Time passes quickly for local soldier in Afghanistan

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Second Lt. Andrew Plucker crouches alongside Afghan children during a recent humanitarian aid mission.

Six months in Afghanistan can seem like a long time for some people. For me, however, the time has gone rather quickly.

I have been trying to keep my friends and family up to date on a weekly basis, and I have found that not only does it keep them up to date with what is going on here, but it helps me feel connected to home as well.

A lot has happened here in Afghanistan within the past six months and I am certain that a lot will happen within the next six months, too. Prior to leaving my permanent duty station in Fort Carson, Colo., we were told that this year would be a crucial year in the war. We were told that after our brigade (4 IBCT, 4 ID) leaves Afghanistan in 2010, we would have a feel for whether the objectives here are attainable.

Six months in, I feel that progress is being made and that we are here for all the right purposes. While I am technically the executive officer for the brigade's military intelligence company, I am currently serving as a liaison officer with the Afghan National Army. Over the past month, this has been my primary role.

While working with the ANA has its challenges, it certainly has its rewards as well. When we took a convoy into the Pech River Valley, one of the most kinetic areas of fighting in the brigade area of operations, I was impressed by their professionalism and their steadfast desire to improve the condition of this country.

Some of you may remember my uncle, Capt. Ron Plucker, writing to folks back home from his tour in Iraq back in 2004. I am excited to try to provide you updates on a weekly basis, much like he did when he was in Iraq. I must caveat these writings with the fact that I am not a spokesman for the Army, only a soldier here in Afghanistan expressing my own experiences.

This week started off with going out with the ANA to conduct a humanitarian aid mission. We headed out toward the Pakistan border to a little village that was composed of mud buildings and what seemed to be a lot of mud walls that weren't really "walling" anything in or out.

We drove to the center of the village where there was a mosque and a little shop where the owner was selling some vegetables and other kinds of food products.

The ANA did a fantastic job of setting up security around the village and going to talk to the village elders to explain to them why we were there. We had a trailer full of school supplies, food, shoes, and other items that people have either donated from back in the states or were supplied through other forms of humanitarian aid channels. We dismounted our vehicles and mingled with the people for a while until the ANA finished passing out the goods. Overall, the people seemed happy we were there and the kids were excited to get different snack foods, toys, and school supplies.

The Afghans are very hospitable people. Whenever I go in to talk with the ANA (S2) intelligence officer I work with, there is always chai and a dish full of these little raisins, almonds and little Afghan candies. I, therefore, decided that I would return the hospitable acts and gave one of my interpreters some money to go out into the city to buy some food for a joint S2 shop dinner. I had the two senior airmen who work for me, several of our interpreters, and the ANA S2 shop all together for a big Afghan meal. Needless to say, it went well and I was pleased with the outcome of the dinner.

The day after the dinner, I was on the road to a forward operating base up north to help take some supplies up to them. With our little embedded training team dissolving, I was made the convoy commander for the mission so that I get some training of what to do in such a position. Nothing of any significance happened on the trip, which is always good, so I was able to learn a lot about the planning process and the coordination that needs to happen while out on the road.

This week promises to be another exciting week. While it is Thanksgiving in the United States, Eid Al-Hada is quickly approaching here, which will hopefully mean several days of respite around the area. Happy Thanksgiving to everybody back home!

Second 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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