Feeling normal in Afghanistan

On paper it’s pretty easy to get from Base to Base when traveling with the Military.

  • –        0623 get to the flight line
  • –        0823 bird arrives
  • –        0915 arrive at new Base

Logistically planning is a monumentally difficult task.  I cannot imagine what is at play.  Which helictoper?  Which flight crew?  When?  Where? Factoring in the unknowns; insurgent activity, dust and wind etting people from point A to B becomes more of a chess game.  If we move to A now, we can go to B later, if we do B later that should open up option C in a little bit.  But if we bypass B we can take A and C and bring in D.

We check-in with nobody.  It’s 6:30, after all.  Grab some breakfast.  Do some more reading.  0823, no bird.  It’s still in Kandahar.  Maybe it will be here in an hour. Take pictures of rocks.  Rocks?  Really?  There’s not much else on the flight line.  By the way, there are a lot of rocks in Afghanistan.  One of the quips from the Soldiers I’m embedded with is that they cannot wait to be able to walk on firm ground again.  The rocks shift.  When it rains the rocks are a good thing for they keep feet out of the mucky sludge that Afghan silt turns into when water is added, but otherwise they’re a hassle.

Bird is on its way.  This is a relief.  If the flights were grounded it would take 4 days to schedule a new one; so that would mean we’d need ground transportation to get to where we’re going.  More logistics.  We chat with SGT McFadden.  The helicopter lands.  CPT Foley stops by to send us off.  We jump on.

After a few minutes we land at a Lagman.  Not our final destination.  We get off, grab our gear and are told that the bird needs to pick someone else up and deliver them to where we are.  We’ll be picked up as soon as they come back.

Then plans change and we’re back on a different helicopter.  Something unprecedented happens.  I fall asleep.

This tells me on of two things: either A.) the thrill of helicopter travel has dulled, or B.) I’ve been hanging with Military just long-enough so as to be able to fall asleep anywhere.  Likely a combo of the two.

The bird touches down.  Hello FOB Viper.  It’s 12:30.  Six hours of travel time to go 120 km.

FOB Viper is 120 km south of FOB Bullard.  It is also at a lower elevation..  It is 4,000 feet above sea-level.  Bullard is at 6,000 feet.  It’s warmer here.  It’s greener here.  Holy sh_t, is that a pine tree?  Yes it is.

It’s a small FOB.  While at Bullard I was told Viper is small enough to be able to toss a rock from one side to the other.  Not much of an exaggeration.

“Feels more and more like Viet Nam” says LT Fischer.  Green tents fortified with plywood inside.  Maybe it feels like Korea, it reminds me of M-A-S-H.  I wonder if anyone has a gin still in his or her abode.  I reckon not.

SGT Hansen is from New Orleans.  I meet him as we’re sitting at a picnic table.  I’m leaning back against the t-wall backstop.  LT Fischer and SGT Taggart have started a fire in a make-shift bar-b-que.  Tonight ADT at FOB Viper will be cooking for themselves. They do this about twice a week.  Some guys go to DFAC to get a bag of sausages.  Fischer starts cutting up an onion and puts on a pot on the grill to par-boil the sausage in Krombacher NA.

SGT Hansen being from New Orleans is bound to have impeccable taste in music.  He is playing old Fats Domino on his iPhone.  CPT Carlson is sitting to my left reading the crime blotter from her hometown Oakdale, Minnesota.

As it gets darker the sausages are done.  We eat al fresco in southern Afghanistan.  This actually feels comfortable.  I’m happy to know that in between the dust storms, the continual threat from insurgents, the long days and short nights the Soldiers of ZADT can experience something as normal as this.