A Submariner In Afghanistan
Today, as everyone knows, is the 6th anniversary of the attacks that woke most people up to the existence of the War on Terror. I'm still haunted by the images of that day:
While remembrance is important, it's also important to remember that the world goes on, and each tragedy brings forth important work to do. One person doing that work right now is LT Kenneth Cooke. LT Cooke is a submariner; he did his JO tour on USS Boise (SSN 764), and went to SUBLANT for his post-JO shore duty. One of his old Boise shipmates sent me an E-mail to let me know what Kenneth is doing now. Excerpts:
He's spending 400+ days in Sharana, Afghanistan, in the Paktika province. It's on the SE border, not too far from Pakistan. His job there is to oversee the construction, reconstruction, and subsequent employment of Afghanistan. The PRT contracts out for roads, schools, dams, etc. to local construction companies. Ken, since he's an expert, is the engineer that signs off on many of the projects. As such, he deals directly with many of the town and village elders, visits many of the religious leaders, and sees a lot of the countryside.Recently, LT Cooke's PRT suffered the kind of tragedy that happens too often in war. The E-mail continues:
This also means he drives HUMVEEs through some pretty rough places. He's seen running firefights, he's ordered his soldiers into battle to relieve a Polish force that was under heavy fire, and had his FOB overrun. Yes, this is a submarine nuke...
Recently, his PRT lost three soldiers to enemy action. During the memorial service, which ran the "whole nine yards: roll call, 21 gun salute, Amazing Grace on bagpipes, and taps," General Pace showed up to "express his thanks for (Ken's) leadership."General Peter Pace is the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I'm assuming this visit took place earlier this month; an article about the visit is here. The E-mail goes on to say that LT Cooke got a chance to meet GEN Pace, who gave Kenneth a coin. Here's a picture of the submariner and the Chairman:
LT Kenneth Cooke, your service, like that of all submariners fighting the War on Terror at home or aboard, is deeply appreciated by those of us safe here in our houses. Whether it's submariners at sea doing more "traditional" submarine missions, or trailblazers like LT Cooke and CS2(SS) Matthew Julian, all of us "old-timers" are proud of you, and happy you're carrying on -- and expanding -- the best traditions of those of us who wear dolphins.