Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My "other plans"

Hehe, I was just reading back and realized I didn't tell you what my "other plans" were.

Well, the night before we left Camp Shelby, we had a 2130 formation to make sure everyone was there. The forecast was for heavy rainstorms during the night. After formation, I took a can of white spraypaint, and a can of blue spraypaint, and walked 3 or so miles from our barracks, to the MOUT site near the East Gate of Camp Shelby's cantonment area.

At the MOUT site, I spray-painted a 218th patch on one of the Con-ex containers that had been converted into a "building." I also spraypainted the Bravo company Rhino (the head, at least), and


underneath the rhino head. I wasn't back in the barracks until just after midnight, but it was great fun, and I took some great pictures. Since it's been almost three weeks and no one seems to have even commented, I figure it's safe to let you know. Wish I could post the pictures, though!

Convoy duties

Well, I've been on two major (multi-day) convoys so far. One went back up to Kabul, to Camp Phoenix, and we stayed overnight, then came back. That was a good learning experience. I was a back-seater on the trip up and got to watch the lead vehicle operations from some folks who seemed to really know their business. Then, on the way back, I was gunner for a 5-ton truck, which was also fun.

One of the drivers of the 5-ton was female, and I gave her a lot of good-natured ribbing. She was really cranky at first, because she was supposed to have been cleared from convoy duty and was leaving in a few days to go home. I gave her the standard "hit" lines, like "so, what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" and "Do you come here often?" or "We've GOT to stop meeting like this!" I don't think she once cracked a smile, but by the time we got back, she had relaxed enough to actually TALK about stuff, and ask questions and stuff.

Anyway, she was a very clear-headed, take-no-nonsense soldier. I would consider her very reliable, and I hope she makes E-5, because she'll be an EXCELLENT NCO. I would be glad to have her as a driver on any convoy anywhere.

Then, of course, the other mission was to a place called Dai-ray-woo. At least, that's how everyone pronounced it that knew how to say the name. Mostly we called it DRW. It was a Special Forces compound in the middle of nowhere, and behind it was a beautiful lush green area. I didn't manage to get any pictures of the greenery, and didn't want to take any pictures of the compound, because of security. The food at DRW was okay, I'm not sure where it was cooked, because it wasn't local food, but the place wasn't large enough to have an American dining hall.

The trip to DRW took two days. The first day we drove to a place that shows on a map I have as being called Tarin Kowt. There, we stayed at a primarily Dutch, multinational compound. The mess hall there reminded me of a mess hall scene in the game Halo. It was made of pre-fab steel sections, and had doors everywhere. Most of these doors didn't go anywhere, but they gave the impression that there were emergency escape pods or something all over the place.

The food at TK was... different. A German company provided the service and the food showed it. The bread was different, taller than American sliced bread, and the crust was much chewier, almost stale. There were biscuits that were like really light cookies, and they had chocolate spread, like Nutella. They had Roggebrood or something, that was supposedly rye bread, but tasted like mashed-together, mushy Raisin Bran. The Kool-Aid was amazing too, they had three colors: Red, white, and orange.

The red Kool-Aid tasted like fruit punch but with an aftertaste like womens perfume - very fruity, and almost harsh. The white Kool-Aid tasted like maybe lemonade, but with the aftertaste of, get this, urinal cake odor. The Orange Kool-Aid tasted like the smell of Daffodils. Yes, Daffodils. It reminded me of Easters hiding eggs at Wildwood, and springtime in the country.

By the way, from TK to DRW, there was no road. We were on trails the whole way, and it was very dusty. At TK I slept on the floor, because there were no beds. There was artillery fire from TK the second day, and we think we saw a firefight happening when we returned from DRW. We also saw an Apache helicopter shooting at something.

There's been so much else happening, I could go on and on for a long time. Some days it's hard to stay positive, especially when it seems like you're being treated unfairly, but I had a moments prayer this morning with another soldier (we were on duty together), and that seemed to change everything. Knowing that I'm doing God's work here, whatever it is, and seeking Him in prayer when things are tough, makes it easier for me to be cheerful in everything. Well, most everything.

Oh, also, I read "THUD!" by Terry Pratchett, and it was very good. Another of the Discworld series that I never would have found had it not been for my friend in our Sunday School Class. However, I'm out of books again, and need more. If you have any science fiction or fantasy novels that you're willing to give up, feel free to send them on.

Have I mentioned that we're looking into satellite internet access for the soldiers here at Shir Zai? I've spent a lot of energy trying to figure out what our specific needs are and how to meet them with a good secure network. I've had a lot of help from friends at various companies, some of which are even going to donate equipment to help us get set up!

Anyway, I hope that all of you reading this are doing well, and may God's blessings be upon each and all of you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Duty, duty, always, the duty

So, by now, having been in-country for 10 days or so, and at my duty station (Kandahar AirField - KAF) for 5 days, I have pulled all manner of SECFOR duty.

I have spent time on Entry Control Point (ECP) duty, and on Tower guard, and have been on convoy escort duty. I have seen Shir Zai, KAF, Camp Phoenix, Qalat and Camp Apache, and more.

Afghanistan is amazing. Right now is the end of the rainy season, and there are areas that are very green. Most of the country is still desert, or dusty rock, and they tell me that in the months to come, even the green areas will die and turn brown. There are mountains everywhere, and sometimes the dust storms block out the sun.

I've seen native afghans who look like hispanics, ones who look like American indians, and others who look like well-tanned white guys from back home. I've even seen native afghans with red hair, evidently courtesy of the British outpost that was here in the 1800's. I've seen street parties, and small towns that remind me of the old, worn-out parts of town in small towns in South Carolina (except dustier and less green). I've seen open fields used as trash dumps, and flames reaching 30 feet high from incinerators burning generic trash. (although to be fair, with there not being much moisture in the soil, I'm not sure a landfill would work as well here as it does in the states)

The children here, the ones between 4 and 8 years old, wave at us everytime we go by. The older children seem surly (much like American children!). The young adults either ignore us or work for us, from what I've seen so far, and those who work for us are cheerful and friendly (which could, of course, be a front).

A lot of the troops whom we are replacing have very negative things to say about Afghanistan. I wonder if I will end up with the same attitude at the end of this deployment...

Monday, May 14, 2007

I'm in Kandahar!

So, here I am in Kandahar, at a small place called Shir Zai. Right this minute I'm watching "Anger management" on my laptop, and it sucks. Not only does it suck, it's one of those movies that just makes me feel like crap. So, I'm going to watch the rest of it, then tell my wife, and all of you, just how lousy of a movie it is. (maybe it's just that I dislike Jack Nicholson so much, though).

Anyway, Shir Zai is small. The barracks are just as cramped as they were at Phoenix, but with more amenities and less rank to watch us. Lets see, what else, there's a lot of work to go around, and a nice gym for us to exercise in when we're off duty. The mess halls here are pretty nice, and I like the food. I don't understand why so many people complain about the chow so much.

We flew here from Kabul in a C-130. That was a cramped and uncomfortable flight. I got my picture taken with an Aussie Steyr AUG, though. I still need to get my pic taken with a UK FAMAS, but that's gonna take a while, I think.

Kandahar is a much more spread out base than Camp Phoenix. Phoenix was about the size of a large city block. Kandahar is about the size of DFW. We have several Humvees and LTVs assigned to the company now.

Hmm, I can't think of what else to say. I like Afghanistan so far, though, although I do miss my family. I think I've had some opportunities to witness, but the Lord is making them harder to identify. I think I'm supposed to work harder to identify them and push myself to take advantage of them. I hope everyone out there is still praying for my witness.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

At Camp Phoenix

After a few days of travel, through more nations than I had been through in my entire life up to now, I have arrived at Camp Phoenix, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Kabul is a harsh environment, but I can see a lot of beauty here. The mountains around the city are amazing. There was a thunderstorm the first night we arrived, and it was beautiful. I hear we're about to enter the 120 days of wind, and things will get ugly, dry, and dusty, though.

We've had a full day of briefings, and are preparing for our next movement. I'm photographing just about everything, so I can give everyone a sense of the environment, however limited that sense might be.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Kuwait City

Now, we're in Kuwait City, at Ali Al Saleem, a transit camp, apparently. A lot of soldiers go through here on their way to and from theatre, either Afghanistan or Iraq. We arrived after dark, and were told no pictures, so I don't have any cool pictures of Kuwait yet, and might not be able to get any.

The facility is pretty nice for the circumstances, and the people seem nice also. Unfortunately, the wireless internet access is neither wireless nor free. :(

I'll write more soon, I hope. I also hope I'll be able to figure out how to post pictures, cause I've got some good ones from our last days at Camp Shelby!

We are ON THE WAY!

A portion of our unit has been dispatched for Kuwait City, Kuwait. We are currently in Shannon, Ireland for a layover. We should be in Afghanistan within a week.

Time to go

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Alpha, Charlie, Delta Boneheads...

Well. We've been in a holding pattern for a week or so now, waiting to send everyone overseas. I got Smallpox, Anthrax and Typhoid vaccinations, which are still making me feel pretty lousy. We've had a company-level record APFT (which I passed, surprisingly enough!), and we've gone off-post some, mostly to Wal-Mart and the mall in Hattiesburg.

But all the good stuff is over now, thanks to Alpha, Charlie, and Delta companies. THEY had to have soldiers who went and bought alcohol (from the PX! In uniform! with their weapon!), or who got busted putting on civilian clothes and getting drunk in Hattiesburg. So, it comes down from Battalion - no more going out. No more going to the PX unescorted. As the 1st Sergeant put it, if it's fun, you need to be escorted by an NCO.

Still, there are other ways to have fun. I've watched a lot of videos on my laptop, and played a lot more of FarCry. I have other plans too, but I'll update you on those later.

There's not much else to talk about at the moment that would be operationally secure, so you'll have to wait another week or two and check back.