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More on FOB Mizan
By Michael Fumento
Looking inside this compound is like looking at stop action photography -- you know, like when they make the flower appear to bloom right before your eyes. In the few days I've been here I've seen both sides of the "safe house" (the soldiers' quarters) reinforced extending the roof on both sides and building two new walls of sandbags. The dining facility (DFAC) has been sandbagged about half way up but only because they keep running out of filled bags.
I jokingly told the commander that he must be an engineer. Turns out he is. But like me, he was trained mostly in blowing things up and is in fact a graduate of the sapper school at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. That's where I had my basic and advanced training. Yet Stofan insisted the credit for most of the building goes to his platoon sergeant and "A lot of the structures have been built by the carpenters, guys who've had odd jobs and such. There's no real architect; they wing it."
Stofan, an Officer Candidate School graduate, is rather on the old side for a 1st Lt. at 28. But he only joined the Army in March of 2005. The reason? "I got tired of sitting on the sidelines."
B Co., 1-4 Infantry arrived at FOB Mizan from its base in Hohenfels, Germany (near Nuremburg) on January 15, inheriting the site from the 10th Mountain Division, which in turn took over from the 173rd Airborne Brigade. As discussed in an earlier blog the Mizan district, with a population of about 25,000, is a way station for enemy fighters heading for Helmund and Kandahar Provinces. FOB Mizan was plopped down here not to keep the Taliban entirely out, which is utterly beyond its ability, but to inhibit the movement of the Taliban and improve security in Mizan district.
But patrols are the main tool for keeping the Taliban on the run. "With the random patrols their movement is completely inhibited because they never know when we’ll be there," says Stofan, "and they do not want to fight us. They don't have the numbers, they don't have the discipline and skill (much of their training is religious), and they don't have the weapons. "Their most feared weapon is the RPG," says Stofan. "They may also have 82 millimeter mortars but no base plates so they can't really aim them."
"The last school in the Mizan district closed two years ago," he says, "yet about 50-60 percent of population is under 14 years old. There's a rapidly growing younger generation not getting educated. There is some Koran teaching going on and I asked the instructor if he'd expand teachings to grammar and math if we provided the books. He said he would, but the process of getting these things is long."
Except, perhaps, for additions to the FOB, everything moves slowly out here and the people are quite used to it. Sometimes "slowly" is not at all -- or at least not in 2,000 years. "You could take a picture of one of these villages and it would look like something out of a nativity scene," says Stofan. I have, and it does.
Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.