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Jeff's Afghan Diary: The K-Mart War
June 30, 2007

      A week ago, we added two more members to our team – a Private First Class and a Medic.  They are here to help us concentrate more on training, so we won’t have to be distracted by fending for ourselves and our own security.  Nice in theory, but not enough personnel to make a big difference… but we appreciate having the extra resources, especially the medic.

      “Doc” (the Army term for every medic assigned to a unit) is from Brooklyn, but now lives in the South.  He served for four years in the Army almost four years ago, but was involuntarily recalled to serve with us in Afghanistan (every first-time enlistment contract has an eight-year term; a Soldier can be recalled after completing their tour, for up to the eight years of the initial enlistment contract).  This means that “Doc” was ripped out of his ongoing civilian life, unlike us National Guardsmen who drill every month and realize we are subject to mobilization.  Incredibly, “Doc” is impressively upbeat and positive about being with us, not at all bitter or angry about being called up after being out of the Army for almost four years.

      We have all been moved into a newly-constructed wooden building, built in five days by some local Afghan builders who were told they had to complete the building in five days or not get paid.  You can imagine the quality of their work – the buildings are not square, the floors bounce up and down (we are taking bets about who will be the first to have his foot go through the floor), and there are no windows.  In the summer sun, the inside becomes oven-like.  We have a few electric fans, but having hot air blowing directly on you does not make it feel less hot.

      The 508th has contracted with a local Afghan contractor to put sandbags around the outside, to provide some stability, as well as protection and insulation.  Unfortunately, the sandbags have tended to fall down after they are piled to the roofline, leaving us to wonder what would happen if the sandbags ever fell in towards the building instead of toppling outward as they have.  It was definitely not a happy thought for us.

      It’s been over a month since we got any mail.  It’s disappointing to see other supplies arrive, but no mail.  Seems there have been some problems with helicopters getting mail down our way.

      “Sgt Rock” finally got his truck fixed.  Everything seems to be working well now, and he has become happy with his truck once again.  I put him in for an award for all the work he did – he certainly deserves the recognition.

      We have started digging a new well for the ABP, using the same local contractor as is doing the sandbags (he’s the only contractor in the Do China area).  Unfortunately, when the well was almost complete, some fool threw rocks down into the bottom, rendering it unusable.  There are some Afghans who now have to climb down into the well to dig out the rocks.  It was either sabotage or idiocy (I prefer to think the latter), but hopefully soon their well will be completed.

      We had our generator die on us a day ago, so we are without any power on the entire FOB.  We use our flashlights in our hooch at night.  The only positive aspect so far is that the heat has been down – it’s been almost balmy today, so not having our fans working isn’t killing us.  But I’m not using my computer much now, either – no recharge!

      We’re supposed to get another generator flown in either tomorrow or the next day.  I hear it needs repair – this would be typical for the type of support we often get!  When we need something, we get something broken instead of something new.  This is not surprising; after all, like I said before, this is the “K-Mart War.”

-- Jeff Courter

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.