Team under fire one day, reaching out the next

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With another week down here in Jalalabad, I still find myself with high spirits and happy to be doing what we are doing here.

This week was an interesting week and it all started with a trip into the Pech River Valley. I have referred to the road that winds through the Pech as the "wicked witch of the west" road. I figured I would get the same feeling driving down that road this time as I did the first time I went down it; but all of the anticipation was released a couple of hours earlier, well before we reached the turn into the Pech.

As we were driving up the Konar River Valley, my vehicle was just beginning to make a turn that hugged a ridgeline when I heard the first explosion.

Through our internal communications we were asking each other where it came from, then we saw the smoke rise from the road near the front of our convoy. I, being in the last vehicle, expected more shooting from the front, but as it turned out the bulk of the small arms fire came right toward my vehicle.

The shooting came from both the ridgeline and the riverbed, which was off to my right. My M2 (.50 caliber machine gun) gunner opened up along with the rest of the convoy to suppress the enemy. The ANA soldiers we were rolling with came to a halt; some dismounted while others engaged from their own turrets.

We stayed in the firefight for about 10 minutes before we had the insurgents on the run, at which time we decided to continue our convoy northward into the Pech. Needless to say, we were all watching our surroundings with a lot more attentiveness.

When we turned into the Pech River Valley, we anticipated more of the same style of attacks; fortunately, those attacks never came and it turned out to be a rather peaceful rest of the way.

I continued putting in the miles out on the road this week as the day after we got back from the Pech, we went straight out to Kabul for an overnight trip to pick up more supplies.

For this trip, we decided to take along a sack full of baggies consisting of little stuffed animals mixed with winter clothing and candy. The idea, of course, was to throw out these little bags out to the little kids in some of the villages we passed along the way. I thought it rather interesting that here we were getting into a firefight one day and then turning around the next day passing out goody bags to the kids.

When we entered Kabul, we came to a halt as we traveled down one of the streets. Four elementary aged girls were walking by and we passed them some of the bags. The looks on their faces were looks of joy that I will probably never forget. It was a reminder of how grateful a lot of the people are that we are here.

I thought of the spoiled kid back in the states who would probably throw away the toy or stuffed animal that they simply don't like, and I realized that with poverty comes more appreciation for acts of kindness. The people here don't have much, but they show hospitality and appreciation for almost anything we do to help them.

The last of our Air Force personnel who were a part of the team that was here to assist the Afghan Army left the country these past couple of days. The staff we have now consists of about 11 people, composed of several Air Force officers, Marines and Army soldiers. We have turned into a small crew and working with the Afghans has gotten more challenging, which only means it will be that much more rewarding.

Army lost the Army-Navy game this weekend. I was impressed to see, however, that we did not lost by as much as we lost in the past. Hopefully the program will improve so that next year we will see my alma mater get an Army-Navy win and a ticket to a bowl game.

First Lt. Andrew Plucker is deployed to Afghanistan. He is not an Army spokesman, and his updates from the field are written from his personal perspective as a soldier.

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