'A long timetable'

"'A long timetable'" Continued...

Issue: "Wildfire," June 24, 2006

WORLD: You've mentioned on your blog that media coverage can sometimes overstate the scale of violence in Afghanistan. What would be a more complete picture?

GURLEY: A more complete picture of the U.S. in Afghanistan would include the hundreds of humanitarian missions that are executed every year. The Army has created the Commanders Emergency Relief Program, or CERP, essentially to win the hearts and minds of local communities by investing U.S. money in community projects. CERP's activities include installing wells, building boys' and girls' schools, and distributing thousands of dollars worth of school supplies and clothing donated by Americans to orphans and other young students.

Apart from CERP missions, my unit has also executed many medical missions, which have served some 150 families per mission. At the beginning of the year we also supplied families at Displaced Persons' Camps with months worth of food.

So, a more complete picture has to include all of the immediate needs we are meeting, but also the long-term outlook. I really believe that Afghanistan has hope of growing into a stable country if everything continues on as it has been going. Yes, the violence is terrible to deal with, but things are really in motion for stable economic and governmental systems to develop. There have been successful elections and a solution for the national dependence on opium export is continually being sought.

WORLD: What's a typical day like for you and soldiers at Camp Phoenix?

GURLEY: I think the conditions here are not quite as tough as many people assume. My weekly routine is pretty typical of soldiers at Camp Phoenix. For starters, I work in an "office" eight hours a day. The offices here are in either converted Connex storage containers (complete with power, A/C, and internet) or buildings constructed of flimsy plywood called B-huts. We have a nice gym and a variety of chow hall food prepared by civilian contractors. On Fridays we get surf and turf.

I have to use the military phone system to talk to my girlfriend and family, which can be sketchy at its worst. But it is nothing like the 15 minutes per week that my dad talked about when he served in Baghdad.

In all honesty, there have been times that I've forgotten that there is another culture outside the post walls. Only recently have we seen any real action. Within a four-day period a car bomb and an improvised explosive device detonated just outside our walls, and shots were actually fired into the camp. We've used the bunkers once. There are soldiers who go outside the wire daily, and there are soldiers who have been shot at, and others injured by IEDs. Just not most of us at Camp Phoenix.


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