Sunday, March 25, 2007


Q: Where are you going?
A: I will be going to Afghanistan, working with US and NATO (ISAF) forces there. Note that this is still provisional as I don't have written orders. However, I'm in training now.

Q: Is this for ____?
A: This is for work. We have a few analysts in Iraq and Afghanistan for various reasons.

Q: I thought you were going earlier?
A: The original plan was for February, but there was consideration of cutting back in Afghanistan. Apparently the group in Afghanistan we were supporting complained of lacking someone from my company. So my predecessors were doing something important.

Q: Are they making you go?
A: I volunteered.

Q: How long will you be there?
A: The agreed term is 3 months. So I should be there from late-April to sometime in August. But everyone from my company who has gone to Iraq or Afghanistan has extended their time to a greater or lessor extent.

Q: How does your mom feel?
A: Not very happy. Worried. I'm pretty sure that it is part of the job description of being a mom to be worried when a son or daughter goes to a war zone.

Q: What will you be doing?
A: I am going there for operational analysis, very much like the first British and American operations researchers did during WWII. And since I am there, I will do any other quantitative analysis that the commander finds helpful.

Q: How many are going from your company?
A: To my location, just myself.

Q: Will you grow a beard?
A: A beard is a sign of a mature male of status. Being very junior, and not having to much contact with the local population, I don't expect it to be needed. There are a couple of others in my company who have very nice beards. And they do go wandering around neighborhoods, villages etc and seem to command a measure of respect.

Q: Will you be wandering around?
A: No. I'll be pretty much limited to going from base to base.

Q: Will you get training?
A: I am going to Virginia for training this week.

Q: What kind of training?
A: Some basic working with the military presentations (Geneva convention), first aid, some cultural familiarization, survival and weapon training. Although my feeling is if I have to use my weapon, that is a clear sign everyone around me is having a bad day. On my own, I've picked up language materials in Dari (a dialect of Farsi), but my lack of language skills has been proven repeatedly. I have an Afghani collegue who I have spoken with on a few occasions. As well as collegues who have gone and returned

Q: How are you taking care of things at home?
A: I have a couple of neighbors who will watch my apartment, check mail, etc. daily. And let me know about things like bills, anything really important. Red Cross will have to cover my few shifts every month with other volunteers (and they were just going to promote me too :-( ) My Pittsburgh Symphony spot will go silent, unless I find something interesting and cultural to write about over there :-) My NAAAP board responsibilities will have to be covered by the remaining board members (a call for help has gone out).

Q: What do you think about the war?
A: My sense is part of the American tradition of civilian control of the military is when the decision to go is made, the focus on those going to war is doing their duty. That being said, I don't agree with my graduate student bible study leader who believed that you should trust authority because they know things you don't, we are intended to be thinking members of a democracy. As for myself, there is probably enough in the form of book reviews available over the internet that you may discern how I think. But for now, my focus going there is on doing my job.

Q: Will you keep in contact?
A: My initial intention is to keep a blog of some sort. Of course, it would be of the type that my mother will read, so some things will not be in it. But it will likely be a mix of day to day life and naturalist observations of they type pioneered by To that end I am getting a South Asian birding field guide (the only (!) one that includes Afghanistan) and I'll be bringing binoculars and my birding notebook. I expect that there will be some form of internet access, but it was in flux as of last check.

Q: Will you be visiting Washington DC?
A: I expect a quick visit while returning for training (and meeting some people for lunch Saturday, March 31 in Silver Spring). Most likely there will be at least one other visit during a workday.

Q: Will you be visiting Chicago?
A: I will be making another visit to family and friends in Chicago during the April 7-8 weekend.
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