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Letter from Larry, 23 January, 2005


(Click on any image to view at full size. It will open in a new window - no need to reload this rather large web page.)

I hope everyone is doing well. We are doing well and this deployment to Herat is almost over. We have been here since the beginning of December and that seems like such a long time ago. The soldiers of Kandak 4/2 have performed very well and I have seen significant improvements since our last deployment to Herat. This time the mission was mainly security for different locations with the main site being an ammo cache that encompasses about 20 acres.

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There is still a lot of unexploded ordinance (UXO) everywhere. In some places you could not move forward 5 feet without stepping over artillery, mortar shells or worse their fuses.

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As we find more we are alerting our command and the demining company Ronco. They are trying to keep up with everything but there is so much it becomes difficult for them to get them all. We have also been involved in doing searches for ammunition and weapons but before we can do that we had to train the ANA on how to do it properly. After our training we had a joint search with the National Police (ANP) and the National Security Dept. (NDS). It was their mission and we were there to provide exterior security. After it was over we talked about what went right and what went wrong and the ANA were surprised how poorly the Police and NDS performed. We were able to remove some weapons and drugs but the Kandak believed the operation could have been more succesful.

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These are the ANA during training. It has not been all work - we have made a lot of friends and that helps. When you get down into the villages and talk with the people they love to help by telling you were things can be found. The kids are great and once the men see that we are here to help and not pose a threat they are interested in who Americans really are and what they stand for. They are surprised that we venture out to see them and don't come with loads of security like most Army units would. They like the fact that we come to talk to them and are not afraid.

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That is me surrounded by the locals of a livestock sale that we stopped to find out how things are and if they have had any trouble. This trip was to Turkmenistan and we made about 6 stops like this one. The Chief met a friend of his who was the local Police Chief and we had lunch next to the border. My partner and I do not always travel alone unless we are going into Herat or what we consider local trips. Extended trips to the border of Turkmenistan and Iran we usually had a squad of ANA to keep an eye out and provide security for us and the Chief.

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The guy in the middle with the beard and beret is the HQ 1SG and was a real mother hen but I guess that is a good thing. The local kids that we run into are always curious and love to come see what we are doing. In the outlying villages they rarely ask for anything but would rather just talk to us. All of the Afghans are very excited when we speak Dari but I explain that I only know a little but can read and speak the numbers which is very important when buying supplies.

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That building in the back is a store where we bought vegetables for dinner. It has been rewarding dealing with the locals and trying to provide security, removing ammunition and weapons etc... but we also continue to train with our weapons. Since we rely extensively on our outstanding interpreters we keep them trained in case we run into trouble.

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These are the bad guys that we run into. They were running an illegal checkpoint and extorting money out of everyone who passed through.The Chief did not feel that they had ties with Al Quaeda or Taliban - just bandits. It was a hairy couple of minutes when they brandished weapons but were smart enough to drop them before they were shot. We removed 5 AK-47, 1 PKM (machine gun), and an RPG with 7 rockets.

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Raziq (pictured) and Ramin are our interpreters who have really helped us a lot. During the riots in September Ramin stayed right by my side even when we were under fire.

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We have also had some fun exploring the country and climbing a mountain - our first but not our last. We reached just short of 5000 ft and it was quite a climb getting there. Of course once we got there we found much easier routes but the view was worth it. The picture does not do it justice. We had to wait about 20 mins. after we got to the top for the clouds to blow through. When they came in - and it was quick you could see very little and I was not going down the same route if I could not see. They passed and we had beautiful weather for pictures and the walk down. The dog in the picture is Anna and we adopted her and another dog named Petey. She climbed the whole route and had no fear unlike myself when we got too close to the edge.

In one of the weapons searches we were lead to several bunkers by a couple of locals where we found antique weapons that we are cleaning and reassembling. The weapons and ammunition that are still usable get turned into the DDR for cleaning and servicing before being reissued to the ANA but we kept some of these for ourselves since they would have been destroyed. They were probably used by the British during their failed attempts to take the country in the 1800's. Our Chief told us that they were probably also used by the Mujahadin to fight the Russians since they were still good weapons and plentiful.

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These are Enfields from 1895 - 1897. The other rifles I have been working on are Martini-Henry from 1890's. Unfortunately they do not work but will look good once I finish cleaning the grime.

Well I hope this gives you some idea of what is going on here. This is only a portion of what we are experiencing but there is too much to write. With another 6 months to go I just want to let everyone know that a day does not go by when I think of home and hope that everyone is doing well and taking care of each other. If you would like a picture of something particular let me know - I have taken 100's of pictures and can email them.

I also want to thank everyone for their letters and packages and express my gratitude to those that may not have email. I would like to write everyone if I could.

Thanks for your support and I miss you all.

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