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A Path with Heart—Afghanistan, part seven
Posted By Staff On July 29, 2009 @ 12:01 am In Online Exclusives | No Comments
Good morning from “Can’t-tell-ya-where-I-am-istan,” where everyone means well, nobody smells bad and the food—is to die for.
It’s the rainy season, but we’re enjoying the sun this morning. FOB (Forward Operating Base) life is taking some getting used to. Living in such a small area can be claustrophobic when you’re used to roaming the wide open spaces like I am. There is no solitude or privacy on a Forward Operating Base. There are no secrets on a FOB. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone definitely knows everyone’s business.
At my age, this can be difficult, as I had been living on my own for years before re-enlisting in the Army. But then, I knew this going back in: service to my country means sacrifice. No matter the inconvenience, though, the Army is still an ultimately honorable profession.
On a distant FOB such as mine, guard duty is a way of life for an infantry unit. The infantry operates far from support personnel. Therefore, guard duties to maintain security for our FOB falls on us alone. We pull guard every day of our lives here. We run on a three-cycle duty schedule: four days each of Red, Amber and Green cycles.
On Red Cycle, we are tasked with guard posts in various guard towers and FOB entrance check points (four hours on, eight hours off), as well as cleaning up latrines and FOB grounds twice a day. Training on weapons systems, map reading, first aid, etc., is conducted during the day as well.
Next, on Amber Cycle, we pull QRF (Quick Reaction Force). Here, we are on call 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies and conduct short missions outside the wire. Our vehicles are at a constant ready state, with guns mounted. During this cycle, we pull guard on the trucks (two hours shifts three times per 24 hours), as the guns are out and the trucks remain unlocked. Training and classes continue during the day.
Finally, on Green Cycle, we conduct long missions remaining outside the wire for four days at a time. Here, we conduct missions to over-watch areas (mostly at night) or man VPBs (Vehicle Patrol Bases). Unless we’re moving, guard duty manning the guns in the trucks again runs 24 hours a day.
A good night’s sleep is impossible. There are no “down days” here. The only days off we will get for this deployment are when we go on mid-tour leave. Sleep is pieced together whenever a chance presents itself. Power naps are golden. Well, I guess there’s plenty of time to catch up on sleep after the Army!
Being some 10,000 miles from home makes for some lonely moments. Far from loved ones and friends, soldiers must find creative ways to entertain themselves amid endless guard rosters, details and constant missions. Many have a laptop computer with them, and play endless video games or watch collections of hundreds of movies. We have a gym on the FOB with a variety if free weights and exercise machines (which doubles as a bunker).
Satellite TV in our small chow hall is a nice slice of home, which allows us to keep up on sports, news and our great American way of life. The price for TV is that it’s AFN (American Forces Network) with the endless, eye-rolling community service commercials about OPSEC, base security, cheesy suicide prevention vignettes, financial responsibility etc. It’s precious TV, though, so we watch news from home, obsess over sports and catch movies. And we hope, with all of you back home, for a brighter economic future.
We have an Internet phone “café “on the FOB that offers free Internet access and a phone bank for precious time to keep in touch with home. I bought 20 hours of satellite Internet phone time for $50.There is a nine-and-a-half-hour time difference between us and the East Coast (we’re ahead of you). I make most of my calls from 4 to 6 in the morning to catch everyone at home in the evening (the night before). Hearing loved one’s voices is a wonderful morale booster when constantly deprived of sleep and running out of cigarettes.
Cigarettes are always an issue. We aren’t allowed to buy local tobacco products of any kind. Two U.S. soldiers recently died from smoking cigarettes bought from Afghanis that were laced with some unknown chemical. The Army no longer supplies us with cigarettes like it did in Vietnam. So now we must hope for a mission to a larger FOB with a PX or get our tobacco through the mail.
Mail has generally been good until recently. We heard rumors of changes in logistics and flight plans and such, but suddenly we haven’t seen mail for a couple weeks. We grumble about this of course, but I realize that earlier deployments and even earlier wars had no mail at all for far longer. I take what I can get, and am grateful for that.
Some members of American Legion Post 673 in Black River, N.Y., sent me a big box filled with cigars a few weeks ago. They sent me some El Artista Bambinos and my old favorites: Macanudos. At the same time, my girlfriend, Shelly, sent me my humidor to keep them fresh. My boys in 3rd Platoon love them for guard duty. I can’t think of any better way to substitute my depleted supply of Camel Lights and Camel Wides Lights than with cigars!
So here I sit after my morning shave following a midnight-4 a.m. guard shift, smoking a Macanudo cigar, of course, while gazing up at the incredible Afghan night sky! The showers are closed per order of the First Sergeant. Someone’s been vandalizing the latrines, cutting holes in the walls with their knife, so our group punishment is no showers until further notice. Nice. So to console myself, I will make due with a shave, a hot meal with satellite TV, and by typing up the latest update from Can’t-tell-ya-where-I-am-istan: where everyone means well, nobody smells bad and the food—is to die for.
Next time: It’s the Afghan New Year!
from the July 29-August 4, 2009, issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
URL to article: http://rockrivertimes.com/2009/07/29/a-path-with-heart%e2%80%94afghanistan-part-seven/
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