First things first, my tour is not being extended to 15 months “boots-on-the-ground”. The news from the Pentagon regarding extensions only applies to Active-duty Army. Fortunately accidental warriors such as myself, will be able to return to our normal lives as planned after only 15 months (training, plus 12 months boots on the ground). I should be home just before Memorial Day, and will spend June reacclimating to family life and traveling.
We’re definitely winding down, and preparing to turn over everything we’ve been working on to our replacements. I’ve got about a week of work left, and will leave Camp Alamo. We’ll spend several days doing paperwork here, and then fly to Manas, Kyrgyzstan for a few days. From there, we’ll fly to Norfolk, VA (hopefully with a brief stop in Shannon, Ireland for a pint of Guinness), where my demobilization will take a mind-numbing 12 days. I can’t wait to return to the world where once again, my time has value. We’re loading up our iPods and planning to work out so we don’t go crazy with all the hurry-up-and-wait time. It’s hard for me, since as an entrepreneur at heart, I can’t stand doing nothing.
Complicating the turn-over, things are still going full-speed here at the Kabul Military Training Center. I’m working on my fifth change to the manpower structure, and can now claim to have increased the authorized personnel from 1,400 to 3,400 Afghan Soldiers, NCOs, and Officers. We’ve trained 25,000 Soldiers since I arrived, out of about 40,000 currently in the Afghan National Army (ANA). Through our mentorship, the ANA have taken ownership of planning and management, and I know they’re more capable as a result of our efforts. I’ve also learned that I have a fairly good capacity for learning languages. General Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was here this week, as was Admiral Fallon, the Commander of the Central Command (encompassing Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the Middle East). I had a chance to talk with Admiral Fallon, with whom I served in combat off the coast of Bosnia in 1995 when he was the USS Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group commander and I was flying helicopters in combat support.
Afghanistan is gearing up to celebrate Mujahideen Day tomorrow with a huge parade in Kabul, which may receive world-wide coverage. It commemorates the anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Since they won’t let us carry weapons to the parade, and we don’t trust the security, we won’t be in attendance. On the humorous side, we’ve been amused by a widespread rumor that people are catching a fatal virus through cell phone calls from Pakistan. The Minister of the Interior actually made several public announcements to calm fears of answering calls from strange numbers, and the story made our local military paper.
Hope all is well at home, I look forward to being there soon.
If you’ve missed updates you’d like to read, surf to www.jonsingleton.com to read them, see the pictures and to post comments. Feel free to forward this to anyone who may be interested. If an email of your’s is kicked back by my SPAM filter, just resend with the word “ADD” in the subject line, and I’ll receive it. Raise a cup of Starbuck’s for me, and I’ll hurry home