Flying out of Kandahar
Flying out of Kandahar
I slept pretty poorly again. I was sharing a room with five other guys, yet no one snored. This is surprising when you consider that according the the Made Up Institute of Sleep Research over 68% of men snore over 84% of the time. That made up statistic would seem to indicate that one of the guys, I’m guessing one of the dudes from Mississippi, would snore. Yes, I’m talking about you CPT Tucker.
If snoring isn’t the cause of poor sleep what is? The bunk Lt Fischer and I shared is probably the squeakiest bed in all of Kandahar. Even think about shifting and it’s going to let out a screech. The noise is enough to wake the dead, let alone this still-jet-lagged traveler.
Both Lt Fischer and I were up for good at 0500. We hit a Green Bean for a cup of coffee and then CPT Tucker drove us out to the ramp our flight was going to take off from.
When we get to the flight line there are a handful of soldiers waiting for their flights. They were crashed out on a pile of rocks, reading books, smoking cigarettes, listening to music. Fischer and I dropped our gear and relaxed. For the first time since I’ve been in Afghanistan I’ll be wearing my bullet proof vest and Kevlar helmet. Lt Fischer says I wear it well, he’s just being polite. You be the judge.
The skies are a little dusty. Lt Fischer voices a slight conern that they may pull helicopters down because of low-visability. Another day in Kandahar would not be ideal. There’s nothing to do here except walk around hope the wind doesn’t start blowing across the Poo Pond. Yes, I will mention Poo Pond as often as I can. It’s funny and not funny at the same time.
I’m listening to music when everything is drowned out by the roar of a fighter jet taking off. The runway is maybe half a mile away, the plane is airborne and screaming along at about pretty low altitude. Maybe 300 feet off the ground. It’s impressive. Loud. Powerful. 100% American.
Ten minutes before our departure time we are called out to the landing pad. We see the helicopter approaching from the distance.
Five minutes later we’re up. The landscape below is pretty barren. Mud structures, small fields. Herdsman with their goats. The wind is cool. I’m sitting in front of an open window, the benefits of shooting photos and video through an open window far exceed the mild chill. The flat land turns to rolling hills, mountains and peaks. There are small areas of green, but most of what I see beige. Beige on beige.
After a period of time, maybe 30 minutes, we land at a small base. A few guys jump off, a few jump on. Minutes later we are touching down at FOB Apache. This FOB (Forward Operating Base) is one of the posts the Zabul ADT call home.
After lunch I had a briefing with LTC Ken DeGier. He told me about the progress the ZADT is making in Zabul Province. He gave me the lay of the land when it comes to the ZADT in Qalat (where I am now), and in Shah Joy and Tarnak Wal Jaldak. He does a good job explaining how the ZADT is working with the Afghan DAIL (Division of Ag, Irrigation and Land) to help them learn how to be a better resource for Afghan farmers. Think of the DAIL as a County Extension Service. If a farmer in Minnesota has a quesiton he, or she can track down their County Extension office and they’ll work on solving it. The DAIL has been around for a long time in Afghanistan, but like most useful things here the reign of the Taliban caused them to step back. In the past ten years, DeGier tells me, Afghanistan has made some impressive strides. Helping the DAIL better serve the farmers of Afghanistan is just one way Minnesotans can help lengthen those strides.
I look forward to being able to see how this mentorship role between ZADT and DAIL plays out.
Over the course of the next few days I will be visiting Shah Joy and TWJ…looking forward to sharing more travel stories with you. Thanks for reading…more later.