So last year I went to Afghanistan for two months to help stand up some computer systems. I had never been in a forward area (“down-range” they call it). I was struck by the sheer number of guns and how they were treated with indifference: laying on the ground while soldiers slept, on the belts of civilians, etc. It’s just a bit surreal, albeit necessary. Another thing is the moon dust. These installations seem to kick up an interminable amount of dirt powder that cakes everything and sneaks into every pore; people walk around looking like they jumped into a pile of wheat flour.
Me and a few others hopped on an SUV transport after arrival in Kabul. The reinforced, bulletproof SUV was driven by active duty military dudes. They basically shuttle people around between secure locations. They burst-transmit you the spiel: In-the-event-of-attack-do-this-not-that-pull-on-this-yank-on-that-grab-this-if-we-are-disabled-toggle-this-and-sqwuak-halo-mary-chief-sierra-7-lefttoe-pancreas-hotel-california. I just imagined getting out, grabbing two guns and saying, “I’m a lead farmer, mutha f**ers!” Not. We weren’t 10 seconds out of the first base and an Afghan army vehicle cut us off and got out with their AK’s or whatever. The driver offers, “I’ve never seen this before,” and both dudes chamber rounds, with pat “chick-cock” sounds. Turns out they were escorting some vehicles. No biggie. I mean piss dries, right? 🙂
I was really struck during my time at the base by the shear amounts of food and supplies being delivered. Knowing how lucrative contracting can be, I could just imagine how full the pockets of the few owners were getting … securing their families for generations. Staggering.
There’s not much to do in your free time there. You share a room with 1-3 people and someone is always sleeping. A good set of headphones are key whether you’re watching a movie in your rack or music at work or muffling the noise of the huey or airplane or your roommate is a wicked snorer. Oh, and a light so you can see around your room with the lights out.
One bright spot was when I was waiting for a helicopter and saw people playing street hockey in an out of the way area. I love hockey and had to find out how to get involved. They were Canadian, hahahaha. That was awesome. I started playing with them every Friday.
Going to Afghanistan, I thought I was pretty cool returning through Dubai until I met a bunch of non-governmental organization (NGO) civilians who live OFF BASE UNDER THE THREAT OF ATTACK EVERY DAY. Ego promptly deflated. They are cooler.