Thursday, April 1, 2010

How about a nice hot cup of chai?

"This chai is excellent." I'm gritting my teeth and wishing for a cup of coffee, but the concept of coffee doesn't exist in Afghanistan unless you're on a U.S. military installation. My host, the Kandak (battalion) commander, is smiling at me. I wonder if it's his inside joke to get westerners to drink chai. We are sitting in a valley with tall hilltop surrounding us. We didn't quite understand the concept of breaking out the chai pots in the middle of a TIC (Troops in Contact), but this is their kandak, not ours. I was further mystified when a heaping plate of meat, rice, chickpeas and vegetables was placed in front of me with radio reports coming in of an ambush of one of his companies. "Sit, eat. You must rest." I don't have time to rest or eat. "Sir, what about the ambush on 2nd Coy (Company)?" I'm trying to make the point that he has troops in danger and he needs to command and control his elements and be able to push out battalion assets such as his Quick Reaction Force to respond to enemy contact.

Casualties. My interpreter turns to me and says, "So the radio just said that they took casualties. That's bad dude." I'm still eyeing my heaping plate of food with suspicion and notice a growing population of flies swarming around my plate. "Sir, my suggestion to have medics on standby and the Quick Reaction Force rolling out now. Also reports of casualties need to be submitted in the proper 9-line medevac format. In order for your medics to be prepared, they have to know what they're dealing with." I take a step back. It's time for the Kandak commander to act. He squints his eyes at me and says, "Sais." My interpreter turns to me and says, "The commander says that this is a good plan and he will do it." I turn to my interpreter and say, "Sais means ok, where are you getting that he said all that?" My interpreter just laughs. I was not as amused as he was. "Dude, it's not real life. They're just training. You should eat your food before the flies do." I can't even begin to voice my displeasure.

Prior to deploying the kandak, they had to go through a semi-rigorous process by which their performance would be evaluated. It was training but it was also real life as well. The night prior, mortars were fired at us from the vicinity of the area we were training. I'm looking at my glass of chai and plate of food with a withering gaze mostly because I was hungry but didn't feel that I could eat at this time. From the distance, I saw another convoy approach our tactical assembly area and then I saw a few Americans a number of British soldiers jump out. Then out of one of the vehicles strode a lanky British officer who lit a cigarette. I knew that it was a General. After making pleasantries with some of the Afghans, he walked over to the ANA kandak commander and me and after greeting the kandak commander, turned to me and said, "You know of course that any failure on the part of this kandak is a failure for you too." No pressure. No, none at all. I smile weakly and say, "Sir, I think they'll do ok." I'm half-hoping, half-pleading that this will be a reality. Casualties roll back into our perimeter and the medics begin to treat them. "So how do you think your kandak is doing?" The General is directing that question at me. "Uh, I think they're doing pretty good. They reacted well to indirect fire and quickly evacuated casualties and re-established their perimeter." I put my best face forward. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how well this validation is going, but I am optimistic.

The British General departs and we continue to complete the validation. More chai is brought. I drink more of it. We've all been awake since around 4 AM and anything to stay awake is a godsend. We sit down and drink more chai. I ask the kandak commander how long he has been in the Army. He tells me 25 years. I tell him that he's been in the army almost as long as I've been alive. He laughs. I try to laugh, but my sunburned face and chapped lips can only make a grimace. I drink my chai and wait. Reports come that 2nd Coy has assaulted through a near ambush and moved to set up a vehicle check point and is searching vehicles now. All right, well at least that's progress.

We sit down again and have more tea. Scattered radio reports indicate that vehicles have been searched and bombs and other illegal weapons materials were found in the vehicles searched. The first of my guys come back from their advising role. They look exhausted, sunburned and sweaty. I ask the commander how he thinks the mission is going. He squints at me and says (through my interpreter), "I think it's going very well. I think we'll pass." I smile and say "hoobish" or "Good." I know that he's working hard to make sure that his kandak passes. I'm hoping for the best. I tell him, "Sir, we honestly hope your kandak does well and while we enjoy working with you, we hope that someday that your kandak will be proficient enough to operate without us." He smiles and says, "Tasha kor! (Thank you) We hope so too."

The sun is setting and I talk to the Kandak executive officer and advise him to make a phased withdraw from the Tactical Assembly Area leaving security in place as the rest of the kandak withdrew. He agreed in principle. In practice, everyone made a mad dash to the vehicles and drove away leaving me speechless. It wasn't what I envisioned and I thought that they had agreed. There's a lot more work to be done.

I'm sitting in the chow hall and I notice one of the evaluators talking with the Colonel who oversees all of the training of ANA forces. After the evaluator walks away, I ask the Colonel if our kandak passed. His executive officer who is sitting next to him gives me the Roman "wavering of the thumb" motion and the Colonel smiles and says, "53%. Your kandak has been validated and will deploy soon." I'm elated, stunned and slightly amused. We give the good news to the Afghans. I'm offered more chai. I take a big swig from the glass and promptly burn my tongue.

"Your vehicle will lead the convoy." The kandak's vehicles are lined up and ready to move and I'm standing in the dark talking to one of the American officers who oversaw the training. "Do you know the way?" I swallow hard. Not really. "We'll figure it out sir." I try to beam confidence but doubt clouds my thinking. I sort of know the way, but not entirely. Our vehicle moves to the front of the convoy. One of the sergeants I worked with gives me a hug and says, "Be safe out there." Thanks. For some reason, the hug isn't awkward at all - maybe it's that the body armor protects from any real physical contact. We roll out of the gate and our communications equipment fails immediately. Perfect. I try in vain calling any station on the net to no avail. So I don't know the way and our communications equipment is down. I tell the guys in my vehicle to load their ammunition and be ready for an engagement on the road.

The way is dark. The streetlights that work shine dimly on the street. We're moving forward and the fear is getting the best of me. Every moving vehicle looks suspicious and could be a potential suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. I let this fear come out in some of the internal conversations in the vehicle. It was my great failing on the mission - allowing fear to spill out to my guys. It was my least proudest moment in Afghanistan so far. We are all on heightened alert and we continue moving down the road. I hear a flickering on the radio and momentarily, my hopes are buoyed but quickly dashed when I try a radio check and fail to hear anything in response. We continue on.

Our vehicle is still moving. Nothing has happened yet. Cars drive on the wrong side of the road. It's sometimes hard to distinguish between those people who are bad drivers and those who might pose a threat. Nothing happens. We make a turn down another road. We see a glittering palace that resembles a casino. I ask my interpreter about it. He tells me it's a wedding hall. I tell him that it looks like pictures of Las Vegas. He asks me what that is. We keep driving in silence.

Still nothing. It's hard to believe that we haven't been noticed, but nothing has happened. We are driving down dark roads, making turns around large rotaries and suddenly we're inside the Afghan base. I am elated. The pit of fear in my stomach dissipates. We are safe. The rest of the vehicles of the kandak begin parking. I see the kandak commander. I go over to him, shake his hand and say, "Congratulations on a successful deployment!" He slaps me on the shoulder multiple times. "Tasha Kor! Tasha Kor! Would you like some chai?" No, I think this time I'll just be on my merry way. We make plans for our next rendezvous and we drive back to the American base.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What is an ETT?

Most of my posts so far have been about what we've done over here. I realized recently that this is all well and good, but I haven't really explained who we are and what we're doing besides basics. So for those of you expecting a post about the daring-do of our ETT Team, be forewarned, this is a history lesson and the actual mechanics of an ETT. N'Shallah, I will write more about my experiences soon.

Before coming over to Afghanistan, I did a fair amount of research on what is an ETT and what an ETT does. From what I found, everyone's experiences are different. No one does the same thing and that's sort of the point. First ETT stands for "Embedded Training Team." It's the military's idea of fusing host nation forces together with a team of Americans who will help train, advise and then go on missions with them.

The history of ETT is an interesting one. Traditionally, an ETT mission was done by someone like this...

Yes, that's John Wayne from the movie, "The Green Berets." Traditional "ETT" missions were performed by Special Forces in Vietnam. The concept was simple: Drop into a village somewhere, train the locals to fight the communists, advise them on how to better their lives and then go out and fight alongside of them. It was a good concept and the Special Forces community had a great deal of success especially with the Montegnard tribe in Vietnam. With the implementation of conventional forces into Vietnam after 1965, the U.S. military took on the brunt of fighting in effect sidelining local fighters. After conventional U.S. forces entered Vietnam, most of the counter-insurgency fight was done by conventional military forces. However, the Marines instituted a program known as the "Combined Action Program" that embedded U.S. Marines with South Vietnamese units.

This program had a fair amount of success but was strongly resisted by those who favored fighting the communist insurgency through large-scale battles fought over vast swaths of land. The communists did not comply. Instead, they fought where they chose and while never quite winning a tactical victory against the United States, they won in the court of public opinion. The battle was for something greater than "body counts." It was a battle for something more abstract: the support of the population. It was something that U.S. commanders realized far too late to have any real impact.

This brings us to the "Global War on Terrorism" or "Global contingency on Terrorism" or whatever it's being called now. I'll stick with the label "war" for the time being as it most accurately reflects events on the ground. Initially, small units of Special Forces soldiers operating with the Northern Alliance utilizing superior firepower and small-unit fundamentals defeated a much larger, better-equipped force of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. Within 6 weeks, 80% of Afghanistan was held by pro-U.S. forces. Special Forces soldiers went to battle like this

This was one of the most successful uses of small teams of U.S. forces embedded within local national people ever achieved. However, the Taliban wasn't done. Firefights erupted across Afghanistan and large-scale battles were waged which cost many American and Afghan lives. I recommend the book "Not a Good Day to Die" by Sean Naylor as a good example of the vicious nature of post-invasion fighting in Afghanistan.

And then there was Iraq. Whatever the merits of the invasion, it was conducted very conventionally with an armor-heavy assault through the Iraqi army to get to Baghdad as quickly as possible. Like the communists in Vietnam, the Iraqis realized that they couldn't fight against the Americans conventionally. Soon after the invasion, anti-American Iraqis and Al-Qaeda forces began utilizing unconventional tactics - Improvised Explosive Devices planted along the sides of roads, suicide bombers, ambushes, vehicle-borne explosive devices. American forces would typically win these tactical engagements but the momentum of the insurgency continued. More Americans died. Public support for the war in Iraq waned. The insurgents seemed to take a lesson from the Viet Cong that an insurgency fight was not about winning or losing on the battlefield, it was about winning the battle for the population, a war of public opinion.

Some coalition commanders realized as much and began to fight a true counterinsurgency war in Iraq. Part of the equation in counterinsurgency was training what's known as "host-nation forces." In Iraq, they introduced Military Transition Teams (MTT - pronounced "mitt") in order to train the Iraqi army and police to take responsibility for their own country. Eventually, MTT teams trained over 300,000 Iraqi police and soldiers. Part of the success story of MTT teams can be seen in the Battle of Basra (2008) where Iraqi army and police (with American MTT support) defeated Moqtada Al Sadr's Mahdi army. MTT teams continue to work in Iraq.

Afghanistan seemed peaceful in contrast to Iraq for a while. Eventually, the Taliban regrouped a bit and was out and about fighting an insurgency. American casualties increased (and still are increasing) in Afghanistan. The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police were in need of some serious training and mentoring. That's where we come in.

First, for those who might be reading this for the first time, here's what we're not. We're not Special Forces. We don't have super-human strength. None of us have been to Afghanistan before. Here's what we are: National Guard soldiers, most of the guys in my team are in their late 20s or early 30s, my guys are Field Artillery guys (I have an infantry background), street smart, lots of military experience (whether in the Guard or the active duty time). These are the kinds of people that you want for a mission like this.

Our mission here is to advise an ANA Kandak (equivalent of a battalion). When I say advise, I should probably also mention the word "mentor." Mentorship is the name of the game. Afghans look to Americans to make decisions for them. We don't and we shouldn't. We advise. We offer other options. We're the guys who say, "Have you considered..." That's us. We also don't give them supplies. One of the earliest issues we've encountered here is that the ANA always asks us for supplies. Whether it's ammo or communications equipment or vehicles, they are constantly asking for everything and anything. Our response: Use your supply chain; fill out your supply form and use it. It's frustrating to them. It's frustrating to us. We want to help them, but we also want to create the framework by which they can help themselves when we leave.

We focus on the basics. Everything we do is very basic. As an old Special Forces guy told one of my soldiers, "It's not that we have some secret skills that no one knows about. We just do the basics over and over again in order to master them." That's what we're doing. We go over the basics ad nauseum until they have mastery over it. Moreover, we teach their officers and sergeants about the basics so they can teach their guys.

The work is frustrating and very rewarding all on the same hand. We make friends quickly with the Afghans, but are sometimes frustrated by progress. What we have to realize is that progress isn't measured in American terms. We're not looking to create the next Afghan Ranger Battalion. We're looking to mentor Afghans who want to stand up for themselves and for their country. Here's what an Afghan soldier looks like

And here's what he's fighting for

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dushman (Enemy)

"If I see Taliban, I will kill him with my own hands." I'm sitting over a meal of rice, beef, chickpeas and a flatbread that resembles Naan with one of my interpreters who is putting the chickpeas, rice and meat together with the bread and eating it with his fingers. I try to emulate. We're both sitting cross-legged on the ground next to the supply truck. "Why do you say that?" He looks at me and gives me a serious look and says, "Taliban blew up my vehicle, only the platoon commander and me survived . Everyone else died. So when I see Taliban, I will kill them." I asked if he was injured. He said yes, and showed me a scar on the top of his head and said that he was in surgery for several months. I asked him how old he was, he told me 20 years old. He looked at me again with that same seriousness and said, "I will kill Taliban for what they did." I told him I liked his spirit. He gave me the last of his flatbread.

The sun rises lazily over Kabul. It's obscured by the hazy pollution that sits over many third world metropolises. It doesn't matter. Our vehicles are rolling along the outskirts of Kabul. The streets are crowded with vendors and vehicles. No one thinks twice about cutting their vehicle into our convoy. It's unsettling, but we drive on. We drive into the Afghan National Army (ANA) compound and we make our way out to the training area where our Afghan counterparts and the Americans are setting up for the day. Unfortunately I don't have my camera (for reasons I'll explain later), but picture a valley surrounded by high mountains all around with snow capping the tops of them. It's picturesque.

The ANA commander shakes my hand, "Good morning!" This is about the extent of his English. He beams with pride. For an Afghan, he is tall and slightly regal looking. They told us that many of the senior ANA commanders are old Mujaheddin fighters from when the Soviets were here in the 80s. I'm not sure if this guy is or not, but he grips my hand with the confidence one expects of a senior officer. He speaks through my interpreter, "I am happy to have you as my mentor!" I respond, "I am pleased to be working with such a fine unit." We exchange further pleasantries and he went about commanding his unit.

My role is not to be the Afghan commander or make decisions for him. I'm his mentor and adviser. I don't offer solutions, I offer suggestions. At the moment, I'm working with another American unit who is doing their training, so my role right now is mostly observation until the ANA unit becomes operational. When it becomes operational, we assume responsibility and start working with them.

The ANA is doing heavy weapons training on this day. We watch as Romanian soldiers unload Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers and the rockets for the launchers. The Afghans are huddled around this. They like weapons that make a great big explosion. We do too. The Romanians speak English and teach the Afghans how to load and carry the launcher and we wonder whether we might be given the opportunity to fire one of these rockets. We also watch as other American soldiers set up 50 caliber machine guns in order to familiarize the ANA with their use and how to load, unload and fire them. WHOOOOOSH BOOM! I turn and one of the Romanians has fired an RPG at the rusted hull of a tank 300 meters away. One of the things about Afghanistan is that relics of previous wars are never in short supply. Rusted out tanks and armored vehicles dot the landscape as do bombed out houses. We always have something to shoot at. The Afghans cheers and start shouting. Some of their own line up to fire RPGs. They're given 30 rounds. They hit the tank 4 times. This is considered a success. They cheer whenever a round impacts the tank and we cheer right alongside of them. Meanwhile, the Afghans are struggling with the .50 cals. They are cautious of the weapon and the first couple of soldiers who try to use it fire single shots. Eventually, they start getting into it and started firing sustained bursts. Nothing quite like RPGs and .50 cals going off at the same time.

One of the more interesting aspects of work out here is working with our interpreters. We call them "Terps" for short. They're young men for the most part and speak enough passable English to interpret our conversations with the ANA. They think they're bad, but we try to straight them out. Interpreters here are given the opportunity to get a Visa to move to the United States after 2 years of interpreter work. It's dangerous work and we have heard that the Taliban is paying $20,000 for a dead interpreter. They're smart and funny and think it's cool to try and use American lingo. We frequently have to remind them to stop cussing so much. They respond that they are only copying how the Americans talk. We have nothing to say to this.

Training is wrapping up. Afghans don't like to train after 3 pm. We return to our base. Two days later, we head out again to the training where the ANA is drawing equipment. We don't stay too long. We've received another mission to make a humanitarian assistance (HA) drop at a local school. One of the soldiers has received a a poster from the Library of Congress in DC depicting "woman in science." The only problem is that we don't know where the school is, so we improvise. We pull off the side of the road and ask one of the locals for directions to the nearest school. He points us in the right direction. Several U-turns later, we are winding down a bumpy, dusty road.

Afghans love us or hate us. Mostly, these emotions are often seen within short spans of time. Afghan children run up to our vehicles. We dismount our vehicles and I start saying "Salaam Aleikum" to the kids. They surround me saying, "Mister, mister! Chocolate! Candy! Pepsi! Pen! Notebook!" I smile and feign my best "ignorant westerner" smile and walk toward the school.

We are allowed permission to enter the school. We walk in and speak to the administrator. He's excited about the posters. I realize the posters are in English, but I smile away anyways. He offers us chai. We decline as hospitably as we can. We have to go. Before we go, he has a list of things he needs. I write them down. We bid goodbye to the school administrator and walk back to our vehicles. A mob of children surround me and start reaching into my pockets to take my stuff. I'm dumbfounded by this. I tell them, "No! No! No!" They don't listen. As I'm climbing into my vehicle, they're still clawing at my pockets and trying to pull me back down into the crowd. Fortunately, I'm able to climb up into my vehicle and close the door. I check all my stuff to make sure I have everything. Wallet, cell phone, ID, wait, where's my camera. I check all my pockets. It's not there. I knew I had it before, but I don't have it now. The kids stole my camera. All the pictures I've taken of Afghanistan are now in the hands of thieving children. I am not pleased.

Afghanistan is a beautiful country. The mountain ranges are immense. I would have pictures of this, were it not for children and their small thieving hands. Work here is tiring but I think it will pay huge dividends, not only for us but for the country of Afghanistan as a whole. Thank you again for the encouragements you've sent. Keep in touch.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The rocky road to Kabul

"Did that Afghan just flick me off?" We had just left Kabul International Airport and someone noticed a pair of Afghan men in an alleyway giving an upturned hand gesture toward our convoy. It seemed angry, but having been in the country for all of about 2 hours, we weren't entirely sure. Welcome to Afghanistan....

Much as we might have wanted to stay in Louisiana (be assured we didn't), our path led elsewhere. We arrived at the airport around midnight and began our journey halfway around the world. We were packed into our plane tight as could be and began journeying first to Maine, then Ireland and then Kyrgyzstan. Flying into Kyrgyzstan, the only thing I could conclude was that it was a sparsely populated country.We landed at Manas Air Force base and waited for transportation to Afghanistan. We didn't know how long we were going to be there. They told us it could be a week or 24 hours. We tried to enjoy our stay as much as we could. They had amenities that made us feel like Kyrgyzstan was nothing more than a vacation. It wasn't. The hesco barriers and armed guards at the gate were a constant reminder.Finally we got word that we were about to be locked down in preparation for our flight into Afghanistan. We loaded all of our gear and equipment and sat in a large building and waited...
Finally we got word to grab our carry on items and make our way to the bus. We boarded the bus and drove out to the runway and began boarding.
Our flight took off and we rapidly ascended. I took this opportunity to read, but someone told me that we were able to go up to the cockpit. I jumped at the chance. When I made it up to the cockpit, the view was breathtaking.The co-pilot even took a picture for me through his heads-up display.
One of the crew chiefs told me that we were flying over the Hindu Kush mountains. I was impressed. As I descended from he cockpit, I noticed that the crew had strung an American flag and I know it's corny, but I felt moved by it.
We were told to take our seats as we flew into Afghan airspace. What seemed like a peaceful ride made a somewhat turbulent turn as the plane descended into Kabul. When one thinks of a descent, it's usually gradual as to not cause too much discomfort. I cannot say the same for this ride. It was a rapid descent and felt more like a roller coaster than anything else. We landed with a thud and many of the soldiers who had been sleeping were jarred awake.
We exited the aircraft and Kabul International Airport lay before us. Ringed by hilltops to our immediate front and the Hindu Kush mountains farther away, it was an impressive site.

We waited around Kabul airport for transportation to Camp Phoenix. When we finally got it, we got our first look at what Afghanistan looks like. I don't have any pictures of that yet. All I can say is that the country is... different. We weren't in the countryside for long, but my observation is that the country is impoverished and crowded. People milled about our convoy as if no one noticed that armed Americans were driving through the street. Shops were open all around us. When I say shops, picture boxed sheet metal with a signs written in Dari, Pashto and English. Goods were sold at every corner. Our drive was short, but something sparked one of the soldiers. A soldier pointed at something outside of the window and shouted, "Did that Afghan just flick me off?" We all laughed, but I couldn't help but feel somewhat unsettled. Was it anger or something that our non-adept American minds couldn't perceive? I don't know. As we become accustomed to Afghanistan, perhaps it will all be made clear, but perhaps not.

I have to run for now, but I'll try and write something about Camp Phoenix at a later point. Cheers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

In between a rock and a hard place, there's usually an IED

It's 4 in the morning and my soldiers have already been up for 12 hours. We're stopped along a road. We are unable to move. Up ahead, our lead element has spotted a possible IED (Improvised Explosive Device). We can't be too sure since it's dark, but we're fairly certain. We are completely exhausted, but we wait for EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) to come and clear the IED. We wait for several hours. The sun comes up and they're still not here. We're going on 18 hours of no rest. Finally, EOD shows up, clears the IED and we make our way back to our base only to receive yet another mission which will last us all the way until midnight.

That was a recent scenario down here at JRTC. We just finished our rotation here. Our exhaustion level is high but we're happy with what we've done and look forward to what's next. A lot of people ask when we're heading overseas and I have to unfortunately beg off the question. We do know the date, but we're not supposed to be talking about. Suffice to say when we're overseas, I will let you all know via the blog and facebook.

Thanks to everyone who's called, wrote and kept in touch. I've appreciated all of them. Things are going to start getting interesting soon, so I really appreciate all the nice notes, e mails and calls. Take care and I will talk to you all hopefully soon.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


I'm being moved from being the Assistant S1 to a platoon leader position and also moving to a different battalion. More to follow on this.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Indiana is flat, Afghanistan is mountainous

It's been 11 days since I've hit the ground here at Camp Atterbury. Temperatures here have thankfully risen past the freezing point which makes for more bearable living conditions but the melting snows do create different problems.

I've settled somewhat into a routine here at Camp Atterbury. Most days begin between 4 and 6 in the morning. We wake up, do hygiene and eat. Most days after that, we do classes from everything ranging from hot/cold weather injuries to CIED (Counter Improvised Explosive Device) to briefs about the culture and history of Afghanistan. Often, this is done through PowerPoint and it's a challenge attempting to stay awake for 8-10 power point presentations.

After classes, we'll generally split off into our respective sections and shops. My "shop" is the S1 shop which has the primary task of conducting the administration and personnel issues at the squadron/battalion level. As noted before, I have been assigned as the Assistant S1. The best way to look at this from a civilian side would be that I'm an assistant manager. We have several soldiers who work in the shop. As an infantry officer without any time in a staff position, I am often lost as to what to do, but I'm trying to learn - ever so slowly. I generally work there until around 8 pm and then we do PT. We're doing a program called "Crossfit" which is an excellent full-body workout which incorporate endurance and muscular strength activities. As one of the other officers said, "You may work behind a desk, but I'll have physically fit officers sitting behind desks." If you're interested, you can find the link here

There's not a lot of free time or personal time. Most days last from early in the morning until late at night. I'm learning that even when most soldiers may be resting, relaxing and recovering from the day, officers and non-commissioned officers (Sergeants) are busy through those times. I'll often collapse at the end of the day into my bunk and sleep until the next morning when it's all done again. We work 7 days a week, most days are around 17-18 hours. It's exhausting at times and exhilarating at others. I suppose my natural laziness is being challenged working here.

All in all, I'm having a decent time out here. Privacy is nil, but I'm OK with that. Hope all is well with everyone. Thanks for those who have written. God bless. J