Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Here are some pictures I took during my recent trip.  The first two are looking out through the fence at the base I was visiting as we were driving around just to give a idea of what the surrounding area looks like from the ground there.

The next three are from the air (obviously), this is what rural Afghanistan looks like, well at least the area near me. This is a semi arid climate at ~5000-6000 ft.  I don’t know for sure but I imagine the farms are for fruit or nut trees with the pastures for goats.  All the compounds are mud/adobe with tall perimeter walls like I was talking about before.  The haze you seen in the second picture is probably just dust, the air gets pretty dusty here since it is so windy, in the cities it is less dusty but more polluted. 

This picture is a traffic circle (which they have tons of here, British influence I guess?) but it’s out in the middle of nowhere.  Super nice, landscaped etc no where near anything, it probably has some significance but I thought it was pretty funny.  Heck even two(the “north” and “east” roads) of the roads don’t go anywhere, they just dead end a few hundred yards down.  It’s an interesting country.

The final two pictures are the outskirts (?suburbs?) and then a shot of more of the “downtown” area of Kabul.  Some of the buildings have survived the past 30-40 years of war pretty decently and some haven’t it results in a strange mix.

I’ll probably write about the rest of this trip some other time, right now I just wanted to post some pictures.  These pictures are from about the first half hour of a trip ended up taking about seven more hours than it should have, but I got back on the day I was supposed to and we didn’t have any trouble just a lot more waiting than expected. No biggie.  Plus while I ended up missing dinner I was able to eat at a Turkish restaurant for lunch which had real (ie not stale) bread so I may have actually come out ahead in the deal.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Compound

The base I’m stationed at has to be one of the nicest bases in a war zone that ever existed. 

Currently I’m living in temporary housing which in this case is an RLB or re-locatable building.  No it’s not a trailer or RV or Double wide.  It’s a shipping container, well really a bunch of shipping containers arranged to look like a building.  My room, which is one of the shipping containers, is about what you might expect from a connex box turned into a room. (I think it’s 8’x20’)  Lights, AC, power outlets, two bunk beds, window and a door.  I only have one roommate thankfully and he is pretty cool and we get along well which is nice.  The rooms have two bunk beds but no real storage area so with any more than 2 people it would be a huge mess.  In theory I’ll get a real room (with 2 roommates) in one of the real buildings at some point but for now I’m fairly content.  I think they are going to try and kick me out of my current room and move me to a different RLB so they can rip down the one I’m currently in, I’d like to avoid that but we’ll see.  The temp showers (also in a connex box) leave a bit to be desired but the shower tent on the other hand is rather nice so once I found out about that quality of life improved a little.

The food here is good, well for cafeteria food anyway.  When you add in that you don’t have to pay for it, cook it, or clean up afterwards it’s darn good.  Plus there is a plethora of desserts and even baskin robbins ice cream you can get.  It’s all as much as you want and you can drop in and grab snacks and drinks all day long too. (they do 4 meals a day so if you’re really dedicated, or work the night shift, you can eat at a real meal at midnight)  Mix that with the over abundance of candy and junk food from care packages that is spread around the office and paying attention to how much you eat becomes important.  Good thing they have a nice gym here, now I just need to start using it, details details. 

The office, which I share with a LTC and my boss (a COL) is probably about the same size as my room.  It’s in one of the real building here and it really does feel more or less like an office.  Lots of phones and computers.  Not really anything else exciting about that, it’s an office.  Well we do have a nice calendar.

The little store they have here is a trailer from an 18 wheeler, but they actually have a rather large variety of stuff which is nice, pretty much everything you need to get by even if it isn’t your favorite brand or color, etc.  Plus you can order stuff online and get it in a week or three so anything you really really need you can get.

My current favorite spot is what I call the courtyard; it’s in the middle of the complex by the flag pole.  It’s right outside the USO tent so lots of people hang out there for the wifi (myself included).  There are a number of picnic tables and round café type tables and chairs.  I think it really has a bit of café feel to it which I find really strange considering we’re in the middle of the capital of a country that has been at war for how long? 

They have a laundry service here too which while not the highest quality is free and pretty quick.  Plus they fold your clothes for you.  I have good AC in my room (but it’s not even that hot, plus its dry so even 85-90 is pretty decent), I don’t have to cook, clean, or do my laundry.  So far this is a pretty decent place.

Other than that there is a bazaar on Sundays which I’ll talk about later, it’s pretty cool.  Work is going decently, the long days and constant go really hasn’t been much of an issue yet so hopefully it won’t be. And the army is still the army, I can deal with that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

7000+ Miles

I got to Kabul early Monday morning, (boy was I glad to finally get here but more on that later).  They had arranged for me to get here by helicopter so that was really cool.  It is a rather short flight from Bagram to Kabul and the first window seat I had in the journey over.  Afghanistan (at least the part between Bagram and Kabul) is a very pretty country from a few hundred feet up.  Lush green fields with small villages and random houses scattered here and there.  All the houses are more like compounds in that they all have a walled in area around the house and yard.  The walls are maybe 6-8 ft high and are made out of mud/adobe just like the houses.  If the good fences make good neighbors saying really is true Afghans are probably the best neighbors.  I hope I get at least one more helicopter trip while I’m here, it really is an awesome way to fly.

Getting here was a bit of a journey but from what I’ve been told I had it rather well.  The flights from the US to Germany and Germany to Kuwait actually went really well.  I got to sit in “first class” so that was fun.  Ok it isn’t really first class the seats are the same as the rest of the plane but it was where the first class cabin would normally be.  The plane wasn’t full either so everyone either had an isle seat or an open seat next to them so that made the trip much more enjoyable too.  Airline food wasn’t as bad as I remember it being or maybe the food at CRC just lowered my standards.  The stop in Germany was nice since it was long enough to get out and walk around but we didn’t really have to sit and wait or anything.

Once we got to Kuwait we were taken to the transient housing facility/air hub and sort of just dropped off with very little in the way of direction.  Which, if you’ve never been in that situation before, is somewhat intimidating.  Once I got a map and found out where I needed to go to check in I was good.  Got billeting for the night and then grabbed some food and a shower, which both greatly improved morale.  Yeah in Kuwait and the best thing I can find to eat is KFC, go figure.  After that I made my way to the pax (passenger) “terminal” to find out about flights.  Pretty much everyone flies standby so if you get on a flight seems to involve a bit of black magic/voodoo/etc.  So you just show up for every flight to your destination and hope they call your name.  I was lucky since the guy I’m replacing put in a reservation for me which can help move you up the list.  I wasn’t really tired and the Derby was on tv so I figured why not stay up and watch it, I always seem to miss it anyway.  I forgot the derby has more pre-coverage than the superbowl. (It is a 2 min long race!!!)  Anyway by the time that was over I was sufficiently tired and went to bed.  Kuwait at night is hot, dry and dusty with nothing to do but wait for your flight, I wanted to spend as few days there as possible.  Luckily in the morning I found out I was going to be on the first flight out so that was great news.  Some people get stuck there for days or even a week.  I hope to never experience that.  Then a C-17 ride to Bagram and I was finally in Afghanistan.  Flying in a C-17 is another interesting experience, strapped in sitting along the wall of the aircraft like you seen in picture of paratroopers waiting to jump.

Bagram is huge and kind of what you might expect a large base in a warzone to look like, crowded, dirty, shipping containers and equipment everywhere.  The guys that I’ll be working with that are located in Bagram picked me up and showed me around a little and took me to get some food.  We worked out plans for the morning but those all got canned when we found out when my flight to Kabul was.  Oh well.  I didn’t sleep much that night, combination of jet lag, excitement, and being a few hundred yards from an active runway with jets taking off/landing 24/7 probably had something to do with it.  I didn’t want to put in my ear plug because I was afraid I would miss my alarm and then my flight.  In the end it all worked out and am getting my sleep pattern back to normal. From Kuwait to Kabul was a bit of an adventure but luckily the guy im replacing did a great job getting things set up and making it less of a hassle.  Still I was very relieved to get here and be done traveling.  Now I just have to get a non-temp room (actually I have the place to myself at the moment so in some regards it's better than the real room I'll move into later).  The temp showers are somewhat lacking but ehh I've had worse.

Overall my first few days here have been pretty good, the compound is pretty nice and so are the guys I work with.  The type of work is totally different than anything I’ve done before so it will take some getting used to but I think I can adjust.  I’ll write more later about the compound itself but now I need to get to bed, another early day tomorrow.

Friday, May 6, 2011


I've been at CRC for the past week or so. Basically pre-deployment prep, getting all the training done, shots, other medical and admin stuff taken care of.  Basically it has been a whole lot of hurry up and wait, but I'm really happy I was able to get all the online training done before I came as well as getting all the medical stuff taken care of earlier.  I haven't had any real problems, my orders were in the wrong format but that was easily fixed so no big deal.  I got a ton of gear the other day, I doubt I'll even use half of it but that really depends on how adventurous we get, yeah I doubt I'll use half of it.  They gave me three of the big green standard army duffel bags, right now I have pretty much everything except my armor/kevlar and my assault pack with civilian clothes in two of them so hopefully I'll be able to get those items in the third and just carry a small bag on the flights.  Found out it isn't a straight shot flight but rather a series of smaller flights to get over there which is nice, I wasn't looking forward to 16 hours in a plane non-stop. 

The best way to describe CRC to someone is probably something very similar to boy scout camp except you're in buildings not tents and the little store sells beer and cigarettes. I guess it's also similar to prison in that you'll get long stretches with nothing to do and aren't really allowed to go anywhere so everyone just hangs out.  Well at least that is my impression of prison, I'm ok not finding out if I'm wrong.  My roommates are pretty cool and laid back, one of them has deployed three times before so he has been a wealth of knowledge when it comes to how things work and what to expect. The food is cafeteria food, pretty much like how food in college was, not great but at least you don't have to fix the food or clean the kitchen.   Weather has been great, a little chilly in the morning and warm in the afternoon, sunny. 

Also since today is mostly for makeup stuff and getting last minute things taken care of, I was able to tag along with the military guys all morning and do the M9 training and qualification.  I shot Expert, hitting 28 out of 30 targets (you need to hit 26 to shoot expert).  Not bad, especially if you know how often I shoot a pistol. 

Alright I guess that is all I have for now, next update will probably be from somewhere else.