Sunday, March 20, 2011

South Wind Man In The ‘Stan- Epilogue

My tour to Afghanistan has come to a close. My job at Fort Riley waits. It has been a unique experience that I will not forget anytime soon. Except for the heartbreaking absence of family I can say that my journey was positive and eye opening. I may never do this again as the price of deploying, for me, was high in the emotional toll it took on me. Though mostly positive I must relate the bad and the good. Unfortunately, there is much bad in Afghanistan.
I hate the waste of lives and resent the massive waste of money over here. I hate the culture of Islam as it is practiced but not necessarily how it is preached (by some). I hate the corruption on this side of the world. I hate the professional infighting of the military services. I hate the incompetence of some units and of some individuals who should know better. I hate my own shortcomings. I deplore the attitudes of new units and their lack of trust in the logistical chain. I laugh at the arrogance of their idea that the last unit was screwed up and that their way is better and they will win the war singlehandedly. I hate DA Civilians and Contractors who are clueless about the military they are supposed to support. I hate the overcrowding at NKC. I hate the lack of courtesy by people who won’t clean up after themselves nor practice common etiquette they demand for themselves. I hate that the headquarters staff is at least 33% overstaffed. I guess I should hate the Taliban (and the H.I.G, Haqqani network, et al) as well. They are, really, just fools when looked at from the western perspective. They were suckered by Al Qaeda and have been paying the price ever since.
Not all is bad though. I am impressed by the American soldier, sailor, airman, and marine. They accomplish so much that is outside their purview the world could learn a lot from them. American ingenuity is alive and well in Afghanistan, for sure. I am grateful for the support from the American people (and family and friends). I take pride in the coalition of western and eastern forces that are here and work together. It may be a slow and ponderous relationship but it’s great none the less. I love military retirees who bring their skills and knowledge to the table as Contractors and DA Civilians. The camaraderie of serving together in a hostile environment is something remarkable. The thought of trying to do something good, in a disorganized chaotic environment, makes one feel good inside. Lastly, I want to thank ole Barry. Without his technical knowledge and down home Kansas sense of humor I would have been totally lost. Anything positive I achieved was because of him.
This has been a significant event in my life. In the end much of what I have written about will not matter much but it will have mattered to me. I felt the need to express myself and possibly share some experiences with those who would listen. Thank you.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Some Notes On Redeployment

Let me take this opportunity to list some random thoughts and notes concerning my redeployment. I started my journey at 0800 on 14 March.

Combat Drive Team: No issues traveling to North KAIA (Kabul Afghanistan International Airport) from NKC. It took just a few minutes.

North KAIA: North KAIA is a NATO run installation. It is, as noted in it's name, on the north side of Kabul's International Airport. The Departure Terminal was clean, organized and run somewhat efficiently. My flight was scheduled and the call time was at about 1300. I was scheduled on a STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) flight to Bagram. STOL flights are short run flights, AKA Puddle Jumpers, Milk Runs, etc. The flight time to Bagram was less than 10 minutes.

Bagram: The arrival and departure terminal in Bagram is run by the Air Force. It was dirty, crowded, and in a state of organized chaos. I was scheduled for a direct flight to Ali Al Salem in Kuwait on the 15th. I noticed on a plasma screen display that the call time for the flight was 0200. I saw at least 2 other flights to Kuwait were already canceled. Not a good sign as passengers were beginning to back log. I was bumped from the flight on the 15th with the next possible flight scheduled the next day on the 16th. At this point I should have left the terminal and sought billeting. I was crammed in a corner with all my baggage and I did not want to wrestle it out over all the soldiers, some of whom were sleeping, sitting in the terminal. I decided to wait until the crowd thinned out. Lucky I did - an hour or two later a flight to Kandahar was canceled and the aircraft was diverted to go to Kuwait. Myself and about 15 other people got to ride to Kuwait in a C-17 with only us and our gear shortly after midday on 15 March. A stroke of luck one rarely sees when one travels in the 'stan.

Ali Al Salem: It took us 4 hours to get to Kuwait. After a short bus ride from the airstrip we reported to tent 4 to get our CAC cards scanned and to the AMC LNO to get a copy of our orders stamped. It was too late to get out of the country so I went to billeting and got a bunk. Before I slept, though,  I found some food and I made contact with home and with SATO to change my flight to Dulles. To leave AAS I was to report to the bus service tent at 1500 on the 16th. After getting yet another stamp on our orders we went to the Customs tent to X-ray our bags and get wanded ourselves. Once completed we rode a bus to Kuwait International Airport. We arrived about 1830. The departure check-in terminal we needed to go to opened around 1930. The wait was uncomfortable. At 1930 I entered the departure check-in area for the airline. Once my baggage was checked I went to the gate, arriving there at about 2000 or so. The gate are was crowed and hot. There were not enough seats. You had the opportunity, while there, to mingle with people from all around the world. Security seemed tight in the airport. I recall going through scanners and having my bags x-rayed about 3 times. The shoe check was only done once - just prior to boarding the plane at around 2245.

United States Corps of Engineer Deployment Center: Out processing from the UDC was quick and easy. The experience was painless and efficient.

Random Thoughts:

No one wanted to see my passport until I arrived at Dulles. The immigration guy had to see either my official or tourist passport.

No one ever asked to see my Letter of Release from Afghanistan. I recommend you have one anyway (signed by an O-6).

Contractors must pay cash or use the Eagle Cash Card at the AAS DFAC. Breakfast costs $2.30 and other meals are $4.25 at the time of this writing. The DFAC has moved and is not located as shown on the AAS strip maps. It is 180 degrees out from the map. Just ask someone - they'll show you where it is.

Travel light.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Goodbye NKC

I've just had my departure ceremony and most everything is packed. Soon I will be winging my way back home. I pray the United States Airforce can provide me the space and serviceable aircraft they have promised.

I look like a Field Marshall in the Turkish Navy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Air Travel

Well, my replacement finally arrived this afternoon. It took him 6 days to travel from Ali Al Salem in Kuwait to Kabul. All this time and I had even made reservations for him. When I came in October I made the trip in three days.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Air travel to and within Afghanistan, a country the size of Texas, is measured in days. I am 6 days out from returning from here and the best the United States Airforce can do, so far, is get me to Bagram. That is a 10 minute flight. There is no doubt I'll get home but when is anyone's guess.

This air travel problem can be fixed tomorrow. The answer is no more R and R travel to CONUS or more aircraft. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Where Is Brad?

My replacement was supposed to arrive in Kuwait yesterday and in Kandahar today. No word yet. I have a flight booked for him to Kabul tomorrow. I hope he shows...

I went to supply today and signed for some linen. Right away I found a spot in a transient tent and made up his bunk. If you look close in the picture above you will see a roll of mints on his pillow. Not one mint, but ten! Who says the sponsorship program is broke?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nearing The End

In about 2 weeks I will start my journey home. These last few days will be busy and my departure preparation will, undoubtedly, take up much of my time. I will certainly post again. How much I will write and what it will cover is anyone’s guess. I expect to report on the return journey and highlights, if any. Lastly, I will share my thoughts on my overall experience in the ‘Stan.
Stand by...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Giving Credit Where (Dis) Credit Is Due

A few posts back I took the Afghan armed forces to task for the way they treated their ammo. Well, for the benefit of our Ammunition Community I submit the following:

To protect the guilty and ensure I stay employed I will comment no further.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Once Had A Comrade

Americans aren't the only ones that bleed over here. The Brits have casualties quite often. The Germans just lost a few to violence as well. Truly we do all the heavy lifting but our allies pay the price too.

Ich hatt' einen Kameraden.
Einen bessern findst du nit.
Die Trommel schlug zum Streite,
Er ging an meiner Seite
In gleichem Schritt und Tritt.

Eine Kugel kam geflogen:
Gilt sie mir oder gilt sie dir?
Sie hat ihn weggerissen,
Er liegt zu meinen Füßen
Als wär's ein Stück von mir

Will mir die Hand noch reichen,
Derweil ich eben lad'.
"Kann dir die Hand nicht geben,
Bleib du im ew'gen Leben
Mein guter Kamerad!"

- Ludwig Uhland

I once had a comrade,
you won't find a better one.
The drum was rolling for battle,
he was marching by my side
in the same pace and stride.

A bullet flew towards us
meant for you or for me?
It did tear him away,
he lies at my feet
like he was a part of me.

He wants to reach his hand to me,
while I'm just reloading my gun.
"Can't give you my hand for now,
you rest in eternal life
My good comrade!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Fort Riley Ammunition Supply Point Fashionistas

Here is the crew rocking their new Afghani hats.

They may not know too much about the art of headgear fashion but they definately know rat shit from rice krispies when it comes to ammunition!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

With Friends Like These...

An excerpt from The Long War Journal that I shamelessly repost here without permision.

Suicide bomber targets hotel in Kabul
By Bill Roggio February 14, 2011

Read more:

"...Background on the Kabul Attack Network

Today's suicide attack was likely carried out by the Kabul Attack
Network, which is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani
Network, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and cooperates with terror groups
such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence
officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan's
Inter-Services Intelligence directorate as well.
The network's tentacles
extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar,
Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Ghazni, and Zabul, a US intelligence official
recently told The Long War Journal...."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saint Valentine's Day

Facing Saint Valentine's Day alone this year is turning out a lot more dificult than I expected. Many lament the useless made up holidays used to hawk maudlin greeting cards. I would very much enjoy to hold the love of my life in my arms and fill my senses with all that lies within her aura. The heart and soul are what matters, everything else is superfluous. One learns that quickly when away from a treasured relationship. Card or no card.

It's been almost 11 years together for us. The journey has just begun...

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Sloppy, wet, cold, and sticky. Not quite as bad as we've had back home lately, though.

Friday, February 11, 2011

22 Bunkers

22 Bunkers is an Afghani  ammo depot near Kabul. It is a national level ammunition storage area where this country stores some of their strategic reserve of Class V. I have seen pictures of it. It is a place best described as a horrific explosive disaster waiting to happen. It is a question of when, not if, the entire place will go high order. The pictures I have witnessed show ammo of every imaginable size and type strewn about. On the ground and in the storage "structures".  They even have it in and around the admin building - it's everywhere! Several structures in the area are nothing more than piles of rubble because ammunition spontaneously detonated due to negligence or someone just had the one last cigarette in their miserable life. 

Most of the ammunition there is stacked without regard to compatibility or any semblance of Net Explosive Weight considerations. This is especially true if the ammo came in wooden boxes. There are very few items in boxes. The people who work there take the boxes for firewood, leaving the rounds exposed and haphazardly stacked or thrown in piles. They break open large caliber rounds to pour out the propellant that they use to ignite the boxes. Subsequently, propellent grains of various shapes and sizes are everywhere underfoot.

I was invited to go there tomorrow. I'm not going. I'm too scared. No, not because 22 Bunkers is the epitome of everything opposite I was ever taught about ammo. I would love to go there. It is the haunted house, freak show, train wreck, animals loose in the zoo, git down party one in my profession would love to see. Heck, I'd pay to go there. No, I'm not going because I don't want travel there through unknown territory with folks I don't know and without a firearm of my own. My first chance to go outside the wire and I turn it down.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kandahar War Story

A story about a recent trip one of our Explosive Safety guys made down Kandahar way. Enjoy.

"Ok so there I was, I get checked into my tent with 499 of my closest new
buddies.  As I drift off to sleep for the night with the soft droning of
C130 engines grinding in the background, with the occasional ear
piercing noise of fighter jets doing a "fly by" to keep us all safe at
night.  I am suddenly awakened at 0300 by the big voice, "rocket attack,
rocket attack, rocket attack." As the sirens gurgle a sound straight out
of hell.  I just lay there and think, it can't be that bad to be blown
up by a rocket, at least I wouldn't have to hear those damn airplane

I did manage to get back to sleep.  But at 0445, the spring from my
mattress sticks me in the leg, I'm almost sure at that point I am going
to bleed to death.  It was just a scratch.  So I drag myself out of bed,
slog through 3 inches of mud to the show container.  Luckily, the shower
was uneventful.  After getting dressed I wander over to the DFAC.  It is
amazing how many people they get into the DFAC at one time.  Chow is not
too bad, cause I have had worse.

Nevertheless, I get through breakfast and head to the office.  Damn,
locked out, they changed the combination since my last visit.  Suddenly
I feel the urge to make a hasty exit to the restroom.  The closest
restroom is about a block away, too late, have to stop at a
port-o-potty.  It is freezing out and .... well, I'm about to bottom
blow.  Anyway, it is amazing how cold frozen plastic feels, but it is
better than crapping your pants.  Bad thing is, the warmth from your butt
sitting on the frozen plastic melts the ice, then if you sit there long
enough, it re-freezes only to tear every hair off your ass as you try to
stand up.  Other than that, it was not a bad trip."

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Well, it looks like we'll be getting waffles served in the DFac starting tomorrow. That's nice. Too bad no one has contacted me with an offer for some C-130s. Of course, because of  the C-130 deficit, there won't be any intra-theater movement of, ya know, waffles. I mean, we have enough waffles in the theater. They're just in the wrong places.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wanted To Buy...

a couple of Lockheed Hercules C-130 cargo aircraft. Yes, I would like to buy at least two. I got $96 cash US, somewhere around 3,400 afghanis, and about $24 in AAFES pogs.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Wow! At least two people, in the last couple of weeks, have walked up to me at NKC and mentioned they have read this Blog. One guy even shook my hand. I think that's fantastic. I never figured I'd get any body to read this except for a few friends and family back home.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Note to the Department of Agriculture (DA)

I wish to express my disappointment with your continued lack of action on shipping, and your continued double guessing on, the type and amount of seeds we need over here. Our farmers are doing the best job they can but, since they are the ones working the soil, sometimes they have a better grasp of the type and amount of seeds they actually need. I understand that the seeds they want are sometimes expensive and that the “book” answer is not in line with their plowing methods.
As you know the work our farmers do is very dirty. They work hard every day, for countless hours, in fields sown with dangerous things that put them and their equipment in grave danger.  The farms they toil in are very much unlike the 9 to 5 office environment that DA bureaucrats work in at the multisided building in D.C. I ask that you cut the red tape, place your personal agendas aside and get our farmers what they need. We cannot taste the fruit of victory without the harvests our farmers can make possible. It is incumbent upon you to provide them with the kernel of hope that carries our nation’s vision to end the hunger here in this corner of the world.   
There is one thing you have provided us with that is in good supply here. You have been helpful above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to supplying us with fertilizer. It is beyond reproach that the DA is the supreme supplier of fertilizer above all other bureaucratic agencies on this earth. You talk fertilizer, you know fertilizer, and you give out fertilizer freely to any and everyone; whether they ask for it or not. I salute you.
Now. How ‘bout them seeds?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

Somehow, today a batch of locally made pastries made it up to the J-4 section. I think the DLA (Defense Logistic Agency) guys across the hall were working with a bakery outside the gate trying to get a contract going to supply us with said pastries. They had several different types of examples that they brought up. Among the buns, rolls, and breads was a couple of packages of doughnuts. Fruit filled doughnuts, actually.

It is no secret that I have significant issues with this country and most of the people in it. But as the title above says, I must give credit where credit is due. So here goes. I ate one of those doughnuts. It was probably one of the best I have ever eaten in my life. The dough was light, airy, sweet, and had a texture that seduced my palate. It is no exaggeration when I say it melted in my mouth. It was almost like eating air. The flavor and the ever so delicate texture kept it real. The powdered suger was clean, crisp in it's sweetness, and fresh. Now, honestly the strawberry fruit filling was no better (or worse) than any other I have ever tasted. The rest of the pastry overshadowed it in any case. Though average it was a fitting final touch to something beautiful one rarely experiences here.

Nothing really, to look at. However I equate the experience of eating one of these doughnuts on par or better than eating sliders at the Cozy Inn in Salina.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I sit here and wonder if what I am doing here is the right thing to do. Am I the right guy for the job?  Kinda late to think about that now, huh? Sometimes I feel so comfortable here. I can be so spot on and in control. At other times I am so far out of my comfort zone I want to cash in my chips and go home. Sometimes I look around and just shake my head in disbelief.
I guess most of us have our moments of doubt. I am frustrated by things out my control and, in retrospect, how I deal with them. Rarely in my real life do I fail. Here, failure can reach up bite at any time. It is so frustrating for me to know that I am 100% fully in control and then, a moment later, something appears out of the blue (purple?) and because of my inexperience or pig headedness I peer into the black abyss of failure. I think that I have fallen in on at least one occasion. Certainly the edge has crumbled underfoot. Nothing has become of it yet. Time will tell.
I have become stubbornly rigid and somewhat apathetically complacent. A dangerous and complex oxymoron if there ever was one. I want to do well. It is my duty, after all. I look around me and I have nothing but contempt for some of the people and most of the country around me. They say this is a joint command. There is no jointness. We’re a hodgepodge of DOD officers, civilians and contractors, all of which speak a different dialect of DoDese (or no military dialect at all), looking to get in, get out, and move up. Am I any better? No. I guess I just have a conscious.
After saying all this there are a precious few shining lights of hope here. Most are retired U.S. military, some are contractors and some are DoD civilians. These “old” guys have seen it before and are not keen on reworking or reliving the stupid stuff. Their voices are not always heard, however.
Despite my feelings I will soldier on. I will work to overcome my challenges. It is important to me to support the soldier in the mud. It is my job to ensure they have the ammunition they need when they need it and plenty (but not too much) of it. This is what I do best. To paraphrase a comrade in the ammo world “A soldier without ammunition is just a tourist.” The challenging part I have is pleasing faceless bureaucrats and staff members trying to justify their existence. Some of whom are looking for penny ante governmental waste in my AO  while a few hundred feet from where I sit decisions are made, though done in good faith, which will result in BILLIONS of wasted U.S. dollars. I will soldier on. Yes. I guess I just have a conscious.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Official Passport - Final Chapter

Today I recieved my Official Passport in the mail. It was in a package I recieved from my wife. I applied for it back in 2010. August, I believe. It actually made it here to NKC in October. I never recieved it because the mail room failed to inform anybody it was here. It was sent registered mail so it required a signature for pick up. The mail room returned it to the passport office at Fort Riley after it layed around here for a while.

I eventually tracked it down and had my wife pick it up and send it again.

Where were the points of failure? Obviously the NKC mail room is one. No need to delve into that any further. I guess the main issue was the ordeal getting the visa for Afghanistan. It took longer than expected and I think the required date was written incorrectly on the application and it was put at the bottom of the stack in D.C.  The takeaway is that if you want an official passport with visa get it requested a soon as possible. It's been so long I cannot recall when I started the process and if I could have done so earlier.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow (Moisture?) Today

We received the first significant moisture today since I arrived on NKC back in October.

The hill behind NKC. I tried to get an image of the falling flakes but they were very small and do not show up well.

Some local Afghani government buildings (military hospital?). Again, behind NKC. I took these pictures from an external stairway. Not the best photography I've ever done but it'll have to do.

The parking lot in front of the admin building. Some of our Suburbans and Land Cruisers are out there. Note that the snow is not sticking.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Too Good To Do What Must Be Done or COIN And The Regimental Bhisti

I recently moved to a new office  It was a short move - just down the hall and around the corner. Outside the old office stands a large blue recycle bin for plastic water bottles and aluminum soda cans. These containers are everywhere on NKC. They are a small but integral part of our COIN strategy here in Afghanistan. 

The contents of these containers are emptied, when full, by the local national cleaning crews that work here. The bags of recyclables are given to a local entrepeneur in Kabul who recyles the cans and bottles and sells the raw materials to somebody in Pakistan. All while employing several people who would normaly be jobless. Good deal, right? Check out the picture below:

So, why is that container overflowing you may ask? Well, the container sits in an area that was put off limits to the cleaning crews. A reasonable step to take since in the offices around there we have material that must be kept away from prying eyes. It's a win win situation. The "Hajis" have less to clean and we, the imperial overlords, can protect our stuff. But wait. Why is that can overflowing?  When I worked in that area myself and Barry would take the necessary steps to keep that can empty. We would either take full bags outside to the dumpster or take the bag a few steps down the hall where another container sits in an unrestricted access area. See the below picture showing the other can. (The people in the picture are some of the cleaning crew. ) :

Again I ask. Why is that can overflowing? Well, in the restricted area where it sits, there is a distinct lack of lower enlisted soldiers, DA Civilians or contractors. The surrounding offices are overflowing, much like the container, with soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines of higher rank. Not one sees or maybe, more accurately, chooses to ignore the opportunity to contribute not only to COIN but to contribute to the well being, cleanliness, and morale of the organization.

I shan't forgit the night
When I dropped be'ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should 'a' been.
I was chokin' mad with thirst,
An' the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin', gruntin' Gunga Din.
'E lifted up my 'ead,
An' he plugged me where I bled,
An' 'e guv me 'arf-a-pint o' water-green:
It was crawlin' and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I've drunk,
I'm gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
It was "Din! Din! Din!
'Ere's a beggar with a bullet through 'is spleen;
'E's chawin' up the ground,
An' 'e's kickin' all around:
For Gawd's sake git the water, Gunga Din!"

Gunga Din (excerpt) - Rudyard Kipling

Monday, January 10, 2011

Traveling and Growth

I’ve never been to Iraq but everyone who has tells me that it is easy to move around by air within the country there. That is not the case here in Afghanistan. I don’t know why. Travel time is measured in days for a country the size of Texas. I can’t imagine it is due to a shortage of aircraft. Is it because of the bureaucracy from the many levels of Headquarters we have? Is it because of all the NATO and coalition countries with their own aircraft (or the lack thereof) that adds to the confusion? One thing for sure is that overland travel is much worse here and not moving in a direction where it needs to be. This is mainly because of a lack of a developed transportation infrastructure. Of course this is aggravated by the security situation as well.
They say we solved the air travel problem with an online passenger reservation system. I’m not convinced. Now you can log on to a computer and find out how many days until your flight leaves. I see no shortage of travel time just a clearer understanding how long you’ll wait and where.
I think that this country never really had a chance. What little infrastructure that was ever here was either destroyed by war, incompetence or negligence. A country, whether it has built the best or was given the best, must maintain and grow what they have. Lack of growth and development in all aspects of life will doom one to chaos.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


The following is a slightly edited excerpt from an E-mail I sent to my wife earlier today. I guess it's OK to plaigerize oneself.

It was a macabre experience out there this morning. Our post office is a small metal shack. People have to wait outside until their turn to go in and mail their stuff. I was early, arriving just before the 8:00 A.M. opening time. I was the second in-line when we heard a big boom a couple of blocks away. I knew what it was immediately. Someone detonated an IED. The question was - how many hurt or dead? I looked on-line a little later and found out it killed an Afghani policeman. Some others were hurt, as well.

Life here goes on. As I mailed home a package brimming with love to my son a few hundred feet away death smiled and the life blood of a man ran into the gutter all because of a package filled with hate.

Happy New Year