Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Letter from Mike Polley

Mike Polley, who is serving in Afghanistan, sent us this update to share with the church:

Dear family and
We have reached the 10 month mark since we left Oregon. The weather
has cooled down to 60-70s for high and 40-50s for low. At 7,300 feet, we
could get snow before the end of the month. We are shipping some
nonessential items home. This has brightened everyone’s spirits knowing
the end is not too much further away. We should all be home before
Christmas (knock on wood).

One of our priorities has been to develop partnerships with the
Afghans. We are trying to come along side of them, work with and teach
them, so they can adequately take over for us when the US forces leave by
2014. Our interactions have been new, different, and at times, downright
uncomfortable. For example, most of our interactions are through
interpreters since none of us speak their language and only a very few of them
speak (broken) English. Sometimes you wonder if the intent of the message
is being translated correctly. Their customs and courtesies are different
from ours and they enjoy social events (you best not be in a hurry to accomplish
your agenda).
One common social event is eating. Yes, eating their food, prepared their way. There are no USDA regulatory agencies over here or food preparation inspections. While their food is filling and tastes good, you sometimes wonder how it was prepared. Some Soldiers have felt queasy after eating, some have thrown up, some have had diarrhea and some unlucky Soldiers have had all of the above. They don’t have dishwashers to sterilize the dishes. In most villages, there is no running
water to wash your hands prior to eating. So, it is uncomfortable to meet
and greet each other and then sit down to eat. Who knows where those hands
have been. Without furniture, you normally sit on the floor and eat with
your fingers because there are no eating utensils; plus you serve yourself from
community dipping bowls. The Afghans remove their shoes inside buildings
and sit cross-legged with their feet inches from the food. When they serve
their tea, you wonder where the water came from. Did I mention
flies? They are all over the place and on the food. I think you’re
getting the picture. Only the strong survive. The higher your rank,
the more likely you are to find yourself in this situation. That is where
the battalion commander (BC) and I come in. We often participate in these
events as it would be rude not to. I can say that the BC and I have pretty
good diets, exercise regularly, take vitamins and have decent immune
systems. So far, we have not gotten sick, but we are the exception (again,
knock on wood).
I’ve had 15 days off so far this year. That was my
required leave that I talked about in my last letter. Working 12 hours a
day is calling it an early day. Most days are 14-16 hours per day, while
some are longer. Yes, we do take breaks, eat, exercise and try to get in a
nap about once or twice a month. I must admit that I’m really tired on
some days, but persevere through. A 5-15 minute power nap can save the
day. Most Soldiers don’t put in these many hours, but it is tough and
demanding at the top of the pyramid. So you can believe me when I say I
looking forward to coming home.
Operationally we are amazing. We are involved with engineer missions (including horizontal, vertical and route clearance), Civil-Military operations, Afghanistan National Army (ANA) partnerships and much more. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait until I get back to hear and see some of the things we have accomplished, plus stories from behind the scenes. I have attached a couple of pictures of some projects
we done. The horizontal construction company had to level the area and the
vertical construction company built the structures. As you can see from
the pictures, we do quality work. And of course, any living conditions at
any location that we can improve are liked by all. The orders just keep
coming in.
We are already thinking and planning for winterization as winter
for us is just around the corner. The locals say we had a mild winter last
year and could get several feet of snow this year. Some years they say
have snowed as much as six feet. Well, if that happens, we hope to be on a
plane by then. Many, many other stories to tell, but will have to wait
until I get back.
I took my physical fitness test on 26 SEP 2011, and while my score of 353 was impressive (88 push-ups in 2 minutes, 80 sit-ups in 2 minutes and 13:53 in the 2 mile run – all in less than one hour – all at 7,300 feet elevation) a few young bucks did beat my score. The Bible says that “iron sharpens iron” and this competition has been fun. Some of these Soldiers are in the best shape of their lives. Numbers are still coming in so you’ll have to wait until next time to hear how I’ll be rewarding them.
I also ran the Lincoln (Nebraska) ½ marathon in 2:02 last month as well as the
Army 10-mile at 1:30. The Portland satellite marathon is next
Alex had a good time in Italy. He met a girl named Maria
through one of the Soldiers here (her sister) and it was their first get
together. Even though they had talked on the phone, Skype and emailed, it
was the blind date of blind dates. Could have been bad for one or both of
them, but they both really enjoyed it. He said they have a lot in common
and enjoyed each other’s company. She is planning to move to Oregon…
I am happy to report that there are a few less bad guys here and that we have made
a positive difference with the missions and interactions we’ve been involved
with. Please keep us in your prayers. I am looking forward to seeing and
talking with all of you when I get back.
Proudly serving my country and missing you,

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