Our time in Kabul

Our stay at Kabul hasn’t been too bad but I’m excited for it to
come to an end, so my team and I can move onto our final destination;
Kandahar.

During our time here we have all attended several briefings,
which explained a bit more in detail what our mission will be once we
arrive at our final duty station. We also got split up into teams and
several folks were reassigned to different locations. My location didn’t
change I’m still going to Forward Operating Base Lindsey in Kandahar
Afghanistan. My team consists of four people: Master Sgt. Deremer, Staff
Sgt. Pierce, Senior Airman Patrick, and myself. SSgt Pierce is a female
and is already in place at FOB Lindsey. She arrived about a week before
the rest of us and she’s tasked to stay for a year. We don’t know if she
volunteered to stay for a year or if that was just the tasking that came
down for her. I guess we will find out from her once we get there.

 I think six months is plenty for me. Our core mission we found out for the
next six months is to mentor members of the Afghan National Army (ANA)
who work in Public Affairs. We are told that we will teach them
everything, such as how to use a photo and video camera, write stories,
write press releases, and counter media propaganda. We are also supposed
to be alongside them while they are actually on the job, which means we
will go on convoys with them to conduct on-the-job training (OJT). Our
secondary mission when we are not training the ANA is to cover other
combat and humanitarian missions.

The reason behind the mentoring is the United States Armed Forces is helping the ANA build their Army so that
they can defend their country and fight the Taliban without the help of
U.S. and Coalition Forces. From what we are told the ANA still has a
long way to go, but they have made significant improvements as a whole.
According to the Marine Capt. who briefed us about our missions, the ANA
is in the crawling stage based on a crawl, walk, run scale, but they are
crawling at a good pace she says.

During each briefing we were often reminded that we would need to have lots of patience once we begin
training the ANA ,as we are only the second mentor team to work with
them. Another big factor that we are encouraged to consider is the
language barrier. None of the ANA speak English, and we will have to have
an interpreter any time we work with them. The latest information that’s
been passed to us is that most of the ANA guys who we will be working
with are illiterate. We are told they can’t even read their own
language.

After I heard this, all I could do is shake my head. I’m going
to keep a positive attitude, but from where I’m sitting it sure seems as
if we are being set up for failure. I mean come on! What are we supposed
to do, draw damn stick figures in the sand for crying out loud? For now
I’m going to remain optimistic and just hope that I get some smart ANA
guys who can at least read their own language. We will see.

Making it to Kandahar

SrA Patrick and I have finally made it to Kandahar, but the
process getting here was extensive to say the least. Prior to leaving
Kabul, we were informed that MSgt Deremer was no longer going with us. We
found this news out while eating chow. It really hit the three of us
hard. He fought it as best he could but ended up losing. MSgt Deremer
and I are pretty good friends so getting that news was less than
delightful. Shortly after finding that out, it was time for Patrick and I
to press on. It was about 2230 or 10:30pm and our flight out of Kabul to
Kandahar Air Field (KAF) was at 2315 or 11:15pm. We told everybody good
bye, and they wished us luck, as we were the first ones to leave. We then
gathered all of our gear and pulled it over to the passenger terminal.

As we began carrying our stuff inside piece by piece the lady at the
front counter asked “Are you blokes here to catch the 2315 flight to KAF ?” with her British accent. We respond “Yes ,Ma’am” She looked at us for a second and then said “Sorry boys, bloody plane took off already.”

I immediately dropped the bag I had in my hand, then turned and looked at
Patrick who was crushed. Patrick wanted nothing more than to leave Kabul
and get to our final destination. I wanted the same thing but wasn’t
opposed to staying in Kabul one more night to get some rest and just
trying again in the morning. I suggested this to Patrick. He didn’t want
to stay. So he went and found out  we could fly out with a large
group of British soldiers on a flight that was leaving at 0100 or
1:00am. He came back and told me the plan. I didn’t say much. We
continued moving our gear inside, then got it all palletized and waited
for the flight. A few hours later it was finally time to board the
aircraft. The plane that we were flying on was a British cargo plane. I
had never flown on one of those before, so another aircraft to add to my
list.

As we walked across the flight line with the Brits it was odd to
look around and not see any uniforms like ours. I didn’t have a problem
being amongst  all the British soldiers, but I must say it’s always
nice to have a few fellow American forces around. After we packed into
the plane and got strapped in, a severely wounded Afghan soldier was
rushed out to the plane by ambulance. He was strapped to a stretcher and
had a larger clear plastic bag covering him. Tubes protruded from
several parts of his body and an oxygen mask covered his mouth. The
medics brought him onto the plane, made sure he was secure and a few
minutes later they closed the back ramp of the aircraft and we took off.

Flying at night isn’t bad, but it can get to you from time to time,
especially if you let your mind wonder. Inside the plane, it’s completely
dark, no cabin lights or anything. The only sound you hear is loud
humming. A lot of people listen to their iPod’s, as there’s not much else
to really do. The flight seemed to take forever, but about an hour later
we arrived here at Kandahar Air Field. I found out as we were getting
off the plane that the wounded Afghan soldier was a victim of a mortar
attack. He died while we were in flight. That was sad, but I knew I
couldn’t let it get to me ,so I shook it off. As I stepped off the plane,
and looked across the flight line all I could see was a thick haze
highlighted by the flight line lights. It’s sure wasn’t the pretty
Mountain View we had when we arrived in Kabul. I asked Patrick if the
haze was fog, he looked at me smiled and said “No man. That’s the dust
that we are going to be breathing in for the next six months.” I shook
my head and said “Oh yes, why wouldn’t it be.” (For my family; if you’re
reading, the dust is worse than Sunday night at the Grand’s during mains!
Yeah, that bad) We followed the Brits to the bus, which took us to the
British transition terminal where our bags were located. Our next goal
was to get to the U.S. transition terminal across base. We managed to
flag down the bus driver who had taken us there and got him to give us
a ride to the U.S. transition terminal. Prior to leaving Kabul, Patrick
said he used a phone and contacted SSgt Pierce to let her know that we
would be arriving, so she could pick us up from the U.S. transition
terminal.

As we arrived at the terminal there were no lights on and no
vehicles parked out front. I turned to Patrick and said “You did get a
hold of SSgt Pierce right?” He could see the concerned look on my face
as he shook his head and said “Uh, yeah man,” in a soft voice. Something
told me right then that SSgt Pierce wasn’t coming to get us. We got off
the bus unloaded all of our gear and stacked it up in front of the
terminal. Patrick pulled on the front doors but of course they were
locked. “Looks like the U.S. decided to take the night off,” I said. He
looked at me with nothing to say. As we both stood there staring at each
other with more gear and luggage than we knew what to do with the cold
began to set, and I realized our night was about to become that much
longer.

Advertisements

1 Comment

  1. OMG! Cliffhanger! I can believe that’s where you ended this entry. Everything there sure is a process.

    Well, if the dust is that bad, it would be nice if there were some doubles or at least some huge trails to ride…oh, but no bike huh?

    Thank you for finding time to blog despite all you’re dealing with.

    Lots of love & constant prayers!

    LDH


Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s