LETTERS FROM AFGHANISTAN - Time for celebration comes in Afghanistan

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The people of Afghanistan continue to amaze me with their hospitality and kindness.

While I still remain rather pessimistic of their true intentions at times, I cannot help but show continued compassion for these people who have lived in such harsh conditions for so long.

Maj. Rahmdil, the 2nd Brigade S2, has shown more competence and initiative than I ever thought possible by an Afghan prior to taking this job nearly six months ago. I can truthfully say that I have become much more than adviser to him, but a true friend.

This week began as nearly every other week begins. The daily routine of morning meetings, drinking chai, and talking about the "doucheman" (dari for "enemy") with Major Rahmdil has become all too familiar to me.

Rahmdil informed me earlier in the week that his nephew was to be married and that he would be fairly tied up with all of the preparations and activities involved with the wedding party. On Wednesday evening, to honor his nephew, he decided to put on a dinner for many of the staff officers of the 2nd Brigade.

We all crowded in to what we refer to as the "Tea House" that is here on the Jalalabad Garrison. It is a building that Osama Bin Laden is said to have drunk chai in prior to being chased south into the Tora Boras back in 2001.

Rahmdil brought in several bowls full of cooked lamb. My "tajiman" told me that it was called Kurrey, by the way the lamb was cooked over a wood fire. Needless to say, it was one of the better Afghan meals I have had since being here. Following the dinner, I drove back over to the S2 shop with Rahmdil where I was introduced to his son, brother and nephew, all of whom helped put on the dinner.

That same evening, Rahmdil took off to Kabul in order to bring his family down to Jalalabad for the wedding party.

Before he left, he had a tailor come to the S2 shop to make me a pair of "man-jammies", which is the traditional dress of most Afghan males -- a sort of parting gift, I suppose, before my deployment comes to an end and I leave Afghanistan, which will be in a little over a month.

The next day, I received a couple of phone calls from Rahmdil while he was in Kabul. I had to hunt down an interpreter so I could find out what he needed.

Once I was able to find one, I found out that his daughter was heating up a pot of chai in his kitchen when the propane tank leaked and caught on fire. His kitchen and one of his bedrooms ended up burning down, but fortunately nobody was hurt in the incident.

He told me how he tried to put the flames out with a bed mattress, but it was not until his neighbors pitched in to help fight the blaze that the fire was finally put out.

As he relayed the story to me, he also mentioned that this would have been the third year in a row that his nephew's wedding party would have been canceled had he not told the rest of his family to continue on with the celebration without him.

The first year, his nephew's name was drawn to participate in the pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Hajj; the second year, another one of his nephews had died, so there was a funeral instead of the wedding. This year, Rahmdil decided that he was not going to let his house catching ablaze interfere with his nephew's wedding.

I truly felt bad for Rahmdil's unfortunate circumstance. On Saturday, he came back to Jalalabad for a few hours to catch up on some work; I told him that if I could, I would go with him to Kabul to help him rebuild.

Unfortunately, this country is not safe enough for me to do such a thing, but he certainly appreciated the offer. Nevertheless, he took off back to Kabul to start putting his house back together for his family. He told me that he would be gone for about a week.

This week marked the final departure of the Marine members of the embedded training teams here in N2KL (Nangarhar, Nuristan, Konar, and Laghman). In lieu of the ETT mission is an idea known as "combined action", which is supposed to be a partnership between the battle space owner of the Coalition Forces and the battle space owner of the Afghan National Army.

Lt. Col. Kenney was our team leader here since I have been a part of this brigade ETT. It was a rather sad day to see him go and we will surely miss him.

A new unit has moved in to take over the partnership and getting used to the way they do business will surely be a challenge from the way in which we have done things for the past six months.

Change, I suppose, is a part of life that we all must put up with. The future of my current mission in working with the ANA looks as if it will carry on until the end of this deployment, but I am unsure if anybody will come in to take my place as a dedicated adviser for the S2 shop of the 2nd Brigade of the Afghan National Army's 201st Corps.

I have been slowly preparing the shop to act independently, with critical minds and a flexible endurance for the fight that is ultimately theirs.

It is, after all, their country and their future. In the end, they will be the ones that win the fight against the insurgency that seeks to disrupt their government.

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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