Slow going a Christmas gift in Afghanistan

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It is hard to believe that the Christmas season is finally upon us. While Jalalabad is a city where the winter season is relatively moderate, the snowcapped Hindu Kush to the north and the snowcapped Tora Boras to the south are a constant reminder that winter is in fact here.

We have made an attempt to make it feel like Christmas here. We put up a little Christmas tree in our tactical operations center and decorated it the best we could. While there may not be any presents under our little Christmas tree, I will be in good company through the holiday and we may put together a little Christmas Eve party with our Afghan friends who work right alongside us every day.

This week was a relatively slow week here.

After the big push of supply operations last week prior to our Air Force personnel leaving for home, we finally got a respite from being out on the road. The winter weather seems to have had an effect on the enemy, as activity around N2KL (Nuristan, Nangahar, Kunar and Laghman provinces) has decreased greatly this past week.

I spent most of my time talking with my Afghan counterpart about upcoming operations that the ANA wants to plan. The assistant S2 (intelligence officer) returned from taking a course over in Kabul.

He certainly came back with a lot more knowledge and ideas to help his shop succeed in this fight. I am excited to see what he will be able to put on the table for future Afghan operations.

Our team here is still quite undermanned; however, we are being told that more people will be coming in to help in our mentoring and combined action effort with the Afghan Army. We are down to 11 airmen, soldiers and marines.

We just recently swapped out one of our senior NCOs who was here to help with the logistics piece earlier this week. He took over the first sergeant job of the brigade support battalion. We will miss him here, but I am quite certain that his replacement will perform just as well as he did.

I found time this week to head down to the ANA volleyball court and play some volleyball with the Afghans. The ANA are very passionate about their volleyball.

Their court is in a dusty little field that sits in front of a tea house that was allegedly a place Osama Bin Laden used to go to drink his tea. The ANA don't like to rotate through positions, so the match basically consists of setting up the best guy on the team to spike -- and that's about it.

They yell quite a bit out there; what they are saying I haven't a clue, but it is fun nonetheless. I think they appreciate our willingness to play with them in sport. While they probably think we are terrible volleyball players, I feel as if everyday somebody is asking for us to go down and play with them.

I am on the downhill slope of this deployment now and I still find it hard to believe how fast it has gone by. I still believe that working with the Afghan Army and supporting the building of the security forces will pay large dividends when it comes time for us to leave.

For that reason alone, I find true value in the work that I am doing here. While this Christmas season may be completely different than the Christmas' I have spent in years past, I think it will be one that I will always remember and even though it would certainly be nice to be home, I know that I am here for the right purposes and the right reasons; I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thank you so much for all of your support for not only me, but for the troops who are here away from their families and putting themselves in harm's way day in and day out. Merry Christmas to everybody back home! Take care and God Bless!

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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