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US Troops in Afghanistan Enjoy Holiday Festivities - 2003-12-25

While work for U.S. forces in Afghanistan goes on as usual, the soldiers are taking some time to celebrate Christmas.

The United States military is offering troops in Afghanistan a bit of Christmas spirit.

Events at the U.S. headquarters at Bagram Air Base near the Afghan capital of Kabul include a special Christmas dinner, church services, and a small holiday float parade through the compound.

In southern Afghanistan, U.S. troops at Kandahar Air Field are taking advantage of the local animal life to organize a Christmas pageant in which the Three Wise Men from the biblical narrative will arrive at the base riding on camels.

The Kandahar base also scheduled Christmas caroling, as well as helicopter rides for some of the staff.

Major Ralph Marino, stationed at Bagram, says despite the activities, the troops will carry out their operations as usual throughout the holiday.

"We don't get leave for that," Major Marino said. "It's a regular workday for us. … It's a holiday, but we still have to take care of business in the theater [of operations]."

Troops, however, will get a chance to call home.

But for some, such as Major Marino, the need to use secure military telephone lines poses a problem for those whose families do not have easy access to a military base.

"My family's in Pennsylvania," he said. "The problem I've got is when we try to get a hold of them, because they're not near a military base, so I'm trying to get my brother to use his e-mail to contact them. We're doing it that way."

The United States has kept thousands of troops in Afghanistan since late 2001, after they led a coalition that ousted the country's former Taleban government. The coalition forces are hunting for remnants of the Taleban and its allies in the al-Qaida terror network, while several thousand troops from Europe and elsewhere provide security in the war-torn country.