We're in the final prep stage of a return trip to Afghanistan. Usual problems getting an Afghan visa - we're still waiting on tenterhooks for FedEx delivery from the DC embassy - but otherwise just about ready to fly.
Beds in the motel in St Augustine are covered with gear, divided (not so neatly) in piles. One to carry with us, another to ship to our apartment in Spain, and a third to wait in storage here in the States. Big lesson learned from the first embed: we carried way too much stuff.
Years ago in Special Forces training I was coached: "Travel light; freeze at night." Seem to have forgotten it this past spring when we went loaded with enough gear to scale the Hindu Kush Mountains (Avery actually dragged along *two* sleeping bags and ski pants, of all things. Somehow she'd imagined possibly getting stuck at the top of the K-G Pass in a freak springtime blizzard; probably meeting some Taliban at some point wasn't an issue, although the near-impossibility of getting frostbite led to some strange excess gear). Maybe packing too light this time, but perhaps we can borrow anything we left behind.
Plus we have our combat stuff waiting in a conex at Baghdad, and that helps a lot. I'm already worn out at the thought of lugging a full ruck, an assault pack, and the body armor and helmet. Every time I have a pity-party I try to remember that Soldiers carry our minimums and add the crushing weight of ammo, water, comm gear, and assorted odds and ends to their loads. We'll carry maybe 80 to 90 pounds each just while in transit... while they routinely carry at least that every day, and often much more while in transit.
Maybe this works for the desert - my jury is still out - but it's an unimaginable load if we ever get into a fight in the tropics again. And, for the record, be advised that we have spec ops forces working in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao and teams in Colombia, among others.
The working load of a Soldier and Marine in today's environment easily exceed 80 pounds and more commonly approaches 100. In my opinion this is far too much for dismounted operations, but the tendency is to pile it on. The immutable tradeoff for protection comes from decreased mobility, not a trade I like, nor do many of the troops. But given the risk-adverse proclivity of US society we'll probably add more armor before someone finally says "enough."
Anyway, we are scheduled to arrive in Bagram Air Field out of Dubai in mid-October, stay only long enough to get our badges and arrange a down-country flight to the east where we intend to link up with the 95th MP Battalion, working as Task Force Sheriff in the tough provinces adjacent to the Pakistan border. The region across the fence is strictly Tribal areas pretty much left alone by the Pakis and a safe haven for al Qaeda and Taliban.
We have been on the road steadily since we left Afghanistan in mid-May, stopping for several pleasant weeks in New Zealand to rough out the initial draft of Warrior Police that we sent to our publisher, St Martin's Press, and is now in the hands of our editor Marc Resnick.
We promised Marc that this last embed would serve to bring the book as current as possible prior to release and so expect to spend time with the legendary 615th MP Company, that replaced the 92nd MP Company which we rode with out of Gardez. We had joined the 615th for training last December in Grafenwoer, Germany and promised to stay with them downrange, but missed their deployment by a couple of weeks. So now we're going to make good on our word.
Apologies for neglecting this blog, but we have been busy. In addition to drafting the manuscript in New Zealand, we spent two wonderful weeks at Fort Leonard Wood, MO for the MP Regiment's 69th anniversary. We met more Soldiers, got some great interviews, and enjoyed the excellent hospitality of friends on Post.
One piece of good news: Our editor, Marc, promised that the publication date for Warrior Police will be 1 Sep 2011. That means our first public launch of the book will be at the 70th MP Regiment anniversary - hooah!
More regular observations as we continue of this embed. Stay tuned.
The book "Warrior Police" by Gordon Cucullu and Avery Johnson will be published by St. Martin's Press in 2011. This blog contains background notes, informal interviews, and photographs gathered during the Afghanistan research phase of the project... click here for a little more background on this blog, and enjoy!
- ▼ October (7)