173rd Airborne Commander’s Cup-Part 2

Me posing for a picture in front of former Russian O-club.

After watching the teams assemble the weapons, my interpreter Omid and I started the hike back down the hill.  The 173rd Airborne’s joint teams found it much easier going down the mountain and proceeded into a run to their next event.  Their next tasking would evaluate their land navigation skills.  They were provided a map of the ANA camp and they would have to seek out bright yellow puzzle pieces.  After they collected all 9 pieces of the puzzle, they would convene again at the next station for additional instructions.

Omid and I took a shortcut to the next station and we passed a large group of soldiers preparing to go to chow at their new DFAC.  I haven’t been inside yet, but plan to visit it in the near future.  I

New recruits preparing to go to chow.

also spotted some ANA soldiers playing volleyball using an invisible net.  At the next staging point the teams were required to decipher the puzzle pieces by forming a word.

ANA soldiers playing volleyball.

Since the characters were in Pashto, this test was given to the ANA soldiers to resolve.  Surprisingly, none of the ANA soldiers were able to resolve the puzzle.  Only after the

ANA soldiers trying to decipher Pashtun puzzle word.

answer was shown to them (Minister of Defense) did they acknowledge what the answer was.  Since no team could resolve it, all of the teams were assessed a 2 minute penalty.

The next test involved preparing an MRAP for a typical mission.  The teams were timed but also evaluated on their knowledge and training

Prepping the MRAP for a mission.

skills.  In the picture, are the first aid backpack, ammunition, M-240b machine gun, gunner’s seat and harness.  The squads would have to properly mount the weapon and ammunition, use the radio equipment and electronics properly, etc.  Some of the teams were penalized for minor mistakes such as not combat locking their doors and were

Items required to prepare MRAP.

assessed penalty points for the infractions.  Each team was given a 3-minute time out so the evaluator could point out the infractions and the teams could learn from their mistakes.

The last leg of the competition was a jaunt back to the starting point which also served as a finish line.  The teams were pretty tired by this point, but drew on their reserve energy to sprint back to the finish.  Here their times would be assessed and penalties calculated.  When all of the points were tallied, there was a two-way tie between Alpha and Bravo Company.  To resolve the tie-breaker a litter carry race was held on the Landing Zone.  Bravo Company edged out Alpha and was declared this year’s champion.

Later in the day, my team prepared the MRAPs for tomorrow’s mission.  We are still turning in excess and unserviceable equipment through the Army Supply system.  Tomorrow should be another fun day.

11 Mar 10 Mission:  Still no fresh eggs, fruit, milk, cereal or bread at the DFAC.  No ketchup, mustard, or coffee creamer either.  We are all hoping the delivery truck will arrive today.  The DFAC is getting creative with their meals these past two weeks in anticipation of the delivery truck arriving.   It’s still better than having to eat MREs … lol.

Passing a horse-cart.

We departed the camp with our excess Humvees and drove through the capital city.  The air was filled with a lot of smog this morning, but it was another unusually warm day.  In fact, we used the air condition inside the MRAP on the return trip.  It heats up rather quickly when you have all of the protective gear on.  Anyways, on the trip

Overloaded motorcycle.

there, the Captain used my camera to take a close up of a typical horse cart loaded with vegetables.  I also had to maneuver around a motorcycle that was overloaded with supplies.  I knew the driver couldn’t see or hear me.  It amazes me how Afghans are able to load these items and then balance them without wrecking.  Shortly after that, we passed a bicycle that had the same configuration, but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to take his picture.

I like this fake "mink" blanket and think our dogs Sam and Charlie will too. Mrs. "T" may not .. lol 🙂

We spent most of the day processing paperwork and running back and forth to the various offices.  Overall, it was a very successful and uneventful day.  While at Camp Phoenix I visited their bazaar and found a mink blanket that really appealed to me.  I didn’t buy it just yet; I was hoping to get Mrs. T’s approval … lol.  I know our dogs Charlie and Sam enjoy napping on these blankets and since it’s a picture of their ancestors, it should really appeal to them. 

173rd Airborne Commander’s Cup

ANA recruits conducting push-ups.

I don’t know if the winter is over, but it seems like everyone is taking advantage of the warmer weather.  ANA land seems to be bursting at the seams with new recruits being trained to become ANA soldiers.  Today I took some pictures of them conducting push-ups.  Most of these recruits didn’t know what a push-up was until they enlisted in the Afghan national Army.  It’s a bit humorous to see the various styles of them practicing this exercise.  Notice in the picture how many soldiers aren’t keeping their back straight, while others are doing dips, and some of them just gave up.  It will only be a matter of time before they are able to pump out 50 extensions the proper way.  These recruits start their calisthenics early in the morning and finish with a late evening run.  I hear their war whoops every day.

Joint teams receiving instructions.

The ANA weren’t the only ones who were training.  The ANA camp hosted the Commander’s Cup competition for the 173rd Airborne Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) out of FOB Shank.  These companies were having a friendly contest.  Each team consisted of 2 ANA soldiers and 3 US soldiers, which included one female on each

Female soldier provides cover while teammates treat victim.

squad.  The schedule of events would test their physical, mental and training skills.  More importantly, this was a chance to show the joint partnership with the ANA soldiers.  I decided to follow them around with my camera and observe the events.  The only difference, they would wear all of their protective gear and I would not.

Removing victim from field of fire.

After everyone received detailed instructions, the first team lined up by the timekeeper’s table.  My ANA Sergeant Major was there and he was barking at his troops in his loud boisterous voice.  The first event was a simulated fire fight and they would have to run to a designated location and then provide first aid to a wounded teammate.   After diagnosing and

Army soldier prepares victim for transport.

treating the wound, the victim was then strapped to a litter.  The team would have to carry their teammate and litter for two hundred yards where they would get their next set of instructions.  The teams were already breathing hard from the litter carry, but they would have to reserve their energy because now they would climb the steep curvy hill leading up to the former Russian Officer Club.  This is no easy feat without heavy gear.

My interpreter Omid and I went up the hill ahead of the teams so we could take pictures.  My cross-training on the treadmill is paying off and I kept a fast steady pace.  Omid being 23 years younger would jog ahead of me and

Joint team effort with carrying victim on litter.

then rest.  “Walking was too hard,” he said. Notice the steepness of the incline in the picture.  One of the ANA soldiers told Omid, “The Americans are too slow and we should run up the hill.”  But if you notice, he is not wearing any of the 40 lb protective gear.

Team climbing hill to Russian O-club.

At the top of the hill, the teams were given a black plastic box of disassembled weapons parts.  Included in the disassemblies were an AK-47 rifle, M-4 rifle, M-240 and M-249 machine gun, and an M-9 pistol.  The ANA were lightning fast at assembling their

Box of disassembled weapons.

Soviet-made AK-47 rifles while some of the soldiers struggled to assemble their weapons.  Some of the visiting Army personnel were chiding the Air Force, so I made a point to defend my service.  I explained that as an ETT member, we go outside the wire a lot and when people inquire where the Army personnel are, I enlighten them that the Army stays at

Weapons being assembled by team.

the FOB and changes the oil on our vehicles, guards the compound, runs the garrison and creates a ton of unnecessary paperwork.  I also saw an opportunity to rub in the fact that most Air Force personnel are not accustomed to Army weapons, gear, training, etc., yet an Air Force team still holds the record for the fastest time and greatest number of

New ANA recruits out for a run.

points achieved at Fort Riley for MITT and ETT teams.  This boasting quieted their jesting in a hurry.

While at the top of the Russian O-club hill, a company of ANA recruits was running up the hill.  Not all of them ran the entire distance.  The further they climbed the hill, the more spread out they become.  One of the ANA recruits was in a festive mood, because after reaching the top and where the ground levels out, he started skipping the next 1/8th of a mile.  To be cont’d ……

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