Okay so we’ve been here several weeks now and it’s time I set about trying to start describing things. When we first arrived I got a pit in my stomach like, “oh crap,” but you have to look around and remind yourself that it’s going to be all right. We landed on that airstrip and loaded our gear into a truck, and climbed on some dusty busses and trucked over to our barracks. It was maybe midnight.
I was ready for another tour living out of tents, but lo! When we pulled up, it was to dormitories! Brick-walled, college-type dormitories! Last time it was tents and a dozen of us per; this time it’s lovely rooms with just two roommates per room. That is living in style! Rather than having to use a portapotty for 7 months, we get actual bathrooms (two per wing). Same with the showers. I thought, this is going to be a different tour entirely.
The following morning we got up early to do our “intake,” do orientation, meet the people were replacing, learn some of the “must-know’s,” and explore the base a little bit. The rotation of people we were relieving were great; super friendly, excited to see us (of course!), excited to get the heck out.
My first impression was that this base is so big and evolved over these past 13 years, it was like a boom town of the Wild West. The airstrip is its dominant feature, but that building we went into initially (last picture, last entry) was the Taliban’s last stand here in 2001 before it got defeated by the US Marines plus one big USAF bomb through its roof.
Nothing like the proper application of explosive ordinance to solve a dispute. Anyhow, the base is as I said very large, and like the other bases I’ve been at out here before, covered entirely in gravel. But bigger gravel stones than normal. The gravel is to keep the dust down because this whole province of Kandahar is a desert (same desert, I think, as Helmand’s). There are huge concrete barriers all over the place, in some areas like 14-foot tall curbs, in others they make these littler ones which you can sit in to get out of the sun, or the rain if it’s raining, or you’d just like a roof over your head for any immediate reason…
…There used to be a dozen a day in the past but those days are behind us and there haven’t been any of them since we’ve been here – yay! Fingers crossed. We can walk most-wherever we’d like to go; some people have bikes just to get there a little faster. I have found my dream-car. I absolutely don’t need one but it’s not about need, it’s about want, right?
Lastly, there have been some social events, and if it weren’t for things like that you’d go crazy. We can take the time to hang out after dinner, or watch the aircraft take off and land, or have a cigar night.
The base has dozens of nationalities represented as it’s an entire coalition contributing here, and the other night the Australians had us over for chow in their outdoor area, and then the Belgian Air Force had a great party in theirs. Music, dancing, near-beers, all outdoor on the gravel bordered by the blast walls… it was like we were here, but we weren’t here at all.
Good times. Miss you! Thanks for caring and Happy St. Patty’s Day!
Thanks Paul for all the posts. After finally figuring out how to acces your WordPress page it was good to catch up and see how you are doing. I hope all is well with you and sure seems like you have found the right comrades in arms! Stay strong and we miss you. Man, seems like you have been taking on lots of gear! I love the pics of where you are staying at each step of the way.