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March 21, 2005

Trip to Bamiyan...

*That's how *this* officer spells it, Keith!*

Another story from MSG Keith, the Castle's Correspondent in Afghanistan...

This time, it covers a trip to Bamiyan... if the name sounds familiar, it's where the Taliban destroyed the thousand-year-old sculptures of the Buddha. Geez, how medieval can you get?

Trip to Bamian (or Bamiyan, depending on which officer you listen to. But then, who really listens to them...?)

We left out of here at 0800 and drove to Kabul Inter Airport and loaded up on a Russian Mi-8 helicopter. It was weird standing there on the Tarmac, looking at Russian Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters. A few years ago, I was training to shoot them down now I'm riding in one. There were 15 of us in the Mi-8, but only 13 seats, and no seat belts. And there was a spare fuel tank INSIDE the cabin with us. We flew about an hour to Bamiyan, a village of about 1000 people to open an ANA volunteer (recruiting) center. After a couple hours of speeches, and presenting gifts, we watched a sheep get sacrificed to open the center. We had lunch in the center. All of the Americans, approx 15 sat at one table. The lunch was rice, pita-type bread and some kind of meat, probably goat or lamb. Whatever it was, it was good. The rice had a taste of cinnamon. Apparently, cinnamon is one of their main spices. Desert was white grapes and Apples. And they served Pepsi. Pepsi is a biggy here. It's served whenever guests are eating. Cool.

After that they took us to the 'mountain.' [pic above, ed.] If you remember, after the Taliban took over, they destroyed some giant Buddha statues carved into a mountain. The statues had been there for 1600 years, and the Taliban thought they were disrespectful to their [debased view of the Muslim] religion. I remember seeing on TV the Taliban firing tanks at them. Come to find out, because the rock was so soft, the rounds were punching through without much damage. They forced some of the locals to be lowered down on ropes from the top to place dynamite on the statues. Anyway, we were there! We drove through the town right up to the base of the mountains and caves. It was so cool! I even picked up a rock to send home! While we were waiting for the general to wrap up his tour of the Buddhas, this little girl climbed up the side of the roadway to where we were at. She didn't look to be more three or four and she climbed up like a billy goat. She could climb the hill better than we could!

After a while, we headed back to the airfield and loaded up for the ride home. As I was standing there, it hit me that I was halfway around the world, being a part of history. I had been in-country all of 6 days. Seeing what the Taliban had done in person, and seeing the Afghans working toward being a free country. Bosnia was cool, but this is awesome. And actually, in some aspects, the Afghans are further along toward independence after three years than the Bosnians are after 10.

Enjoy the photos. Oh, and no photos of the sheep sacrifice...

The Armorer, being a sucker for small cute critters - is happy that you skipped the sacrifice part!