Below: Me in one of the helicopters sitting next to an Afghani interpreter. I think this was the 53.
Here are my travels so far:
7 June to 22 June:
Commercial from Norfolk to Dulles
Commercial from Dulles to Doha
Commercial from Doha to Kuwait City
C-17 from Kuwait to Kandahar, Afghanistan
C-130 from Kandahar to Bastian
53 from Bastian to Dwyer
53 from Dwyer to Delhi
Osprey from Delhi to Geronimo
Osprey from Geronimo to Dwyer
53 from Dwyer to Marjeh
53 from Marjeh to Bastian
C-130 from Bastian to Dwyer
That is some traveling! The 53 helicopter spits out hydraulic oil like crazy. I totally ruined a pair of pants from all the oil. All of this traveling after the commercial flights had to be done in full battle rattle, including flak vest with plates and kevlar helmet. It is far from comfortable. And talk about LOUD! Even with properly inserted ear plugs, the helicopters are deafening! The crews really know their job though and are incredibly professional.
So I was traveling with a buddy the whole way along. He is the WPPL expert (wireless point to point link – a big line of sight radio) and I was to soak up everything I could as he taught marines. His name is Rob and he is just the nicest guy you can imagine. He was born in Texas but has lived in Georgia most of his life and totally has the southern charm down, distinctly different than the south-west charm you see in Texas.
This is Rob and I am pretty sure we are in an Osprey in this picture.
This was at one of the smaller FOBs (Forward Operating Base). They had the cutest little Afghani kittens. We would be in the middle of a lesson and the class would screech to a halt because they would be doing something cute and demand attention. I have never been a cat person, but you just had to fall in love with such gentle creatures in such a harsh environment far from home.
This is looking out the back end of one of the birds. They all fly with the back end and side doors open and manned with gunners. If you look closely, you will see a square compound of some sort on the ground. There are hundreds of these out in the desert, the vast vast majority of which are deserted. I don’t know their story, but imagine them to be amazing. Probably more interesting in my mind than in reality.
Here is a picture of Rob “reading”. He totally posed and asked me to take this picture for him.
I am not posing at all, just reading my book, waiting for a chopper and clueless to the world around me. He said he got 5 shots before I noticed.
You may not know what that is just by looking at it, but it is the “piss wall”, the only place to “go number one” on one of the smaller FOBs I visited. You “go number two” in a bag and burn it, seriously. I had the particular displeasure of walking by the “wall” when a female was utilizing it. It was actually more modest than a male using it, as she had an “extender” of sorts, but it was still disconcerting. It was very uncomfortable using it out in the open. There were only 5-7 females on this FOB of fewer than 200 dudes. They walked around convoy style, never leaving each other alone. If you look close enough, you will see bottles of hand sanitizer on the sand bag walls.
This particular day they sent a whole flight just for me and Rob. Seriously, just me and him on the whole bird, besides crew. Talk about making us feel important!
This is the sign you see as you exit the flight line and enter Camp Dwyer, the place I live. I used the stock pictures of the planes and helicopters above because there are strict rules against taking pictures of the flight line. Anything else is fair game though, including pictures while you are actually on the birds.
And this is the tent I live in with 10 other guys. I get a bunk to myself, and a 5 x 8 foot area next to it, enclosed in blanket walls. It is plenty comfortable, more than I expected.
Thanks to the several of you who have left me messages on the number I left for you to call. In case you missed it, it is under the address a couple of posts ago. I really appreciate the messages! Sorry I haven’t answered the phone much though. I actually am working 12 hours a day, every day. No days off, probably for a long time. We just don’t have enough people for a better schedule.
I am somewhat miserable, missing my most wonderful wife and adorable little girls. I am managing though. Until next time!