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Friday, August 04, 2006

LETTERS FROM A SOLDIER #5 

LETTERS FROM A SOLDIER #5

The following is the fifth in a series of letters home from my nephew Keith. I am publishing them so that we may all have a better understanding of the young men and women who are placing themselves in harms way to protect us, and our way of life. They have been following him through his training, and will continue into his deployment. I do so with his permission, and the concurrence of his wife and son.

S/SGT Keith is an army veteran and civilian police officer who joined the active reserves after the September 11th attacks. He and ten members of his MP unit have been called up for deployment to Afghanistan to train new Afghani police officers. All eleven are either police or corrections officers. The unit is presently departing from a base in the Southwest, where they have been training with a Navy unit before shipping out. This letter was written after a 7 day leave to visit home, and prior to the communications blackout period while he transits to his assignment in Afghanistan. There will be a gap in this series during this blackout period, but will continue after he is established at his assigned location. I am withholding his last name out of courtesy to his family and simply thank him for his service to our country.



Hello All, 7/31/06


Well life down here has been somewhat mundane since our return from leave. Part of the reason we were able to get 7 days of leave was because our commander agreed that we would act as assistant instructors at the Detainee Operations training area for a week when we returned. The thinking being that our mission involves a training aspect so we would benefit from the experience. The real reason was that our commander, an E-7 (Sergeant First Class) went over and around a Major to a Colonel to get us the 7 days of leave, so the Major with the bruised ego was trying to get even.

The first day that we went out to the training area we spent a few hours in a classroom, by ourselves, waiting while the soldiers that we were supposed to assist train attended some classes. When it came time to conduct practical exercises, to practice what they had been taught, we were distributed among the trainers to assist with the training tasks. We did this for about 2 hours and then we returned to our private classroom to wait for the afternoon group, and do the same thing. If this is the Major’s idea of “punishment”, I can handle it. The next day we were sent to one of the weapons ranges to assist the instructors with shotgun training. We arrived early in the morning, 0630, and helped set up sun shades over bleachers and the ammunition point. We also removed the shotgun shells from the boxes, just to make it easier to hand them to the soldiers. Then we had to wait for the training company to arrive, which they finally did around 0930. When the range opened for firing we were all assigned an area, I was assigned to the range tower. The range tower is about 30 feet high, and contains a PA system. The person in the tower controls the actions of the firing line, and gives the firing line all of its directions. So I spent the next 3 ½ hours or so up in the tower acting as a second pair of eyes as to what was happening on the firing line. Oh, by the way, did I mention that the tower has air conditioning? I sure hope the Major that made me spend the day out here has air conditioning in his office.

The next day we were scheduled off with our final day to assist with training to be Friday. When Friday rolled around we didn’t have any transportation back out to the Detainee Ops training facility. I called one of the instructors at 0700 to advise him of this. When he got back in touch with me it was about 0900. This instructor, who thought it was silly to have us out there so close to deployment, told me that he would advise his boss at 1200 that he just got the message. One of the benefits, at least in this instance, to being in the middle of the desert is that cell phones don’t always work well. With that, the instructor told us to enjoy the day, and use the time as we saw fit.

The rest of our time here has been spent taking care of some last minute arrangements and getting packed. We are limited in how much gear we can take, so packing becomes very important. Every time you unpack your bags and repack them, there seems to be more room. I’m not sure how that works, but it does. Also, I have already limited myself on the number of bags that I can bring, because one of mine is my guitar. Wonder if I can fit the M-4 rifle in with the guitar? Imagine the look on the face of the TSA worker that opens up that guitar case and finds an M-4 rifle.

Now that all the training and administrative work is done, it is time to move forward. I am anxious and nervous at the same time. I have many questions that I will obviously not get answers to until we arrive in theater. Some of those include; what will living conditions be like? Will I enjoy the duties that I am assigned? How often will I be able to communicate with my family? And on and on and on. The time down here has been long and uncomfortable. Maybe they do that on purpose so you actually look forward to leaving and going overseas. Or am I giving the Army too much credit?

I do not know when I will be able to send out another update. Without getting into specifics, we are set to deploy in the not too distant future, and travel to Afghanistan could take some time. Be assured that when I have the opportunity to send an update out, I will. This communication “blackout” period will be especially difficult for my family, who are used to hearing from me daily. I know that you all will watch out for them while I am not able.

I will talk to all of you soon. As always, thank you for your continued support of me and my family. I love and miss you all.

Keith

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