New year rung in with hopes for brighter future

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The Gamberi desert is home to many nomadic peoples that gather weeds and shrubs throughout the summer and fall in order to heat their living quarters during the cool winter nights.

The Gamberi desert is also the future home of the Afghan National Army. The facility that is being built there is almost comparable to those facilities found in the states.

We traveled the 45-minute drive out to Gamberi on Monday in order to shoot some of our crew-served weapons with the ANA soldiers. Col. Afzal, the 2nd Brigade commander of the ANA wanted to not only shoot some of the crew served weapons, but also some rocket propelled grenades.

Being a former mujahedeen fighter during the war against the Russians, this seemed quite appropriate for him. The ANA S2, who also made the trip with us, decided to give me an RPG to fire toward the hills; so being rather willing to try new things out here I decided that I would probably never get another chance to shoot one, so I jumped at the opportunity.

The whole day out there at Gamberi ended up being a fairly decent day and I think that a lot of the ANA soldiers were able to gain a little more experience in firing their weapons systems.

I stayed fairly busy throughout the rest of the week with the ANA S2. We have been in the process of planning an operation in our neighboring province and he thought it would be a good idea to go out to Laghman to visit with one of the intelligence chiefs.

So, we caught a flight over to FOB Mehtar Lam, which sits at the mouth of two primary valleys that reach into Southern Nuristan. We had little difficulty in meeting with the chief, but we came to find out that the night before a stabbing occurred on the FOB. There was an ongoing investigation throughout the day that kept the FOB on lockdown; we were only able to catch our flight back to Jalalabad after we were cleared by the CID guys who were conducting the investigation.

I always thought of Mehtar Lam as being a fairly calm and quiet area. It just went to show that even with a war there can still be simple criminal acts that may have no relevance to the insurgency.

Overall, the New Year was brought in without much hoopla. A few of us spent the evening burning a few boxes in a burn pit while drinking a few cups of coffee before we decided to call it a night.

I can't say I have made any New Year's resolutions, but with the New Year comes a new hope for this country. While I think progress is certainly possible here, I feel as if we have a long way to go before stability can really be reached in the region. The Afghans I work with are willing and capable, but the limitations and constraints that act against them given the situation of the country is immense and leaves me to wonder if those obstacles can ever be overcome.

I am confident, however, that God has a plan for this place and that the outcome of this war will fit into a much larger picture.

Thanks for all of the continued prayers and support! 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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