Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fallen soldier ceremony

Today I woke up to a cold rain and a cold dose of reality. Where I'm stationed, and what I'm doing keeps me out of harms way, but it doesn't mean I'm not in a war zone. Anytime a soldier dies here in Afghanistan, their body comes to Bagram to be taken where ever it is going. When it gets to Bagram all the soldiers here line the main street on both sides. This morning a french soldier arrived, and I went out for my first fallen soldier ceremony.

We lined both sides of the main street, two or three rows deep in some parts. We stood silent and somber for roughly twenty minutes at parade rest. An escorted Humvee drove by with a casket that was draped with an American flag. There were six soldiers, that looked like they were french (I haven't gotten used to all the foreign uniforms yet) riding in the back with the casket. As it passed we all came to attention and then saluted. I've never seen so many soldiers make so little sound.

For some reason all I could think about was unchecked emails. All the jokes that wouldn't be laughed at, all the spam mail that wouldn't be bothering anyone, the caring letters unanswered, and the photos that would never be seen. I wondered if there were any emails in his inbox that someone regretted sending, and if there were any that weren't there that someone regretted not sending.

I hope that his life wasn't given in vain.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


So I'm here in Afghanistan. I've been counting down days from one place to another over and over again. Sometimes it was better that the days went slowly, then others I would prefer it to be much faster. Now that I'm here I'm counting the days for the last time until I'm able to go back home. I hope these days go the fastest because there are so many more than any of the other countdowns. For anyone that is worrying about me, I'm extremely safe. I'm an electronic technician and I'm on the largest base in Afghanistan. I won't leave the base the whole time I'm here, and rocket/mortar/artillery doesn't hit our base very often. I've heard that it's only been attempted two times in the last year, and neither attempts even reached the base. I've also heard about a military system called C-RAM (Counter - rocket artillery mortar). I'm not sure that Bagram has one of those systems, and even if I could confirm it, I wouldn't be allowed to say so, but I know if I was in charge of the army every major base would have one. Realistically I'm probably safer here than back in the states. Statistically the biggest killer of soldiers is automobile accidents, and every where I go is within walking distance. There are cars, but the max speed limit on base is 25 mph, and there are sidewalks or walking paths everywhere. I only cross one road to go eat, and don't cross any roads to get to where I work. So please don't worry, the worst part of being here is being away from my family.

Here is a video of C-RAM if you've never seen one. Pretty cool. I haven't heard one firing, but that could be because no rounds are coming in, or we don't have one. Not sure.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

40+ hours on a plane

I'm in Afghanistan now, more on that later, but first I have a story about the flight over. We flew from McChord Air force base in Washington (the state) to some small air base in Germany. I'd tell the name, but I don't remember and it's not important to the story in any way. I was lucky enough that I got to sit in first class on a 747. It was very impressive, with a video screen for each seat. You could play whatever movie you wanted. The chair turned into a bed. There was ample space for my feet, and all the random junk I was carrying. It was a really enjoyable flight. We left in the late evening, so I just watched a movie and then slept. When I woke up we were in Germany to refuel and change crews. We were only supposed to be on the ground for about an hour and a half, but of course everything up till that point had gone right, so it was inevitable that the plan would have to change.

As we were taxiing to the runway to take off the pilot came over the intercom to announce that our flight was going to be delayed at least 18 hours due to weather. Our next stop on our journey to Afghanistan was Manas, Kyrkistan, and Manas was at zero visibility and not expecting a change. In a more developed country zero visibility isn't as much of a hindrance, but in a third world country it most definitely is. Eighteen hours on a plane is a little long, especially after a ten hour flight from the states, so our chain of command did the sensible thing and got us rooms at a hotel. Here is were the catch came in. The only hotel that could take nearly 300 people on short notice was roughly 2 hours away in Frankfurt. We had a plane full of soldiers, and each soldier was carrying weapons. Customs frowns on taking weapons into the country, even if it is soldiers. We can't just leave the weapons on the plane, there are going to be crews coming on the plane to change out the food that will be expired 18 hours from now, etc. Germany won't let us through customs with our weapons, and staying on the plane with that many people is out of the question, so we had to send everyone to the hotel, leave the weapons on the plane, and leave guards. Since I was in first class, I volunteered to stay on the plane with three other soldiers from first class.

Everyone left, including all of the crew. The only people that stayed on board with us were a few of the maintenance guys. One of the Germans from the airport brought us over a case of beer and the maintenance guys gave us full privileges on the plane. I basically did everything on the plane that you always want to do, but never actually do when on a plane. Every switch, every button, every little cabinet, I flipped it, pushed it, or opened it. I also got an in depth tour of the cockpit. All the food on the plane was going to be thrown away, so we could eat whatever we wanted. I ate the crew meals because their food was much better than the first class meals even. I actually had a blast. When we finally got cleared for take off I had spent over 25 extra hours on the plane. When we landed in Manas it was about 41 hours after taking off in the states. It was quite the adventure.

Here is the beer. Bitburger is what it was called. I'm not much of a beer drinker, I prefer mixed drinks, but this beer was pretty good. I figured that since I was in Germany, and alcohol won't be accessible for awhile that I may as well have a few. Thanks to whom ever it was from the airport that "accidently" left them on the plane.

Heres two of the other guys enjoying the food and movies.