Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Day '11

The cooks really outdid themselves today. I wish I had gotten a picture of it. Lobster, ham, turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, shrimp, salad, corn, greenbeans... ICE CREAM, pies... SPARKLING GRAPE JUICE aka MORMON WINE. Excellent meal. Just excellent.

I'll be picking up a platoon next week, I just found out. So until then I'm just learning what I can about the area and the situation, which means an occasional touch football game on the landing zone full of rocks. We played for probably three hours today.

Hey, it's tradition, right?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

First Rocket Attack

Last night was my first rocket attack.

It was about 0400, so everyone was asleep. I had just woken up and was trying to decide whether or not to put on all my clothes and hit the latrine, or tough it out till wake-up. I heard the explosion while I was internally deliberating. It was pretty far away, but I knew what it was. The alarm sounded, and people kind of looked around like, "Wha?" Some people got up, but most just stayed in bed.

I decided to hit the latrine.

Rollover Training

Rollover training was probably the most eye-opening and terrifying training I've done. They have this little pod that you sit in, and it rolls over and over to simulate a vehicle rollover. The inside is of course made to look like the inside of a vehicle. What you don't realize until you get in is that there is ABSOLUTELY NO ROOM in there. After all your body armor, pouches, helmet, and weapons - and the computers, steering wheel, armor, and gunner adjustments - you have enough room to sit in your seat and turn your head. That's about it. Now get flipped over a couple times, land upside down, and get out. While smoke is blowing in your face.

I found out that hanging upside down is not a pleasant sensation. In fact, I hated it. The blood rushed to my head extremely fast, and my head felt like it would pop every time I was suspended upside down.

I used to think the worst thing that could happen would be getting hit by an IED, but I think for me it's changed to being flipped in a vehicle during an attack. The thought of being helpless for those precious minutes, struggling to get free while a firefight rages on around me makes me wince.

Once again, though, I realize that I am in the right type of job. When things get crazy like that I tend to go into a zen-like trance of super calm. I think more logically. I start thinking along the lines of: what is the very next thing I need to do to get out of this situation. Then I just do it. I'm sure I'm not unique in this, but every time something crazy happens, like a burglar running straight at me with someone else's belongings, or a three car accident happening right before my eyes, or being trapped in a (simulated) smoking vehicle with four other people while upside down - I realize that I can handle the stress. The panic is there - but then quickly melts away and is replaced with a clarity I rarely have otherwise. If nothing else, I take solace in that.

Welcome to Kandahar

This place is crazy.

I got off the plane with an iconic Afghan sun setting behind me, just like I always pictured it. Me in my vest, rucksack on, helmet in hand, walking off the plane with the sun setting behind me. Wish I had had a camera.

Then I stepped into the actual city. This place is a literal maze of concrete barriers and barbed wire. There are tunnels that go everywhere, and a wrong turn can take you to a dead end in no time. It's dirty, dusty, trashy, smelly, and cramped - and incredibly crowded.

This place thrives on a kind of ordered chaos that is difficult to describe. It's like if modern day New York were thrown back into the wild wild west. There are humans EVERYWHAR, cars and buses brushing past all the pedestrians, and everyone is wearing a side arm or carrying a rifle. On top of that, everyone is from everywhere and there is really no dominant race or ethnicity. It is hands down the most multicultural place I have ever been.

There are rules... but they are more like guidelines. As far as I can tell, even things like uniform wear is incredibly lax. Don't have the right headgear? Just throw on a German patrol cap - it looks pretty much the same. Don't have one? Meh, just throw on your beanie for PT. It'll be fine.

There are connexes EVERYWHERE. "Connex" is slang of some kind for the giant storage containers that the Army uses. They are as long as houses and can fit a ton of stuff inside. Well, when they first came over here with a boatload of connexes, they just threw the empty shells in the city and used them to create this giant maze. Add that to all the concrete, barbed wire, loose rock, dirt, and broke down buildings, and it feels like... well, like a war zone.

Then you run in to a TGIF restaurant. wtf, right? I watched the Broncos play the Jets and had a pizza later that day. Like... what? Salsa night? WHAR AM I? Then I remember we've been here for ten years so of course there's going to be a lot of American type comforts. It's still surprising, though, to see a guy playing Xbox or watch Sportscenter out here.

Today's training was long, but worth it. More on that tomorrow. Gotta sleep. Peace.



...kind of.

Upon reflection, I realized that even though it's MUCH faster to get to Afghanistan going WEST from Alaska, we still had to go EAST. Why? I'm guessing that the lack of airspace provided to the US from Russia/China has something to do with it. Maybe not, I dunno. What I dunno is that I've flown around something like three-fourths of the world to get here, stopping in a few countries I didn't know existed. But I'm still not at my final destination. Now I've got to get a flight/convoy to my unit.

Wherever they are.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"See the world!" they said....

I left Ft. Benning Sep. 23, found out I was going to Afghanistan on Sep. 28, was told I would leave in two weeks, then in another week, then in another two weeks and didn't actually leave until Nov. 15. Granted, I still haven't left, but the point is that I'm finally set to depart this coming week. 

Getting pushed back so many times doesn't bother me too much; it's the Army and that's how things are done. But I am finally glad to either be going or not. The "maybe" and the weird place in-between has not been fun. Neither has been living in a hotel room for a month and a half. 

In any case, I got my bags packed and ready to go. Next few days I'm just trying to make it out of here. If I do, I'll see you in four to five months. I might get to update you in country, I might not. I'm going in blind, not really sure of anything that's going on over there. In any case, this is me to me and you - see you on the other side.