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Marc Bossi- "Live" from Afganistan

Art Johnson

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I thought that some of you might be interested in news from Afganistan where Marc is now serving. This item comes courtesy of Doug Chappell and his Dileas Network.
Comrades

I have in my Mail Inbox  messages sent to me from the Comrades in Afghanistan that provide a little "flavour' of how their time is being spent. I was somewhat occupied lately and this resulted in a back log of correspondence from the "front".  I have tried to put these messages in some sort of chronological order to share with you. This E-mail might appear quite lengthy, however I have put everything in the message rather than an attachment, for a ready access. There are quite a few references to pictures they have taken. This can be quite cumbersome when trying to attach them in reference to the related messages. To work around this problem I have set up a photo share album and included most of the referred to photos. The album pictures can be viewed at ;

http://www.fototime.com/inv/C7783C6D19317C2    or  http://tinyurl.com/ndit

When you get there click on the first picture and you will the be able to see the full screen and then click slide show.....enjoy

Dileas Gu Brath


START OF AFGHAN CORRESPONDANCE

27/08 2003
Good day Friends;

I am sorry that I have not responded to everyone's email yet, but my access to email is sporadic and when I do get access, it is for a short time only. We cannot put memory sticks or floppies into the A drive, so I can't pre-write and then transmit later, thus reducing my ability to say hello. However, I just realized that if I write a longer email over a few days and continually save it as a draft, that may be a solution.

All is well here, and this is the land of surrealism and paradox. For example: you are not allowed to take guns to work, while I am not allowed to be without one. You must do up your seatbelt to save your life. For me the extra seconds in getting out of my jeep would mean my life, so seat belts here are forbidden. The dust storms in the late afternoon are so severe that you cannot see more that 500 feet, yet at night, I have a spectacular view of the Milky Way. Here's a good one; I am in the middle of an Islamic republic (what's left of it), but on Sundays, our padre conducts our church service in a modular tent. (We leave our pistols and rifles at the door). Our padre is a woman - the locals would love that!

I am in a very interesting job, probably the best one here. In the morning, I leave my tent at about 6:30 for breakfast in the mess tent (pistol on, hat off), then go to my office which is in a heavily battle damaged building. The office is air-conditioned. I go to the Operations Briefing and get the latest threat estimate and then every position reports on their area. It is back to my office for a little organization. I may have several meetings that day - if they are outside the camp, then the flack vest goes on, the combat vest and helmet too, and then I am off in a vehicle - jeep, armoured personnel carrier, or SUV, to meet a Wakil, another member of the multinational contingent, maybe a war lord or a mullah (all have their private armies - one of them had a stunning collection of Soviet tanks) and then back to camp. In our HQ, are military officers from Germany, Croatia, UK, US, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Sweden - you name it. Every once in a while we sit over a coffee and play "my bombed out building is better than your bombed out building" and other amusing games.

I have to get ready for another day of fun - I actually completely love the position and the many people I work with. I also like almost all of the Afghans I have come into contact with, except for the war lords. Not all of my meetings or interaction with everyone have been pleasant social affairs, and I will leave it at that!  By the way, I am 8 1/2 hours ahead of you.

All the best, and I will give a better account when I can.

John


01/09 2003
Hi everyone;

Here are a few pictures. One is what a sandstorm looks like as it thunders through Kabul. The sun turns into a giant haze and the sand is fine, like talcum powder. It goes down windows in waves, exactly as water does on a window in a car wash. The others are people in their roadside businesses. If you think that is bad, a few weeks ago they had less that . Behind the two men you can see a typical Afghan graveyard. Lots of green flags.

The little girls are happy because we have just finished building and dedicating their playground. To the left is a German soldier (combat engineer), and no his gun is not pointing at them, that is the spout from his back portable water bottle (Camel Back). The children here are very happy now that singing and dancing is not punishable by flogging or execution.

More later.

John

01/09 2003
Friends;

Here is a shopkeeper giving me a thumbs up. We all like them better than the ones who pull out a gun or a rocket launcher. The next is a picture of a graveyard, and the last one is of two boys beside a German Army jeep.

John

01/09 2003
Hi Folks;

This is the first time I have dressed for combat and stood at the front of a classroom, although when I was teaching accounting at U of T, it may from time to time have been appropriate. This is a school built by the Soviet Army as they invaded. It did not do well in the last civil war and the Taliban reduced it to one floor and took all the windows, doors, plumbing and wiring. Note how the wiring is stripped right out of the wall over the blackboard (actually black paint on concrete). I was out there that day with my partner, a sergeant in the Army Reserve who is a professional engineer and normally works at Magna. Like me, he is on a leave from his company. Thanks again TD!!!

In the next picture, the German combat engineers we took with us were busy shoring up a roof that was going to fall on the kids' heads, so I entertained some of the kiddies by teaching them English. I also put on an impromptu Jackass and magic show for them and simply pretended I was back in my fraternity 20 years ago. The kids were howling with laughter. The crowd eventually grew to about 40 and some of the little folk really got into it. Says a lot for them that they can stand in a bombed out school yard while some armed fool teaches them how to count and say cloud, airplane, three hats and other useful things.

The best result of all was that the parents who were watching warmed up to me, so we won a little victory for building a good relationship between the Canadian Army and the locals. It is part of the on going "battle". We must do our best to not be an invading force, but a firm, fair and friendly security force that makes a peace that can then be enforced and kept by later missions. But first, there is the matter of the Taliban and that is to me nothing more than high level pest control.

John

03/09 2003
Hi Everybody;

I am trying to write to you on my military email, which I think you should be able to reply on. So what is new? Did you have a good Labour Day weekend? What did you do? I got up on Monday as usual and took my larium (mephaloquine) tablet for malaria. So far, I have not suffered any of the side effects such as the gastro-intestinal discomfort or lack of sleep. Some guys have had the other symptoms - very vivid dreams - completely real to them, and not always pleasant. Some actually hallucinate and then have to switch medications, but fortunately I have not had that problem. Anyway, after I took the medications I started up to the headquarters, but the day was not the dull and boring one I had anticipated.

After I left the tent and was walking up to the HQ, I ran into a bunch of friends of mine from the German Battle Group. Instead of going to the HQ directly, one thing led to another, and we all got an Ilits from rover troop, went out to the beach and did a lot of wave-riding, canoeing and surfing, followed by a huge bonfire in the early evening with lots of Swedish girls from their CIMIC detachment. There was a ton of wine and even a couple of great bands. Some journalists showed up and were very friendly to us, (no wonder) and joined in on a great German singsong. The journalists were fantastic - a little right wing for my liking though, and totally obsessed with the truth. Some of the contingents here have special celebrations and I guess we lucked in on that one! Then, we all wandered up to the Hotel Continental, just up the beach and had tropical drinks at this huge pool and were served on by very friendly former Taliban and Al Queda terrorists; some we even recognized from our "neighbourhoods". I can't believe this but they actually apologized to us and gave us their weapons!!!!

Then it happened; I began to daydream and remembered all the things that we were supposed to be doing that day. Here is where it gets weird - I actually dreamed that I was in fact at the HQ all day doing paper work on a couple of patrols I had done. I even went to a morning briefing, had lunch in the mess tent, went back to the HQ, spoke to the General about some "nasties" in our area, and then headed home through a hot dusty sandstorm. Now the really bizarre part - I actually walked instead of flying, which is how Dieter, Fritz, Walter and I got to the beach that morning. (No planes, just a good old arm flap!). Anyway, the weird daydream ended, and there I was back at the poolside.

Yup, I love Mondays like never before. They always seem to be so much fun.

John

13/09 2003
Hi Friends;

Well, things here are in fine shape, and we are all enjoying the still warm weather of Kabul. Yes, it continues to be over 90 degrees during the day! At night it is sleeping bag weather, so the combination is absolutely perfect for hot weather lovers like me. The winds have settled down as well, and so the dust is not stirred up as much. What a relief.

Big news - we have electricity in our tents as of this afternoon!!!!!!! All of the lap tops came flying out, and the guys sleeping in the day (we go 24 / 7 in some places here) will be able to plug in fans and actually sleep in a now not-so-hot tent. The food continues to be excellent, and tonight we had fabulous Sheppards pie, made with real sheppards. Remember that attack we had the other night that blew me off my feet . . . ?

At 10:00 tonight I am going up to the Spanish Mess (was invited by my Spanish friends) for a party - not a late one though, since we all have to report at 0700 tomorrow for the Terry Fox run around the entire compound. The circumference is a few KM, so we will do it twice, and we will enjoy it. So says our fuehrer. Speaking of enjoyment I was in the German section of the camp the other night for a fabulous good-bye party for a really great lieutenant colonel who is being posted back to Germany. We will all miss him a lot. I was out a few times with him on "a job", and he is a real card. His replacement is also a first class guy, who swears I will be fluent in German in a few months. OK, we'll see!!!!

So I must run now, as I have a tone of things to do. We work 7 days a week here, at all hours of the day. This isn't exactly a 9 to 5 thing. The naughties here do not call it quits a supper, and neither do we. So, all the best, and please, do not even cc me at my Sympatico address, as I am using this address exclusively from now on until February, and that computer now seems to have a virus, so will not be running until I get home.

All the best from Camp Warehouse - I'll send more photos soon.

John

28 August 2003
Okay -

John Stewart just got another roll of film developed, so now you've finally got a picture of a balmoral (albeit in Camp Mirage).

John and I are developing the reputation of being the "Pied Pipers of Kabul" (for some strange reason, the kids are always swarming us ... although in
John's case, he did mention he was entertaining them with Newfie magic trix)

Dileas,

Mark!

P.S. (can you believe that some idiot at NDHQ signed off on a policy that only allows for one Internet terminal per 100 soldiers ... in this day and age?
They have one telephone per 50 soldiers, and guys hardly ever use them ...)

04 Sept 2003
Afghan Notes

Okay - here are today's pix.

We visited an orphanage at the behest of an Irish officer here in the HQ (apparently his village has collected some funds, and are willing to sponsor some work - we were asked to conduct a CIMIC assessment and determine how best to approach this situation). The kitchen is something straight out of "Oliver" - the pictures speak for themselves. Many windows have no glass. Electrical wiring was a nightmare.

Thus, keeping in mind the traditional "hierarchy of needs", our initial assessment is that the kitchen and winterization of living quarters might be the best things to address first (despite the chief administrator's request for a generator - however, both the engineer and I agreed that the electrical wiring is an arsonist's dream - wires the thickness of telephone wiring in Canada, and no fuses ... hmmm ... maybe the same electrician caused those blackouts in Ontario ... chuckle) And so, we're going to talk to the Canadian Army cooks, and get some expert advice re: the kitchen. We'll also talk to the military engineers, and get their input, too. Then we're going to report back to the Irish officer, and discuss this with him (basically, he and his village are the "sponsor", we are acting as a consultant, and next we'll find somebody to do the work ... instead of the Army doing everything, we want and need Non-Government Organisations - NGOs - to take up some of the slack).

Our bottom line is this: Anything we can facilitate will improve the orphanage. Keeping in mind, however, that there are countless other worthy projects out there, we're not going to "shoot our entire bolt" on this one (sad to say, improving an orphanage will not earn us the gratitude of very many adults here - that's a fact of like, since the children are orphans, after all - however, it's not up to us to play God - if the sponsor wants to do this, then we help him ... while at the same time seeking out other "targets" that will both improve Afghanistan as a whole, yet provide "force protection" for our soldiers by endearing Canadians to the Afghan people - a complicated balance).

Hope you find the pix interesting.

Mark Bossi

PS
Here are some pix of a school visit John Stewart went on. As you'll see, he ended up being the Pied Piper (keeping the kids away from the engineers as they worked on the school).

Dileas Gu Brath

News Item
START

Rocket attack 'a close call' for Canadians in Kabul

Chris Wattie CanWest News Service

Saturday, September 13, 2003

CAMP WAREHOUSE, Afghanistan -- Shrapnel from a rocket that slammed into the Canadian compound in the main camp for the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul only narrowly missed sleeping soldiers and civilian workers, military spokesmen said yesterday. "This would qualify as a close call," said Major Guy Turpin, spokesman for the Canadian contingent at the camp. "It was very close to the accommodation tents for our soldiers. "It woke me up and I was five rows down."......&.cut

END

14 September 2003

Here's a photo of the "exit wound" - the rocket hit the top of a sea container, and this hole was where it exited  I've been told it was a HESH round, 107mm (Chinese, if I remember correctly).

They have a number of ways of launching these. First of all, they pile up some rocks. Then they lie the rocket on top of the rocks, adding or subtracting stones for the right elevation. Then, allowing for wind velocity, they light a fire under the rocket in order to set off the propellant  (no, I'm not kidding). And so, you can see that both the good guys and the bad guys had horseshoes the other night (them for even landing a round near us, and us for not having too many casualties).

Some more stories have been emerging in the wake of the attack on Camp Warehouse: One soldier was caught in the shower, and ended up wearing only a towel in the bunker. Another had to be carried by a burly tent-mate, since he'd been caught bare-footed (and the gravel spread between the tents makes it like walking on glass or nails).  Still another guy was in a porta-pottie when he heard the incoming round. Vowing not to die on the ****ter, he launched himself towards cover

John Stewart successfully introduced a motion in "tent Parliament", whereby porta potties will no longer be called "Blue Rockets" (lest a false alarm be raised by running towards, or simply saying "rounds down range" and "Rocket" in the same sentence ...) Afterwards, pacts were made that if anybody were killed in a "thunder box" or in the shower, they'd be cleaned up and dressed in their uniform and their families would be spared any ignoble details...

So, morale is high - we know we were lucky, but we also know the bad guys were lucky, too. There actually is a lot of respect for the enemy - they've been fighting for twenty years, beat the Russians, and are now attacking NATO troops with little more than rocks, fire and leftover munitions - we won't underestimate them, especially when we remember how they blew up a busload of German troops on their way home.

And, life is good - we finally got electricity in our tent last night!

Dileas Gu Brath,

Mark!

END OF AFGHAN CORRESPONDENCE

Mark Bossi
G9 = CIMIC (Civil-Military Co-operation)
KMNB HQ = Kabul Multinational Brigade Headquarters
ISAF = International Security Assistance Force

"snail mail"
Captain M.A. BOSSI
KMNB HQ - G9 CIMIC
P.O. Box 5006 Stn Forces
Belleville, ON  K8N 5W6

John Stewart
Captain J.D. Stewart
G9 Operations Officer
Kabul Multi National Brigade
International Security Assistance Force
Local 5311
 
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