Friday, April 24, 2009

Logar Trip

Last week a group of us from the office decided to drive down to visit with the civilian-led Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Lowgar Province. Logar Province is directly South of Afghanistan's capitol city of Kabul, so it's a pretty short trip. The PRT has been operating there for just over a year and in that time nobody from my office (which is supposed to be visiting all of the PRTs) has ever been there.

The drive itself was fairly routine. The main exception was that I was behind the wheel again:
Thorsson Driving
Before we were out of Kabul Province we got stuck in traffic next to this charming little ice cream parlor (and butcher shop):
Ice Cream and Meat Shop
Once we arrived, we unloaded our gear and sat down with the PRT's civlian director, Ms. Bohumila Ranglova. Busy as she was, she set aside most of her morning to answer our questions and tell us all about the numerous reconstruction and development projects they've been running in the province. She was fascinating to talk to and has a tremendous amount of experience with humanitarian relief work and reconstruction projects. As far as I know, she is also the only female PRT leader in Afghanistan so far.

Small though it is, the Czech PRT is doing a lot of great work. They've upgraded schools and hospitals from tents to stone and concrete buildings, they've built government buildings from scratch, repaired dams, and established jobs and provided technical training for countless local workers.

After a long and fruitful conversation we took a walk around the base. The PRT is actually located within an American-run Forward Operating Base (FOB) called "Shank." It's a big place with lots of folks stationed there and a constant buzz of activity. We ended up getting a great view of the whole thing from one of the lookout posts next to the perimeter. Here's part of it:FOB
From here there were also pretty impressive views outside the compound:
Somewhere over the wire

Lowgar Scenery

Here's Greg Scruton in front of the obligatory sign with directions and distances to the hometowns of soldiers stationed here:
Scruton in Lowgar
Of course all of the signs point the same direction because all of the towns are in the Czech Republic. That's also why all of the distances are in kilometers.

Having wandered around and gotten the lay of the land, we had some time to spare before dinner. Somewhere in there I snapped a self-portrait:
Thorsson in Lowgar

The food there turned out to be some of the best food available in all of Afghanistan. If nothing else, the US military is doing a really good job of feeding folks on US bases. Before you ask, the HQ compound I'm stationed on is not a US base.

FOB Shank was every bit as comfortable as any other FOB. What makes them fun is the little bits of silliness that you find when you look closely. Take for example the little stacks of bottled water pre-positioned all over the base:
Poisonous Water Bottles

On the plus side, I didn't have to sleep on the deck this time:
Nice digs

The next morning, Vic Vale and I mounted up with a Czech convoy carrying a couple of the civilian engineers out to check on some of the ongoing projects. Here's me about to climb into a up-armored HMMWV (pronounced "humvee"):
Convoy Ready
On the road I got the typical soldier's view of Afghanistan:
Soldier View of Lowgar

Still, there were plenty of interesting things to see if you kept an eye open: Logar Locals2

Logar Locals3
Here's a run-down old house with a fairly new well in front of it:
Hovel

Lowgar scenery

Logar Kids
Our first stop was at a nearby village where the PRT is funding and managing the construction of a girls school. Here you can see some of the Afghan locals at work:
Girls School Construction

A year ago classes here were being taught under a tree. Now there are several functioning classrooms in the building to the right and eight more being built in the building in the background. Because our convoy included men, we had to visit on a day when classes were not in session and none of the girls were present.

While we toured the facility, the Czech soldiers provided security overwatch:
Village girls

The local children were very curious about us:
Logar Kids

Logar Kids2
We also visited a local hospital, but I didn't take any pictures for fear of offending anyone. Suffice it to say that a year ago the facility was simply a tent and now it's a walled compound with several concrete buildings, electricity, ambulances, and running water.

During the drive back to the FOB I snapped a few more interesting pictures. Here's a local man crossing the street:
Logar Pedestrians

And here's an Afghan sporting goods store:
Afghan Sporting Goods Store
After a few more meetings with the various civil-military affairs folks working in FOB Shank it was time to call it a day. The next morning we packed up, took our time having breakfast and coffee, and rolled out. On the way back there was still plenty to see:
Logar Traffic

Logar Traffic2

So taken for all in all it was a good trip. We got a lot done and got plenty of fresh air:
Logar Scenery
Of course as we got closer to Kabul, there was no mistaking the murky pall of smog clinging low to the ground:
Logar Scenery2

*sigh*

Hopefully I'll get to leave this place soon.

2 comments:

  1. Your life experience is awesome bro! I am very jealous of your life:) from a kid, I always aspired to be a soldier, but I've never had that opportunity. I love the American soldiers are very brave & compact in teamwork. you and the weapons you carry, is very impressive, reliable American soldiers! My name Rachmad Hidayat, I am from Indonesia, I am a Moslem. but I also hate the terrorists that the name of Moslems as their fondation for doing terror. catch them in accordance with the law and military law applicable to the terrorists.

    My respect for the whole range of American military.

    regard: Rachmad Hidayat

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    let's say, I was the American army fans :)

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