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...