Tuesday, November 01, 2005

2LT Fallin in Afghanistan

I just ate dinner with my buddy Jonathan Fallin. He's on leave right now and will be headed back to Afghanistan in a couple of days. It was good to see him. He made the local paper in Thomasville, GA.

By Brewer Turley
brewer.turley@gaflnews.com

THOMASVILLE — A road that once led nowhere in the heart of Taliban
country now serves as a lifeline to the people of Afghanistan, thanks
to American soldiers.
Khandahar Road was completed Sept. 1, at a cost of $55 million and at
least two American lives. Thomasville soldier Lt. Jonathan Fallin,
along with nearly 800 other U.S. troops, helped construct the 75 miles
of highway that now connect the provincial capitols of Tarin Kowt and
Khandahar.
“If you can think of the worst county-maintained road you’ve ever
driven on and multiply that by 10, that’s what this thing was before we
started,” Fallin said.
Fallin, a member of the 864th Combat Engineer Battalion, was part of
the military task force that completed the highway some four months
ahead of schedule. He is the son of Joe and Mary Fallin of Thomasville.
The road-building effort — which followed the path of an existing,
though dilapidated route — was a challenge from the start, he said.
“When we first got here, the road was totally unmaintained. It was
basically the width of a vehicle, with huge pot holes, traveling through

mountainous terrain,” Fallin said. “It was tough to travel on. People
were getting stuck all the time. Now, people can move freely between
the two provincial capitals.”
The new highway stretches across a desolate region of the country known
as the birthplace of the Taliban, an Islamic extremist group which
operates in Afghanistan. To halt construction of the highway, Taliban
members attacked construction convoys, intimidated the villagers of the
region, and planted explosive devices and mines along the route.
Attacks on U.S. building forces were common, Fallin said. “We lost two
soldiers a month ago, so you had to deal with attacks, and the
possibility of attacks,” he said. “We pulled our own security, and a
lot of times we’d have support from other units.”
Military personnel were often great distances from the security of
their home bases while working on the road. “Sometimes it would take
an hour and a half to get out to the job site from were our bases
were,” Fallin said. “I think the biggest hindrance was logistics. When
you have a piece of equipment that breaks, shipping it from the U.S.
could sometimes take six to eight weeks.”
The climate in Afghanistan also took its toll on the soldiers. “A
couple of times, it got up to 130 degrees, and this would be at 8 a.m.
Everyone had to take a case of water with them, because you can’t drink
any of the local water supply here,” Fallin said.
“We also had to wear body armor, which adds another 30 pounds. Then
there are the uniforms,” he said. “Think about how hot it is in
Thomasville, then imagine having to go out there in pants and long
sleeves, then another 30 pounds of gear. No breeze, no shade.”
Fallin was platoon leader for the military group on the south end of
the road, building north. Another unit started at the north end and
built south, until the two groups finally met in the middle, finishing
the road four months ahead of schedule.
The completion of Khandahar Road represents a shift in the operations
of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Fallin said. “I think that we’ve
definitely moved on from the offensive operations to a
country-rebuilding effort. This road was a major project,” he said.
So major, in fact, that the commanding general for the entire Afghan
military showed up for the road’s official opening. Government and
military officials predict the new highway will open up a whole new
world of opportunity and commerce for the people of the region.
“You can’t understand the level of poverty over here, coming from
America. We deal with the locals every day. They have no possessions.
They are isolated in these rural areas, and they have no contact with
anyone,” Fallin said.
“There aren’t phones or television. These guys are farming like
Americans did back in the early 1900s. They’ve got mules and camels,
and they grow what they can on these little pieces of land,” he said.
With the new road, Fallin says new supply lines will be available to
the native people, hopefully changing their lives for the better. “When
you get roads, you increase travel and you increase information. The
only way they used to get information is through word of mouth,” he
said.
Fallin said interaction between the Afghanistan people and the U.S.
military has been a positive experience. “We’ll be in the same area for
a couple of weeks, and the kids are usually the first ones to come out
and see us. We give them water and candy and stuff, and then the adults
will come out,” he said.
“After a couple of days, they’ll actually come out and sit on the
Humvees and talk to us. You might not understand what they’re saying,
but they are all smiles,” Fallin said. “We’re learning from them and
they’re learning from us. That’s how we’re building relations with
these guys.”
Fallin graduated from Thomas County Central High School in 1997 and
received a degree from the University of Georgia in 2001. He was
general manager of the family restaurant, Fallin’s Barbecue, for three
years before answering the call to go into the military in 2004.
After participating in one of the most massive military projects ever
undertaken in that part of the world, Fallin said he’s opptimistic
about the ties being built between the U.S. and Afghanistan. “I believe
the good deeds we’re doing, along with the Afghanistan government
supporting us, we’re paving the way for democracy over here,” he said.

Comments on "2LT Fallin in Afghanistan"

 

Anonymous seawitch said ... (12:34 AM) : 

Thanks for e-mailing me this story. It's nice to hear about the good news from Afghanistan and what a great job our guys are doing there.

I posted about it at my site but the blogger link didn't work. I did link to your post.

 

Blogger Barb said ... (1:22 AM) : 

Great news on the road! I'm glad your buddy has been part of such a great project. Whoo Hooo!!

 

Blogger Pam said ... (8:02 AM) : 

Posted about it too, but having trouble getting the link to work. Great story!

 

Anonymous Echo9er -- aka David said ... (6:11 PM) : 

Jim. Thanks for the email.

Posted about this at Echo9er.

I have a history with the 864th. It was another lifetime in a jungle setting long ago.

Best of luck to your friend. We'll keep him in pouir thoughts.

 

Anonymous 2LT Jonathan Fallin said ... (11:37 PM) : 

James:

Was great to see you and meet Anne. Good luck with the baby girl. I am glad you guys met some of my friends, thety all spoke very highly of you and your wife. We had agreat time and continued on to the Pink Pony afterwards!!

I just arrived back in country this morning and it is FREEZING here! LEt me know what my location pops up as, email me!

Jonathan

 

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