KABUL, Afghanistan -- The various bases in and around Kabul definitely have an international flavor with numerous coalition forces stationed here.
While the British have a large force in Helmand Province and the Czechs field a moderate force at Forward Operating Base Shank, Camp Phoenix is a mini-United Nations as is the military side of the house at Kabul International Airport, which houses soldiers from about 30 countries.
Last year while at KIA, I saw soldiers from South Korea and Mongolia and most countries from Europe. Some of my neighbors in a tent compound came from Romania and Lithuania.
For the past few days at Camp Phoenix, I have noticed many Canadian soldiers as well as soldiers from Romania and Bulgaria. The Nevada Army National Guard's 593rd Transportation Company, which has been at Camp Phoenix since summer, has forged a friendship with the Bulgarian army. The company's commander and first sergeant, Capt. Curt Kolvet and 1SG Harry Schroeder, were invited to a party hosted by the Bulgarians. We were greeted by Capt. Kahtapeb Kantarev and introduced to other soldiers including a man who had one of the bushiest fu manchu mustaches I have ever seen.
During the time spent with the Bulgarians, upward to six soldiers danced to Bulgarian folk music. Capt. Atamecoba Atanasova explained folk dancing is one way for them to keep Bulgarian tradition alive.
In addition to conversation, music and dance, the Bulgarians also enough food to literally feed an army!
As with many of the countries in Afghanistan, they are beginning to scale back the number of military personnel. The French have drastically reduced the size of their force in Afghanistan, and the Germans departed Camp Phoenix after the 593rd arrived.
As for Monday night, it turned out to be a very entertaining evening and meeting soldiers from another country in an informal setting was an excellent way to conclude the day.
Monday was a day for the 593rd to prepare for the week and also a time for me to talk with many soldiers from the Nevada unit. This is truly a Silver State company with soldiers representing every section of the state.
What makes the 593rd an interesting unit is its personality. From mothers to college students to ranch hands to businessmen, the soldiers work well with each other, whether it is here in garrison or on the road during convoy operations.
There is no North-South separation. The platoons include soldiers from both metro areas and the rural counties. I had the opportunity to meet brothers from Elko County, guardsmen from Winnemucca and mothers who miss their children dearly but know they have a mission here in Afghanistan. Likewise, many fathers are over here and also talk about their sons and daughters and how much they miss them. During their deployment, guardsmen have missed birthdays and anniversaries and will not be with their families on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Each solider has an interesting story to tell, and while guardsmen comprise a company, it is the individual soul that puts life into perspective.
With Thanksgiving several days away, Capt. Kolvet is encouraging platoons or squads to spend time with each other on the holiday although it is still a work day.
Still, Thanksgiving day provides a slice of Americana in a land 9,000 miles away.
LVN Editor Steve Ranson is in Afghanistan covering Nevada soldiers who are currently deployed there. A retired guardsmen, Ranson is making his second trip to Afghanistan in as many years.