Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Soldier Update...

This being the first of the updates I'll post regarding John's time in Afghanistan I just want to remind you that his location will not be posted here and the names of his coworkers have been modified to Rank + First initial to protect them.  FOB stands for Foreward Operating Base.  KAF stands for Kandahar Air Field.  We don't have photos yet - his camera chip is "in the mail" so when he gets that package he'll finally be able to send some of them to me. 

I woke up at 3:00 am Monday for a helicopter ride from KAF to FOB *name deleted for security*. I was excited to get out of the dirtiness and disorganization for the relative calm of my new home. It took us quite some time to get to the passenger terminal and even longer to get our bags weighed. It was 7:30 am before our helicopter landed and we crammed all of our gear on. It was funny that we were riding in a Evergreen helicopter.. there were air vents and a no smoking sign, just like in an airplane. We waited until 8 before we took off and were on our way.
The ride was uneventful and I dozed off and on. Since I was riding backwards I didn't get to see much of the scenery (not that there was much anyhow) but what I did see was pretty amazing. I saw steep, cave-ridden mountains, entire villages made of straw and mud, flocks or goats and herds of cattle. The flight took us 45 minutes and when we started to land at the FOB, I was amazed at how small (and vulnerable) it was.

We took our bags to our rooms.... the guy that was in mine looked like he had just moved out without cleaning any of his crap up.. Let me tell you how disgusting this room was. First of all, there were two matresses. One was on an Army cot and the other was laying flat on the ground. There was a thick coating of dirt (not dust - dirt) on the ground. There were personal effects strewn about; tooth brushes, socks, gel caps, papers, live ammunition, and this isn't even counting the trash.

Needless to say, I wasn't going to sleep in a room that could possibly swallow me up while my eyes were closed, so I got to work. Sweeping, dusting and tossing trash.. repeat. The worst was when I tried to move the mattress on the ground, it was stuck.. not wedged, but something on the bottom of the mattress was making it stick to the floor. After prying it up, I cleaned the cot the best I could and laid out my sleeping bag. Everything else stayed in the bags.

I ran to the PX and got some cleaner, some light bulbs, and a clip lamp. I cleaned some more and called it quits for the day. That is when Capt S called out "is this a camel spider?" I am not much of a spider fan, but I couldn't miss this opportunity. Sure enough behind the nightstand in her room, there was a giant spider. CW2 K killed it with a broom, but it gave us all the creeps for the rest of the day. It was hard to sleep that night as I imagined spiders dropping from the ceiling onto my face and me yelping and waking everyone up. I was more worried about that then I was about the spider.
(This is a photo of a Camel Spider that I pulled off the web...actually, its two camel spiders hanging onto each other...ewwwww!  They are technically not spiders...they do not have a poisonous bite, but their jaws are so big that when they do bite there is a huge issue with bacteria and the wound can get very infected.  How'd you like to find one of these in your bedroom?!)

There are always helicopters flying in and out.. it is pretty cool because we are so close to the flight line that we can feel each on as it lands and takes off.

The base is pretty small, but I should get to know my neighbors pretty well after a while. I have been just about everywhere on post (it is pretty small - duh) and I can say that I am still happier here than when I was in KAF.

The weather is hot and dry, but we did get a sprinkling of rain a few evenings ago. I have run around the perimeter twice and it is a rough mile and a half.. the nice thing is that if I run in the morning, I can pretend I am running on a hot Oregon summer day..

I have only seen a few instances of wild life since I have been here.. One camel spider, lots of flies, and these crazy ants that run with their rear ends high in the air.

I have learned a few phrases in Romanian and feel like I am on the cusp of learning much more. I am not interested in learning Pashto at all.

There was a bazaar on the FOB two days ago - every Thursday. They have everything, but youhave to be pretty shrewd to deal with these guys. They all haul their goods up in these giant wheelbarrows, get their photo taken for a temporary badge, then set up shop. They all have similar things.. The name brand stuff it all pirated from Pakistan or China, but it looks authentic (until you examine it closely). I found a pair of Wiley X Goggles just like mine and wanted to buy a backup pair so I could take the strap off and make mine in to glasses again. When I opened the bag.. there were my goggles.. exact replicas - except for the Oakley logo on them. I asked how much and he said 10 dollars (might be worth it for the missing pieces) but the next vendor said 6 dollars. I didn't buy anything but might next week. There were also some very beautiful pieces of art, chess sets, scarves, belts, drinking impliments, etc. I think I will get some of those too.

We have been incredibly busy. Because there is limited space here, and lots of room at KAF, they are holding everyone back until they can get some more tents set up. That means me and CW2 K are doing all of the work. Not only all of our work, but all of the work of the 15 cats that aren't here yet. I am getting behind so plan on spending extra time at work the next few days to catch up. There are also very exciting things going on as well.. It makes me glad I picked this field to work in.. I could do this all of the time.

There is also a bunch of drama and it is starting to be irritating. It is all from outside our shop, but is one of the reasons that CW2 K and I are working so hard. None of the operators are where they are supposed to be and the old operators are going to leave without conducting a proper handover.

Chief D (a guy from my WO classes) is here - up north, but in Afghanistan and he and I talked. He is doing my job but at two eschelons above mine, so I have a mentor (and a friend in a high place) to rely on if things get tough.

The power went out today - it is the second generator that I have seen go out in the week I have been here. there is also lots of construction going on. So much that I am not having too much trouble finding spare materials to build my room.. The problem now is time...

*breaking in from the peanut gallery.... there will be more to come another day...*


John said...

John -- Good for you to get situated and busy.

I chuckled about your helicopter ride. The first one I remember was in Viet Nam in a UH-1 Huey Slick. I was the only passenger, and I had all my gear with me... The pilot took off and banked hard with my open door on the down side. I was sliding towards that door, clawing the floor for purchase, when he leveled out. I'm sure the whole crew (5 of them) had a great laugh...

And my first FOB was hacked out of the jungle on a moutaintop. Choppers in and out hauling log, artillery and ammo here and there, piles of rations waiting to get hauled out. I slept on a trail down the mountain, wrapped around a tree to keep me from rolling off... I'm thinking our mountains were just as incredible as yours, but covered with trees...

Again, take care and stay alert... Love You - Dad L

Miss Debbie said...

I LOVED reading this...... thanks for sharing, thanks for serving!