Off the Base: A MacDill Airman on Fall Changes in Afghanistan

Lt. Mark Graff with provincial leaders at the Iftar dinner held by the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team to mark the end of Ramadan.
Lt. Mark Graff with provincial leaders at the Iftar dinner held by the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team to mark the end of Ramadan.
TAMPA (2011-10-6) -

Temperatures in Afghanistan are cooling down stimulating thoughts of home for many of the U.S. forces serving there. Former Tampa MacDill Airman Lt. Mark Graff is missing the annual apple festival held in his Illinois hometown.

Graff is currently deployed in Afghanistan, Farah Province, as part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). He told me via Skype a few weeks ago that melons and pomegranates are the prevalent fruits served there.

“Things are going well here. We’ve actually experienced a break in the weather thankfully,” Graff said. “You wake up in the morning and it feels like a spring morning.”

Yet, mid-September daytime temperatures still reach 100 degrees in Afghanistan. Graff was a bit surprised to find that he was missing the change in seasons and change in activities. Fall to him always generated that “back to school excitement” and a chance to go hunting.

Graff said they’re making progress one mission at a time and in intangible ways. His team was out a few weeks ago doing a quality check on road construction project when they spotted a fire at a distant village. Welding equipment had caught fire and burned down one of the village buildings. The Afghans had used all their water fighting the fire. So, the PRT donated their water so the villagers would not go without.

He was also part of the team leadership that dined with the provincial governor. And at the end of Ramadan, Afghan leaders were invited by the U.S. team to dine at their base.

“He’s a very smart man, he understands all of the different aspects at play here,” Graff said adding that Farah Province, which borders Iran, is very diverse.”You’ll see anything from a desert to the Farah River which cuts through the heart of the province to the mountains to the east,”

The cooler weather will also remind Graff of his wedding. This month, Graff will celebrate his first marriage anniversary – but separated from his wife. The couple is looking forward to his mid-tour leave that they’ll get to spend together.

Graff talks with WUSF during his deployment every month or so for Off the Base - our ongoing series about, for and by military families both active-duty and veterans.

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