Our time in Afghanistan is coming to a close. We've still got 6-7 weeks on the ground here, but our stuff is already starting to move back to the States to make room for the 101st Airborne. In an attempt to hold the ground we've gained with the local nationals over the winter months we're moving 2/3 of our company out into our battle space, occupying 2 combat outposts. So, the majority of my time left here will be spent out at our COPs. I don't mind too much, time seems to go faster out there and I'm ready to get back to Margaret and some semblance of normalcy.
On orders from higher we have become much less kinetic in our operations, trying to focus more on improving the lives of the locals here in Pashmul. This is an extremely complicated task, though, as the Taliban still has considerable influence here and seems to keep the locals intimidated enough not to cooperate with Coalition Forces, or at least cooperate very little. For instance, we are currently attempting to build a school in central Pashmul, next to one of our COPs . . . we have the structure, supplies, and manpower to make this happen; however, we must have a dedicated teacher before we can proceed. One of the things I've been tasked with is to locate and secure a teacher in our area, evidently because I seem to have a better report with the locals. I located at least 3 teachers, one of whom verbally committed to meet with us and the District Leader in order to become the official teacher; however, he is from a village known to be harassed by the Taliban and has failed to show up to any of our meetings. It's pretty obvious that these people tell you what you want to hear but will not follow through for fear of Taliban reprisal . . . which so far has been only detention and physical beating, but sometimes is death. We try to provide as much protection for these people as possible, but for the area we are covering, there is just not enough troops on the ground. Very frustrating. Anyway, I'm trying to finish my time here strong and hope and pray this school thing will work out, it would be a great accomplishment for this region of Afghanistan and potentially leave a lasting impression on these people.
Please continue to be in prayer for my platoon, especially Staff Sergeant Koschmann. He is a very cynical person who is literally anti-christ, and as one of my squad leaders he has some influence with my men. Sometimes I feel like my whole time here will have been either countering something he says about Christ, or combating his rather brazen opinions on religion. He is very opinionated (like me :-) ), but is not much of a thinker, so most of my attempts at swaying him are only met with “that's stupid,” with no explanation as to why he thinks it's stupid. It's easy for him to get under my skin if I let him, but I'm trying to be patient and pick my battles. Tomorrow should be good, I'm going to try and take some of my dudes to the easter chapel service, which is rare because we are normally busy and can't go to church, but tomorrow is potentially a day off.
As always I appreciate the support you guys give and I can't wait to get back and share a fat steak and some sweet tea! I continue to covet your prayer.