ISAF troops, helping us to locate insurgents and their IEDs provides significant hope.

Making connections with ISAF

Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman MBE REME is currently serving as the Task Force Helmand Spokesman and SO1 Media Operations with 16 Air Assault Brigade in Lashkar Gah on Operation HERRICK 13. Here he blogs about a trip to ISAF headquarters in Kabul.


Just prior to heading out for Camp Shorabak and ISAF HQ

Just prior to heading out for Camp Shorabak and ISAF HQ


I finally escaped the confines of Lashkar Gah this week to look at the training of our Afghan National Army brethren, and also visit our higher Headquarters in Kabul. I hitched a lift on a US Marine Corps Sea Stallion helicopter to Camp Shorabak, the home of 3/215 Brigade of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and their British Advisory Group, 1st Battalion Irish Guards.

I was amazed at the scene that met me, given the preconceptions I had from my days here in 2006. We really are in support now, and it was great to see the Afghans looking and acting like a very professional organisation. These guys know what they are doing and I consider it a vital part of my role to make sure that this message gets out, both to the Helmandis, and to the UK media and public. My first thoughts are that there is the potential for a very interesting documentary on the work that is being done here.

Following Camp Shorabak I jumped on a Hercules bound for the metropolis of Kabul, nestled in the mountains of the North.  The aircraft in which I was travelling was a repatriation flight for an ANA soldier (they are known as “Warriors”) killed in action in Helmand, and I was privileged to be able to join in the Afghan ramp ceremony honouring their fallen comrade – a truly touching and very profound occasion.

Once in Kabul I was ushered into the back of a Ridgback protected mobility vehicle, and driven through the crowded streets – I will never complain about driving in London again! The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Headquarters is situated in a concrete jungle in the centre of Kabul, surrounded by various Afghan Ministries and International Embassies.  It really is a sight to behold; staff officers and soldiers from a multitude of nations work here in support of General Petraeus and the senior military leadership, with  uniforms of all shades and hues and a plethora of languages all working together as one giant organisation.  I spent my time linking in with various strategic communication specialists, making contacts and trawling for advice and information from the ISAF media experts.

I also used the opportunity to visit the British Embassy and meet the key communications staff representing the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  Whilst there I undertook my first interview with the national media. The BBC’s Nicholas Witchell wanted some reflections on the meaning of Remembrance Day for the military in Afghanistan, to transmit as part of the Radio 4 Cenotaph coverage, as well as gaining my first impressions of how our work in Helmand was progressing for the Today programme.  The interview seemed much more poignant following the loss of Rifleman Gurung and Sergeant Rayner recently, and my experience at the Afghan ramp ceremony in Kandahar.

Strange as it seems, although I have only been in Afghanistan for three weeks now, Lashkar Gah already feels like home and I am looking forward to returning to the rural atmosphere of Helmand after the hustle and bustle of Kabul and HQ. It is an odd military phenomenon that we seem to take a perverse pride in how much harder our living conditions are in comparison to other troops on operations; the more basic, the better, allowing us to bond in the mutual experience, and gently castigate those who “have it easy”. I can just imagine the Paras in Nad-e Ali complaining about the “easy life” that we staff wallahs in Lashkar Gah have in comparison – twas ever thus!  Until next time…..

And finally…

Major Mark Suddaby, a company commander with the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland writes about leaving the Afghan National Army behind.

This will be my last blog.  My Advisor Team leaves in a week, replaced by another Kandak Advisor Team from the Irish Guards.  The weather has cooled now and Ramadan – a month of fasting and religious reflection – has come to an end.  So, we are on our last stumbling steps to the finish line.  Our last chance to have a positive effect on our ANA counterparts and security in Nad-e’Ali.

August was dominated by one thing, Operation TOR SHEZADA (Operation BLACK PRINCE); the seizing and holding of Saidabad, a small village in the most southern part of Nad-e’Ali district and the last to come under Afghan Government control.  The operation was two months in the planning and when the time came to step off, it was into the blistering heat and cloying dust that we went.  It was a 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment operation, closely supported by 1st Kandak.  This put my Advisor Teams right on the front line.  But they are used to that.  After a night helicopter insertion of two companies and the clearance of the main routes south by two more, the operation was completed ahead of schedule and declared an important success.  The insurgents fled the area, leaving us to defuse IEDs and build our security outposts.  But, inevitably they came back.  So, the battle for Saidabad continues, with attacks against the outposts and the fight to keep the main supply routes open and free of IEDs.  Long after the media have moved on to other things, the real battle to provide lasting security for this important population centre goes on.  There are no decisive victories in a counter-insurgency campaign; just gradual change as one side wears the other into eventual submission.  And brave members of the Afghan National Army, along with my Advisor Teams, are immersed in that ‘contested space’.  They fight the conditions, the isolation and austerity of their living conditions, as much as the insurgents.  But at least it is cooler now.  So, Operation TOR SHEZADA continues, but at least we hold the ground now and at least we are setting the conditions for a brighter future for the people who live there.  The priorities now are to reopen the school and clinic.  After all, the people are the prize.

It has been six months since I arrived in Nad-e’Ali.  Six months of frustrations, successes, setbacks and fatigue.  During that time, I like to think that 1st Kandak have benefitted from the bravery and tenacity of the Advisor Teams that I lead.  Teams that have gone out every day with their Afghan counterparts.  Teams that have only been certain of the uncertainty that comes with that first step out of the gate.  Teams that have battled their frustrations and setbacks to deliver my firm direction: to develop 1st Kandak into an independent and self-sufficient infantry battalion.  Have the casualties and losses that we suffered been worth it?  Is the Afghan National Army worth such a heavy price?  I think so, yes.  In fact, an emphatic yes.  They must be.  Because they are the future of this poor, war-ravaged country.  A country that has been the battle ground of other nations for centuries.  Because when we leave, they will stay and carry on the work of the countless battalions that have already come here and done their duty on behalf of the people of the United Kingdom.

I think it comes back to my first impressions of this strangely beautiful if oddly alien land: the children.  If we are here to do anything, it is to secure their future.  And when we leave, our legacy must be passed on so that they can have a life free of indiscriminate IEDs, laid by fundamentalists that have lost both their religion and their humanity.  Did you know that during Eid they were giving children replica weapons and sending them to our bases, in the hope that they would accidentally get shot by us?  What kind of twisted sense of righteousness can justify such an evil policy?  If I ever doubted our endeavours in Afghanistan – what some would call meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state – I only have to think of those brightly clothed, wide-eyed children, endlessly asking for ‘choklat’ and ‘peens’, with that look of abject pleading that they do so well.  Who is on their side?  Which of the armed gangs of men actually care about them and through them the future of this place?  Well, from where I sit – high in a Jackal armoured truck, driving around this green and fertile district – it looks like us.  Armies don’t do peace brilliantly well, but when there is no one else, who else is left?  ISAF may not be perfect, but it is holding the line until the ANA can step up to this complex and mutli-faceted task.  I just hope that I have played my part in making these brave Afghan Warriors more able than they were, to take that task on.

Oh, and a local cat had five kittens under my camp cot.  She has moved them now but we track them down, feed them with cat food sent from home, and ten man ration pack tins of tuna. They really are the cutest little things and serve as a counterpoint to our lives out here.  I just hope that the Irish Guards like cats.

Thank you for your continued support.  This is Advizer 10A, off to pack his kit and feed his kittens.  Our thoughts remain with Lance Corporal Joe Pool’s family and friends – so tragically lost a few weeks ago.

Afghans doing it for themselves

Major Mark Suddaby, a company commander with the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) writes about backing up the Afghans.

It has been a hectic month.  I guess I could say that about each one since March, but July really does feel like I stepped onto a merry-go-round. But it has been a good month too: one with almost tangible successes.

When Advizer 10 arrived in Nad-e’Ali, the 1st Kandak of the Afghan National Army (ANA) seemed tired of four years spent in one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan.  Tired of trying to keep up with ISAF as we charge about for our six month tours, attempting to nail that elusive ‘decisive’ effect.  Six months may seem like a small lifetime to us, but for the Afghans it’s just another change of ISAF: the eighth for this Kandak.   So when we arrived it was obvious that this Kandak had plateaued and lost some of their grit.  But as the fighting season began to bite and ISAF found themselves heavily committed to holding ground already taken back from the insurgents, the need for the ANA to step up became a critical requirement.  With basic equipment and little more than the most basic training, the Kandak has had to rely on gaining experience ‘on the job’.  Some of the Warriors have been fighting in Helmand for four years, others for 4 weeks, so the disparity of skill and experience can be stark.

Our remit, of course, is the long term institutional development of the ANA and this is something that we have been chipping away at for all these months.  What does that involve?  Well, my Advisor teams embedded at a Tolay, or Company, level train the ANA in first aid, mine clearance, marksmanship principles and map reading.  They mentor their ANA commanders in leadership, command and administration.  And they do all this in the austere and cramped patrol bases and during operations on the ground, where it is their example which often inspires the ANA to become more professional, more like ISAF.  This approach does not come without its own difficulties and frustrations, however.  But it is about perseverance and quiet determination.  It is about understanding and accepting the daily frictions and not allowing them to throw you off track.  It is about understanding that often the ANA themselves will not know what skills they require for a campaign of this complexity.

So advising and mentoring the 1st Kandak of the ANA, is not without its own challenges and frustrations, to the point where often it becomes difficult to see the progress that we are making, as our noses are pressed against the coal face of transforming an Army in contact.

But last week that all seemed to change.

At the beginning of July I decided to see about getting the Kandak to organise, plan and conduct their own ANA-led operation.  I picked an area that we knew very little about and set about convincing the 1st Kandak commander that not only would this be an ideal opportunity to develop the Kandak as a whole, but it would also achieve a tactical effect by clearing and dominating an area of Nad-e’Ali that ISAF had been unable to get to.

At first it was a little tortuous, it must be said.  The Kandak staff argued over the mission statement for hours and then insisted upon taking ever longer breaks to pray.  But again, by applying the principle of just sticking at it and not letting the ANA break us, they began to engage.  Soon enough they became genuinely enthusiastic about the operation and the concept of them leading, with ISAF in support, which didn’t faze them as much as I thought that it would.

Within two frenzied but short weeks 1st Kandak headquarters had come up with a workable and tactically sound plan for the operation, including the fine detail such as battlespace management and logistic resupply.  They had written the orders and given a detailed brief to both ANA and ISAF commanders.

Last week the operation – Operation TOR DIDAR AWAL (Black First Look) – launched from an ISAF patrol base on the edge of the desert, in two waves of Chinook helicopters, which inserted one hundred and fifty ANA and ISAF Warriors into the dust of a shallow and defendable bowl, in a matter of minutes.  For the ensuing two days the Tolays of 1st Kandak cleared compounds, dominated the ground, reassured the local population of this disenfranchised desert community and held shuras with the village elders.  They looked the business and really stepped up to the mark of leading; with their Advisors only advising.  It was an astonishing sight as the ANA lead the three main bodies away from the landing site, as the weak orange sunlight broke over the crest of patchwork compounds and illuminated the target area that rolled gently away from us towards the main canal, two kilometres to our south.

So, what can I draw from this?  That the ANA can do it and do get it, if only they are given the freedom to prove it?  I think so, yes.  I worry that perhaps we are spending too much of our time trying to pair the ANA off with ISAF counterparts, when perhaps we should just be letting them crack on a little more.  We need to keep a weather eye on development, for sure, but perhaps, just perhaps they are more ready than we give them credit for.  Is this a parent-child relationship, or one of equals?

I know what you will be thinking.  You are thinking about the awful and murderous attack on the patrol base by an Afghan Army Sergeant that left three members of Royal Gurkha Regiment dead.  Tragic though this was, it should not be used to question the validity of training and developing the ANA.  This was not the act of the Afghan National Army; it was the act of an individual, just like in Cumbria and Yorkshire.  Sometimes people do things that do not make sense.  And, 1st Kandak were appalled when they heard about it: shocked, perhaps more than we were.  So, if you are tempted to judge the whole of the Afghan National Army by this one outrage, I would ask you not to.  After all, the ANA are the ticket to a more secure future for hundreds of thousands of ordinary Afghans.  We should be careful not to let our Western revulsion at such a heinous act risk the future of so many.

We are soldiers.  We know the risks.

This is Advizer 10A signing off.

Sweating It Out

Major Mark Suddaby, a Company Commander with 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) is commanding an Adviser team charged with developing the 1st Kandak, or Battalion, of the Afghan National Army. Here, Advizer 10A – as he is known, writes about the summer fighting season and the challenges of the working in the Afghan heat.

The summer fighting season has arrived.  We talked about it as if we knew what it meant.  The insurgents would up the tempo of their attacks, but it would be okay because we would up ours to compensate.  We planned operations to take the fight to them and away from the populated areas; to protect the locals, which is our principal job.  But we didn’t appreciate the strength-sapping intensity of the heat.  Nor the weight of the equipment and protective armour that we carry or the complexity of the terrain we have to cover.  Finishing every patrol is a victory over here.

The lush but wild vegetation of the Green Zone, mixed with compounds and the deep irrigation ditches that criss-cross the Nad-e’Ali District make movement across the ground hazardous and there isn’t a point in the day or night when we’re not sweating.  Well, there is: five minutes.  Five minutes after a shower; we are sweat free then.

So when an operation requires elements of my Company to operate in this environment all day, and often into the night, it’s a miracle that they cope at all.  Add in harassing fire by the insurgents and I am unable to do justice to what they endure.  These men and women, of my Company and others in Helmand – British, Afghan, American – are true warriors, who ply this difficult trade in the most inhospitable environment on the planet.  They work in inhumane conditions of searing heat and cloying dust to bring security to a people involuntarily caught up in the most difficult of all small wars – a counter-insurgency campaign.

Why do I mention this?  To hint at a soldier’s life out here in Afghanistan.  To attempt to express the challenges and the truly herculean efforts that they go to, to achieve the tasks set for them.  They say that the three month point is like hitting a psychological wall.

They are right.