Making History

So my responsibilities have expanded into bigger and better things.  Everything is going well as I near the two month mark.  It definitely does not feel like I’ve been here for two months already but I guess that’s just because I’m learning something new everyday.   The things that I am learning are really helping me build a solid foundation that will really help my future.  I’m getting to experience unique and challenging events that are really laying the groundwork for success later on.

A pretty cool coincidence happened the other day.  I ran to the dfac real quick to grab a bite to eat.  I sat down and started to eat just so I could move on with my day.  I looked up to see a four star general at the salad bar line, “I thought to myself why is a four star general here?” But that was about it and went back to eating my lunch.  I noticed that someone was kind of hovering over the table and saw that it was the four star general and he asked if he could sit down at the table. ……how could I say no to a four star general anything he wants he gets.

A four star general I would say is the same thing as say the CEO of a major corporation like Fedex, but I would venture to say a little bigger.  General McNabb, a four-star Air Force general in charge of the Transportation Mobility Command.  He was only in Afghanistan for a couple a days to see how everything was going over here….….talk about a business trip.  He wanted to check out some stuff as well as the Pakistani border.  A lot of VIPs come through to check it out.  I thought it was pretty cool that the highest rank an officer can achieve in the military and the lowest (me) were sitting at the same table talking.  We talked about CDS bundles (resupply through air drops) logistics in Afghanistan, which has been significant in terms of what has happened before with the Soviets in the 80’s and the British in the 1800’s.  It turns out that his daughter is attending duke as well which gave for a good basketball conversation.  Which moved towards who we thought was going to the NCAA tournament………Which is not going to be the Hokies unfortunately.   The lunch lasted for about an hour and at the end he gave me one of his coins.  It was the first time as a commissioned officer that someone gave me a coin and it was from a four-star general.

Some friends from back home have been asking about jingle trucks.  Jingle trucks are trucks that the Afghans use to transport supplies.  Whether it’s food, construction materials, anything really.  You see some pretty crazy ones.  The more decorated they are the more money the driver probably has.  They are all painted in bright colors and have chimes and bells attached to them.  I saw one coming back from a convoy with lasers and LED lights in all different colors.  I thought I was going to go blind if I looked at it long enough.  They also stack their shipment until the truck is about the tip.  I kid you not I saw a jingle truck with a shipment that was at least 40-50 ft high.  It started with boxes of some kind of fruit, then on top of that were tires stacked up, the on top of that was a car……….You see some crazy things over here

Most of the cars here are little Toyota Corollas rolling around.  A lot are still painted white with a yellow strip along the side from when the Taliban had control of Kandahar.  They claimed that every car was theirs and that every one of them had to be painted that way because in the name of “The Taliban” they owned all vehicles.  Most people don’t have the money to paint over it so they just kept it.   The term everyone uses for them is Taliban Taxis.

I just finished my second book here.  Blow the House Down by Robert Baer, I thought it was an awesome book.  I would say it’s one of the top five books that I have read.  It’s a book about 9/11 and the events that could have been the main cause.  This book is fiction but based entirely on facts.   It’s through the eyes of a CIA operative that tracks down a lead and finds something much bigger along the way.   The book that I just started reading is Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer, I’ve heard it’s a good book so I’m going to give it a try.  Ok so enough about books lets get into the good stuff.

The cool mission I had was awesome in the video below is only half the mission.  There were two Chinook helicopters that came.  In so many words it was a re-supply mission for another unit.  It was my first sling load operation since I went through the course at Ft Lee, VA back in August.  It was pretty crazy to actually plan it, set up my team, and hook it up.  A sling load operation is basically a mission where equipment, or materials can get transported by helicopter.  Anything from a humvee, canons, and cargo nets, the list goes on and on.  Through the planning phase I made sure everything was set with the receiving unit and checked with how many helicopters were coming and at what time.  That part was probably one of the most stressful because the time kept on getting changed.  It was changed all the way until 2am the morning of the operation when I finally got the official go time when the helicopters were coming.  The re-rigging wasn’t bad at all, there were several cargo nets which are the easiest to rig up for the sling load.  We were transporting hesco.  Hescos are pretty much over sized sandbags that are a lot easier to fill and emplace.  Whoever invented hescos is a freaking genius and extremely rich.  The military has been using them for about ten years now and everywhere I look there are hescos.  We had three loads to rig but one of them was shot gunned meaning we tied them together (the one in the video).

The actual hookup was cool this was my first time hooking up with Chinook helicopters as well as my first sling load mission that I planned, and it was all done in Afghanistan.   The Chinook helicopter can produce winds up to 120mph, which are category four hurricane winds.  Craziness

So the actual hook up was insane.  The crew chief of one of the helicopters came over and we talked what was going to happen and which one would go first.  So once we had it planned out the first Chinook took off and came headed our way.  I was on the first load that was going to be shot gunned.  In the video I’m on the left hand side of the two loads.  As the Chinook came over us I was literally holding on so I wouldn’t get blown off.  As the Chinook approached I could see the co-pilot looking over the dashboard and helping guide the pilot.  As the Chinook was directly over us the we could see the crew chief who basically was sticking his head out of a little opening in the middle of the belly to ensure a clean hook up.   Something about large rotors spinning directly over my head and the Chinook 3 ft above me definitely got my heart pumping.  In the video I was the first one to hook up the load to the Chinook and first one to jump off.  As I was clearing the pick up site it felt like someone was pushing me because the winds are so strong.  I have to admit though as I was watching the breakaways unlatch as the helicopter was picking up the load the only thing going through my mind was “God please let this work the way its supposed to.”  Since I was the certified rigger I signed off and inspected the loads so if anything happened it was on me.   As the load was being taken away, and after the thought of okay sweet its going to make it, I just thought that was really awesome.  It was almost better than a flyover at Tech….almost.  Which is a funny thing because at Kandahar I feel like there is a fly over every 5 mins.  The other helicopter came in to take the other load and I was able to get some pretty cool pictures out of it.  My Commander, XO, and First Sergeant were all there and were pretty amazed at what had just happened.  I didn’t know it but apparently that was the first sling load operation since the unit was stood up.  So looks like I’ll be going down in the history books.  Hopefully that was the first of many.

The missions over our area of operations are going really well and the non-kinetic (stability project) are going even better.  The road systems that we are emplacing are really helping the locals and making a difference.  The schools, hospitals, and shelters that are being constructed are also making a huge difference in our area.  A friend asked me what our mission was the other day, and it wasn’t until then that I realized that the majority of people right now in the States really don’t get what the “mission” is for the Troops over here in Afghanistan.  The mission as a whole is to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan population.   This war is all about the people and whoever has the support of the population will win the war.  That’s why it’s taking so long and that’s why it’s also so delicate of a war.  The Taliban understand that too, so that is why they are targeting more Afghans as targets.  I’m sure everyone has been hearing on the news at how the civilian casualties have increased, and that is directly due to the Taliban targeting them now instead of ISAF troops.  So basically the “mission” for the US Troops is to win the hearts and minds of Afghanistan.

I hope everyone is doing well.  The weather is finally heating up, this week I would say the average high was around 80, so its definitely getting hotter.  I heard about Tech not getting into the NCAA tournament again which was rough to hear…….especially since I told the four star general we could have a decent shot…. but there’s always next year.  Again I seriously cannot thank everyone enough for the notes and care packages.  I have been sharing the care packages with my Soldiers, and they all really appreciate it especially the ones that don’t get packages anymore.  Thank you all so much for the love and support.

…………………O Douls I’m still bitter about that

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One Response to Making History

  1. Terri Roy says:

    Wow, Matt! Love your update! Thank you so much for taking the time to write them! I got to show Grandma and Grandpa your video this past weekend. Thanks to your Dad’s question on facebook, we did figure out which one you were on the video! It’s amazing to hear about all the planning, the winds, etc. Thank you for your awesome mission there!!!! We love you so much!!! God bless you and all our troops!

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