CBS 11 anchor Keith Garvin and photojournalist Edgar Solis are traveling to Afghanistan to see the U.S. war effort firsthand. In February they will bring back a series of stories about our troops there. While they are traveling, Keith is writing this blog for CBSDFW.COM.
BAGRAM AIR BASE, AFGHANISTAN – Tuesday, January 24:
“If I die, listen to my driver. If my driver dies, listen to the rest of my guys. If anyone else dies. Well if that happens, that means we’re probably all going to die anyway.”
Those were the first words spoken to us today by the platoon commander who took us out on patrol with his military police unit. Real risk. Real responsibility. Real talk.
Today Edgar & I took our first trip outside the wire of Bagram Airfield. We tagged along with a military police company out Fort Richardson in Alaska. The unit is attached to the First Cavalry Division during its mission in eastern Afghanistan.
The vehicle we travelled in was an impressive & imposing MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) armored vehicle. The MRAP is designed to withstand impact from roadside bombs and in many cases rocket-propelled grenades. It also has technology to jam cell phone signals, which are often used to detonate roadside bombs.
The platoon commander, a gritty 24-year-old lieutenant from Washington state who loves his job & loves his troops, was giving us instructions on how to handle ourselves in the event of some sort of attack. Thankfully all went well!
Today’s mission took us about 60 miles from Bagram Airfield, through the capital of Kabul, to Combat Outpost Gwan. It’s a joint U.S.-French-Afghan base. The platoon we were with was there to retrieve U.S. soldiers & equipment. The French had been there for almost a year to train Afghan security forces. The French are leaving the base after an Afghan soldier shot & killed four French soldiers and wounded 15 others at COP Gwan last week. The shooting almost caused the French to leave Afghanistan entirely but a few hours ago they announced they will be staying. However when our convoy left COP Gwan, the French followed us out & exited that particular base for good. The military police platoon was there to retrieve four U.S. soldiers, some equipment, & a few American contractors.
Despite the recent tragedy & the 3 hours it took to drive 60 miles through the rugged terrain, the area surrounding the base is absolutely impressive. COP Gwan sits in Tagab Valley in Kapisha Province, which is nestled in the Hindu Kush. Hindu Kush is a phrase that literally means “Kill the Hindus” in Persian & Urdu. The phrase refers the days when Hindus from India died in the mountain range due to the harsh weather. As beautiful as these mountains are, they are equally brutal.
We also got to spend a few minutes meeting a large group of kids outside Kabul when our convoy stopped there. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel a lot of places around the world from Rwanda, to Iraq, & now Afghanistan. I’ve learned that despite differences in culture, ethnicity, & even religion God created us with far more similarities than differences.
You see the commonalities most in the children of the world, and I saw them today when we were able to converse with the kids through an interpreter. No matter what country you’re talking about, its children want and deserve the chance to live happy, healthy, & productive lives. I pray that our nation’s involvement can turn that chance into reality for the children & people of Afghanistan.