Holidays local and American mark week in Afghanistan

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With another week in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, down, I find myself in high spirits with the holiday season. The cooler temperatures this time of year makes this land not only bearable, but very pleasant.

The highs have been in the low 70s here in Jalalabad while the lows have been in the upper 30s to low 40s. Jalalabad, as I came to find out several months ago, is the winter getaway city for some of the surrounding mountainous villages and cities.

Earlier this week, I had a meeting with some of the Afghan intelligence agencies operating in N2KL (Nangarhar, Nuristan, Konar and Laghman provinces).

This meeting has turned into a weekly meeting in order to facilitate the sharing of information amongst all of the different groups in the region. The building we hold the meeting at is in the midst of a little village that is within the Afghan National Army compound, so we usually just hop in our little Pajero and drive over there.

One of the guys I work with talks a lot with the kids out in the village and they call him on his cell phone quite frequently. On the way back from the meeting, he got a call from one of the kids who was saying something to the extent of, "We got a monti... come see our monti."

Not knowing what he was talking about, we kept driving. Once we got to the gate of the compound, we saw several kids with a monkey on a leash messing around with the gate guards. Finally, we figured out what the kid was saying and we definitely got a good laugh.

I headed off on a convoy to Kabul earlier this week. The small, winding road from Jalalabad to Kabul, also known as Highway 1, takes a little under 4 hours if all goes well.

It is a very scenic trip that cuts through the tapering southern end of the rocky Hindu Kush Mountains. Jingle trucks, the Afghan equivalent of the U.S. semi-truck, slowly crawl their way to and from Kabul, representing the lifeline of logistics for the country's capitol.

They are called jingle trucks because of the chains that the Afghans hang along sides, making the truck actually "jingle" as they drive along. Kabul turned out to be cold and rainy -- a reminder of why people go to Jalalabad for the winter.

We picked up some crew-served weapons with the ANA in order to help supply their Kandaks (battalion equivalent) with better heavy weapon systems. After staying the night in Kabul, getting back to Jalalabad ended up taking much longer than getting to Kabul. Prior to getting off the mountain switchbacks along Highway 1, we didn't see any vehicles on the road, which makes for an eerie silence in this country. Our convoy commander called out to have our gunners keep a special eye on the ridgeline, but the cause for the silenced road ended up being deadlocked jingle truck traffic down the way. Apparently, the traffic had been backed up since the night before, although I could never figure out what the cause was for it. Fortunately, the ANA we had with us helped carve a path through the standstill traffic so that we could drop off our supplies in Mehtar Lam (a short detour off of Highway 1 in Laghman Province) and make our way back to Jalalabad well before the sun went down.

Thanksgiving came and went here, but not without having some good meals! As it turned out, this year's lunar Islamic Calendar matched the Hajj with Thanksgiving and the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha began the day after. The Afghan officer that I work with decided that he would put on a little lunch for our intelligence shops on Thanksgiving to celebrate both Thanksgiving and the Hajj. He brought in lamb, rice, naan (Afghan flat bread) and kabobs. I filled myself up and probably spoiled my traditional Thanksgiving dinner that I had that night with some of the other officers and enlisted soldiers and airmen that are part of this embedded transition team. Eid Al-Adha started the day after the Hajj, which means little work to do around the ANA compound. The premise of the Islam holiday is to celebrate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son for God. It is basically a festival that lasts three to four days and it is a time for them to celebrate with their families.

With the month of November coming to a close, I find myself getting promoted today from second lieutenant to first lieutenant. It seems like it was only yesterday that I was pinning on the gold bar of a second lieutenant back at West Point. The time sure does fly by. My commander, who works out of a nearby base, is coming over to the ANA compound for the promotion; I was hoping that my ANA S2 counterpart would be here as well, but as it turns out, he took off for Kabul to spend the last day of Eid with his family.

I hope all is well with everyone back home -- all is well here. 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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