Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's Been a Long Road

© 2009 Albert A Rasch and
In Afghanistan™
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Mail Call

"Walk in the path defined by rule, and accommodate yourself to the enemy until you can fight a decisive battle."

Sometimes, I walk with a little trepidation. I wonder if some poor, hungry bastard has me in his sights, and is wondering if he should risk the massive retaliation that the Predators and Apache gunships will visit upon him for his ill conceived idea.

But people rely on my team and I.

Afghanistan... Just the name brings back dozens of memories from college courses on ancient lands and histories. Afghanistan has been the crossroads of countless civilizations, armies, tribes, warlords, and bandits. The Persian King Darius, Alexander and his Greeks,the Mongol hordes under Genghis Kahn, Babur's Moghal empire, the English and the Russians, then the Soviets and now the Americans. Afghanistan has factored into almost all of the major empires of history.

The prize was never the dry southern plateaus, or the fertile northern plains, but rather the central highlands, and more specific, the passes that led to China, India, and Persia.

It's a land of dust and rocks, sand storms, bitter cold and sweltering heat. It is a hard land with a hard people. A land of blood oaths, feuds, death, and violence, a place with fields of vibrant poppy in bloom and choking dust bowls, beautiful valleys and deadly encounters.

If the people are hard, then even the environment conspires against them. The Afghan people suffer from soil degradation because of poor farming methods, overgrazing by livestock, drought, desertification, air and water pollution, almost unrecoverable deforestation,and a population growing more numerous, perversely because of the war and the access to better health care and foreign aid.

How I got here isn't important; I'm here simply to support the hard working and harder fighting soldiers of the American war effort in Afghanistan. I don't wage war, I remind the soldiers that people at home remember them, love them, and can't wait to have them back. My team and I sort, organize, deliver, and make sure they get their letters and packages from home, and that their mail gets to their loved ones as quickly as possible.

We work 12 to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, unrelentingly unloading planes, through blistering heat and unremitting cold. The team moves skids of correspondence, each measuring 88" by 108" and up to 96" high, that may weigh up to 10,000 pounds. Each C-17 that lands can carry sixteen of these pallets and frequently do. Dedicated men and women work around the clock sorting and distributing the torrential flow of mail, making sure it is directed to the proper Forward Operating Base or Combat Outpost.

I personally inspect all the bases and check that our soldiers are getting the best service we can provide and they deserve. I shake hands and thank them for their service; I hand out packages and letters as time permits. I wonder sometimes what they're getting; could it be candy, books, CDs or DVDs, or maybe something as mundane but comforting as babywipes and talcum powder?  Whatever it is, we see to it that it gets to that soldier in the quickest and safest way possible.

"Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," might be the US Postal Service's unofficial motto, but ours could very well be:

Neither IED, nor RPG, nor Taliban at night
stays these postmen from
kicking ass and taking names;
the mail will get through!

I am very proud to be working hand in hand with members of the 38th, and doubly proud of the men and women on my team that have come to this austere environment to support the war effort.

We really do deliver!
Albertensis Afghanus
AKA Albert “Afghanus” Rasch