We will fly from here to Manas Air Force Base, for three or four days, and from there back to Camp Atterbury in Indianapolis. The demobilization process will take another three to four days, and as it looks now, I should be returning (FINALLY) to Norfolk on or around the 26th, HOORAH!
As you can imagine morale is very high, and everyone is very much looking forward to getting home. We have however had a few reminders recently that we are still in a dangerous place. About two weeks ago we had two VBIED's (Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device's) go off just outside the perimeter of Camp Phoenix, and one instance where anti-coalition militia were firing small arms into the base. These events took place just after the new Navy guys arrived on board, serving as a healthy reminder to everyone that we still need to keep our heads on a swivel, and not let our guard down as we approach our departure date. As no one was hurt, I actually thought these events couldn't happen at a better time. It really sent a message to the new guys, that while Afghanistan doesn't get as much press as Iraq, this tour isn't without its perils, and won't be a walk in the park by any means.
Looking back at the last six months, I have to say that I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to be a part of this great Navy team. The performance by all members of Juliet was absolutely first class, and really set the bar for others to follow.
Whether training the Afghan Army, or performing a myriad of other support services, the Navy folks here have made considerable contributions. They have adapted to the Army culture, performed brilliantly in a combat situation, and made a difference ... significantly contributing to mission accomplishment. Through dedication and hard work, we have helped make this country a safer place for the Afghan people.
Ironically the hardest part of this tour hasn't been the separation from family (which has been tough), or even the dangerous situations I have been exposed to, but rather seeing the living conditions of the Afghan people ... especially the children. The longer I've been here, and more of the country I had the opportunity to see, it's obvious that with the exception of a few, the Afghan people not only want us here, but need us here. While I've seen those news reports showing Afghans rioting and burning the American flag in the streets, I have also watched a small child run 200 yards, without shoes on her feet, just to get close enough to wave at a passing convoy of American soldiers, then see her face light up when one of the soldiers waves back. We literally can't stop on the side of the street without drawing a crowd of children, smiling and waving, giving us a "thumbs up."
Though you don't see it in the newspapers, or on TV, there are so many good things being done by the coalition forces in this country that it would amaze you. Just once I would love to turn on MSN and see footage of soldiers handing out shoes and making repairs at a local orphanage, or digging a well to provide fresh water for an entire town, or fixing desks and handing out school supplies at a local school ... the list goes on and on. These are things I have had the opportunity to witness here on a daily basis, but because those kinds of stories don't make "good news" they more often than not go unreported.
I guess in closing if anyone were to ask me if American forces should be here in Afghanistan, well, that would be my answer.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the support you have provided to me and my family over the last almost eight months. Just having someone back there that Julie could call on in the event of an emergency was very reassuring. I know she was very appreciative of all the calls and e-mails she received during my assignment ... it really made a difference.
Not much else to report. Looking forward to seeing you all soon.
By LT Robert James, SC, USN
Mobilized from Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Norfolk
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|Title Annotation:||situation report|
|Publication:||Navy Supply Corps Newsletter|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2006|
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