Army Capt. Pat Birgy led the mission. “We were mainly there to get an idea of how the local market works, and find out what’s available at what kind of prices,” Birgy said. “You could get about anything you needed there, but most of it got there from somewhere else.”A poultry stand toward the end of the bazaar exemplified the issue. Mohammed Amin, the stand’s owner, explained that the few chickens grown in Kunar Prov. were usually produced by individual households, and their owners wanted a higher price for their chickens, than large-scale producers in Pakistan and Nangarhar Prov. The net result, according to Amin, was that he simply could not buy chickens locally for resale. “It’s not good. The chickens here all come from other places,” Amin said. “We want to buy locally grown chickens. Right now, if prices are good or bad, we have to buy from the guys in Pakistan or Jalalabad, because we've no local source.” The same was true of many fruits, vegetables, breads, candies, and finished products in the bazaar. The issue is an important one, because selling imported goods doesn't generate the same level of economic activity as the production and sale of local agricultural products. Indeed, boosting local agricultural production is a top priority of the GoA. Birgy pointed out that because most farmers in Kunar Prov. operate on a subsistence basis. Most do not have enough left after harvest to take to market, but Birgy was also convinced that there's more to the story. “Honestly, we still have a lot to learn about how this market works,” Birgy said. “We’re not going to get it all figured out in one visit. We’re going to have to come back several times over a long period of time.”
"This is really all about the Soldiers," said Preston. "They're out here at some of the more remote FOBs working hard in rough conditions. So, we wanted to give them a treat.” The morale team grilled steaks and brought potato salad, coleslaw, corn-on-the-cob, and ice cream for the Soldiers.“The food was delicious,” said Army Spc. Derick Escobar, an infantryman with Co. A. “It was such a great morale boost for us. We run a lot of missions, so to get the hot meal and cold drinks really made it all worth it.” The Steak and Ice Cream Express, spearheaded by Preston, visits a different FOB or COP every month.
He got his first cooking experience at age 15, when he got a job at a local pizza restaurant. He worked his way up to asst. mgr., and since then, has been interested in cooking.
“When I decided to go to college, I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted to do,” McDonald said. “I knew I liked to cook, and since I had a job doing it, I decided to get into culinary arts.”
McDonald left college early and joined the Army in 2007 for one reason: “I wanted to serve my country,” he said. He came in as a cook, and deployed almost as soon as he got to Fort Campbell, Ky.
“I was the chow runner for one of the entry-control points (ECPs) on Bagram,” McDonald said. “I had to prepare food for 200 people 4 times a day, and drive it out to the ECPs. I also had to clean the dishes in between meals, so I was really busy.”
Now on his 2nd deployment, McDonald says there isn’t much he would change. “I work long hours, and I’m away from my wife, but I love my job,” he said. “My sgt. started teaching me little tricks and tips when I started making cakes, and now that’s all I’m focused on, bettering myself.”
He's been recognized by a lot of the HQ staff since he started making cakes, including receiving a coin from the 101st Chief of Staff, Army Col. Pete Johnson.
“He’s an outstanding baker and leader,” said Sgt. Kevin Cook, an NCO-in-charge of rations for the cmdr’s dining facility. “If anyone here on base is looking for the best quality in cakes, it’s going to come from Sgt. Mac.”
“It’s one of the best feelings, when people go out of their way to find out who made their cake,” McDonald said. With his popularity, McDonald is always in demand. He usually bakes 2 cakes a day for meals, and at least one extra each day for special events.
“I think his cakes are outstanding,” said Sgt. Maj. Victor Fernandez, the CJTF-101 communication sgt. maj. “My office hits the gym everyday, so we can enjoy his cakes on Sunday. Having something homemade like that, takes you away from this environment, and reconnects you with the basic pleasures of life.”
His most-requested cake is chocolate cake with buttercream icing, but he said that could be due to limited supplies. “I stay late a couple nights a week to make cakes for people, but it’s worth it,” he said. “It really is an honor for me.”
Even though he has learned so much in culinary arts since being deployed, McDonald said he can’t wait to go on leave to enjoy his wife’s cooking. “At home, my wife’s the cook,” he said. “She makes this chocolate cake with chocolate icing that I can’t wait to eat again.”
“Right now I’m limited to what I can learn, because we're limited on supplies,” he said. “But, when we get back to the States, I’m going to learn how to use fondant like you see on TV.”
RC-East, Bagram Media Center
Yet the difficult terrain did not deter the event’s organizer, Army Master Sgt. Steven Holding, a hydrologist for the Iowa NG’s 734th ADT. Though FOB Wright could hardly be mistaken for Washington, D.C., where the original Army 10-Miler takes place, the shadow event still transported Holding to his memories of the race in the nation’s capital.“When we started this morning, I could see the thousands of runners lining up in the street, and I could hear the cannons going off to start the race,” Holding said. “It was just like I was there.” Some participants at FOB Wright ran the 10-mile course, while others marched with packs, weapons and their improved outer tactical vests. Army Sgt. John Lowe, squad leader for the ADT’s SECFORs section, marched the route. “We wear this gear for hours at a time when we go on missions,” Lowe said. “It was good to actually have a little fun with all this stuff on, though I did end up with a blister about the size of a quarter on my heel.” Holding said that he wanted to improve unit morale and esprit de corps, by holding the shadow Army 10-Miler. Army Sgt. Maj. Robert Reedy, the ADT’s senior enlisted member, confirmed that Holding had achieved his goal, even if the early start time had caused some initial grousing. “There was a little grumbling when we got to the starting line in the dark before 5 in the morning,” Reedy said, “but once we got going, everyone had a good time. Everyone had a real sense of accomplishment when they finished.” According to the Army 10-Miler website, the Army Military District of Washington produces the event, which has taken place in Washington, D.C., annually since 1985. Proceeds from the event support Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation. A number of other deployed locations in Iraq and Afghanistan also held shadow events this year.
“Reception and integration training is one of the most important training we conduct. Our units are constantly in a situation where RSOI training is necessary,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Schroeder, RC-East and Combined Joint TF-101 command sgt. maj.Receiving RSOI training by Soldiers who are familiar with the area of ops (AO), helps raise awareness of what's to be expected in the operational environment. “It makes more sense, because nobody knows the AO like the Soldiers who've been operating in it,” said Army Sgt. Maj. Salvador Montez, HHC, 173rd ABCT ops sgt. maj. “You'll get more accurate and recent info when the people who're training you, are the ones out on the roads doing missions every day.” One of Shank’s RSOI training areas includes a CIED lane where Soldiers walk through a makeshift road and try to identify dummy explosives, to raise awareness of what to look for while outside the wire. Soldiers also sight in their rifles, test their night-vision optics, and get a map overview of the AO’s hotspots for kinetic activity.“The training takes 48 hours max, and by the third day, Soldiers are heading to their FOBs and COPs,” Montez said concerning the brigade-level training. “This maximizes the amount of time incoming Soldiers get to learn the AO, from the unit they'll be replacing."There are 3 different groups who go through RSOI training," Schroeder explained: "Full BCTs, individual or late deployers, smaller units such as ADTs, PRTs and EODs.
KUNAR PROVINCE – CF learned that Gul Nabi, a mid-level Taliban cmdr was killed in an engagement with the combined SECFORs, Oct. 17. The engagement took place in the Shuryak Valley near Mantanga Village, on the morning of the 3rd day of ongoing major ops in the Pech River Valley.Nabi, an Al Qaeda assoc., had been responsible for several ambushes on Afghan and CF convoys. He also planned and led attacks against the Afghan Parliamentary elections, conducted kidnappings of local Afghans for ransom, and facilitated the movement of Pakistani and Arab fighters into Kunar Prov. Ops are ongoing.