Thursday, September 15, 2011


Today I’m going to write about some of the missions the NEADT2 have gone on and of course the only way I can write about them is if I was lucky enough to go along too..  I do mean lucky when I say it.  Again, this is
a once in a lifetime opportunity for a guy that was never in the military.  The missions that we go on are generally based on the same guidelines.  They are introduction missions where we are going out and
Chief Huttes, Myself, Farooq Marijani, Lt. Chris Rees.
meeting someone or group for the first time.  They are missions that we are going out on to follow up on contracts and assuring that work or projects are preceding as contracted and that the end result falls within the guidelines of the contract that funded the project.  Then there is the third type where we are going out and planning for future projects and these type of missions usually are generally to the same few entities that we will be working closely with such as the DAIL, Paktya University in Gardez City, the DAILs Demo Farm and the Women’s Development Center.

In the past funding really didn’t seem to be a issue. Some pretty high dollar projects had been funded---I’m not talking millions or even hundreds of thousands but some pretty decent cash outlays that hopefully have gone to worthwhile projects.  What NEADT2 has done sine they have been here is close out projects developed and started by their predecessor Oklahoma.  This means a great deal of time has been spent overseeing the implementation of these contracts.  These go beyond building things although there is some of that. These are projects like Women’s Poultry Training, Youth Poultry Training, Youth Livestock Training, Cool Storage Facilities, Livestock Vaccination Projects, Nursery Projects, Honeybee projects and the list goes on.

The trainings are not one day trainings—they last several hours over several days.  The trainings are not one location trainings either, they take place in several locations throughout the Paktya Providence.  Travel is a huge issue and the majority of the students often have only one option and that is to walk to the training. 
Inside the DAIL compound.  Some of the housing for the staff.
As an example, the poultry trainings include in depth classroom training which at the end of the training the student receives a certificate of training. For many this is the only education related certificate that they may receive in their lifetime so it can be very important to them on a personal level.  They also receive a simple chicken coop, 10-20 vaccinated chicks, waters, feeders, a supply of feed and an opportunity to make this an expanding flock of revenue producing birds.  This is not for consumption of the birds themselves because the Afghan people are not real big consumers of chicken, this is about egg production.  The hope is they are capable of producing eggs to eat plus more to sell at the market.  The average Afghans income is around $300.00 US dollars per month.  So, adding nutrition and income to the family is the overall goal as well as it being sustaining.

So the missions themselves that I have been on…but I should start at the beginning and I may have written about this in the past but I’m going to do it again because it is important.  First off these missions would be going on whether or not I was part of it.  The missions are planned with the paramount purpose of
Part of the wall that surrounds the compound.
bringing everyone back safe.  Everything is secondary or even less than the overall goal.  A great deal of planning is involved with each and every mission that heads out of here.   The whole thing is an orchestrated military exercise from an hour before leaving base to an hour after returning. This isn’t a pull up, jump out, hi how ya doun type of deal by any stretch of the imagination.  All of these men and women are highly trained soldiers that take their responsibility 200% seriously.

So the missions I have been on –well some of the first ones I know I have mentioned previously and those were my first trip to the DAIL compound in Gardez City and a QAQC or a follow up on a nursery  project.  The nursery project was kind of cool in that this was my first experience getting out into a small Afghan village. The people are mostly …. I don’t know if the word is happy but maybe glad to see you—sort of kind of---no hostility and lots of smiles and thumbs up mostly from the kids.  This may because they are looking for what they call sweets and pens and pencils.  You know American kids want X-Box and games, cell phones, TVs and what not; these kids are fighting for a simple ink pen or pencil.

When we go to the DAIL compound—again I should clarify that the DAIL is both a person and a place.  DAIL is the Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock and he is the highest agriculture official in the Providence.  Here in the Paktya Providence it is DAIL Zahdran and he is probably the least corrupt and the most progressive DAIL in Afghanistan—or so we would like to believe.   Believe it or not, corruption is the basic way of doing business here in the day to day affairs of Afghanistan. That may be harsh but I think pretty true.  Note that this is an opinion.  The DAIL is also the compound in which the DAIL is officed.  This facility is in Gardez City and is a walled compound that I would estimate is close to a city block with the main office building and a couple of smaller buildings with maybe 4 classrooms and then several larger warehouse type building at various stages of degradation.  There is also a couple of rows of housing for the staff. Not housing in American terms but in Afghan terms---made of mud and straw—a door, windows that may or may not have glass, probably no electricity or even running water.  If they do have these it is a very limited resource.  There is litter and rubble everywhere.
DAIL Zahdran, LTC Heng, Khan our interpreter and Jose Sanchez

Meeting with some of the DAILs Directors.

The DAIL compound was built by the Germans from what I understand.  The structures are generally very well built just in poor repair or even worse.  The casualties of war.  Inside the primary DAIL building it is stark.  Far from clean, very limited electricity, the bathroom is locked and from reports quite the experience in itself.  The furnishing on the other hand have an air of eloquence to them.  At one point in time the stuff was pretty gosh darn nice and still isn’t too bad.  They keep it very tidy and dusted but the carpets and walls are a little bit unattended—there is definitely no woman’s touch here. 

The grounds associated with the main building are landscaped somewhat.  They love roses, cosmos, sunflowers, rose moss and holly hocks.  The trees of choice include poplars, tree of heaven and willows even though this is a very arid region.  There is also some fruit tree plantings and a nice planting of grafted apricots that they propagated.  They have a greenhouse frame built but are waiting to cover it until a fence is built around it because they are worried the dogs will get at the plastic and rip it.  There are several dogs in the compound and I believe all the females I have seen are pregnant or have pups.

So, bottom line is they try very hard but their culture different than ours.  Who is to say who is right and who is wrong.  Well this has gone long enough for tonight. During my next post I will continue on the places that I have had the opportunity to visit off base during a mission.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

FOB Gardez

Infamous 9/11 planning Qalat with our barracks conex latrine  in front

Forward Operating Base Gardez is just outside Gardez City in the Paktya Providence of Afghanistan.  This particular base is somewhat historical in that is one of the first strongholds in Afghanistan that was taken over from the Taliban by US Special Forces.  It is said that the 9/11 attack was planned with Osama bin Laden present in the Qalat located here on base and just outside of the bunkhouse that is home for now.  A qalat is basically a mud fortress or walled compound that family units or groups occupy.  Also located at this base is an Afghan cemetery which is just out side the buildings that house the NEADT offices also known as the Ag B-Huts.  The main access road runs right through the center of the cemetery.  Some of the visitors that come on base to do business with us refuse to be taken through the cemetery. The cemetery is the resting place of some fairly significant leaders in the fight against the Russians.  Because of these 2 landmarks it is said 
Inside the Qalat--
that FOB Gardez is hit less often by the insurgents because of respect or honor that these places have in the insurgents mind.  Another reason given is the Afghan that owns the land that the FOB is located on.  He is a very powerful man and the word is that they are hesitant to cross him.  So all this is just speculation but it makes for a good story.
 Now, on to the FOB itself. The Fob is surrounded by  Hesko barriers that are basically 4x4x4 or larger cattle panel like containers that are lined with fabric and filled with dirt, rock or whatever that are lined up or stacked to form a wall. These can be stacked 2-3 high or wide and act as the wall between the FOB inside and the world outside.  There are literally thousands of these surrounding this base. 

    Inside the Hesko wall are 2 qalats—The afore mentioned qalat that actually has offices and housing
The barracks where I live next to the helicopter landing site
 in it and a second qalat that is maintenance and other things. There is also the cemetery.  Then there are several housing huts—dozens actually that house the contractor and military personnel and then completely separate housing for the Afghan National Army personnel here.  There are also hundreds of shipping containers that act as storage, shops, housing or whatever.  The contracting company here is Flour—that is French I think not as in flower and they have several buildings that house mechanical and wood shops and other maintenance facilities---they take care of everything here from chow to latrines and everything in between.

We have a Afghan ran laundry where you can take your clothes and a separate do it yourself with 8 or so washers and dryers that is suppose to accommodate several hundred personnel here.  There is always a waiting line—timing is everything.    Side note here---this is my first scheduled time off since I have been here so I got the morning off and as I sit here writing this the jets are flying which is very unusual which means there is something going on nearby—so action----back to writing---So laundry can be a pain.  We also have some Haji shops on base.  You can get just about anything you may want or need.  The standard line is the price is xxxxx but for you my Brother it is xxxxx.  Nothing goes for marked value.  There are several—one you can get all sorts of scarves, rugs, knick knacks, precious stones, opium pipes, hukas, all the important stuff.  His neighbor is simply a jeweler—lots of jewelry—the price is 650.00 but today for you it is 550.00 then you find out he actually sells it for 380.00 .  So you always deal.  This guy has lots of other cool stuff too.  Then there is the tailor—he is really good and you can get a nice suit cheap.  Next to him is the like Pamida guy—he has personal hygiene things and other items you might find at Pamida.  Next to him is the movie guy—you can get any movie for 2 bucks even if it has been in the theatre for only a day—they got it.  Next to him is the Best Buy—all electronics and then another electronics guy that has knives and such too. Then at the end is the rug guy that sells fur things—coats, stoles, Afghan hats and belly dancing outfits, scarves, stone bowls etc.  A coffee shop with 5.00 gross coffee and other specialty drinks and last but not least the Kabul Diner—haven’t ate there yet.    
Col Krupa with Diablo the Billy Goat

So at our AG B Huts we have 3 buildings.  One houses SECFOR the security force, AG Team which there are 14 or so of us and then of course Administration in the third.  We also have a barn and barnyard with a couple of goats, a couple of fat tailed sheep and a load of chickens—over a 100.  That keeps some of us happy, some busy and some grumbling.

All the electricity on base is generated provided and all latrines are serviced by pumper trucks –my point being is we are just plopped here.  It takes a ton of contractors and a ton of Afghan nationals to make this place work.

Taking off after refueling

FOB Gardez also houses a helicopter refueling station.  All air movement is by helicopter—not landing strips.  Copters of all shapes and sizes from different nations and groups like the UN and others land here non stop weather permitting. Weather is a big factor in that we are located in a mountain pass 2700 ft or so higher than Denver and there are other mountain passes that have to be flown through to get here so if any passes are not safe then flight activity is reduced.  This is a staging ground for many operations where Chinooks will land with their troops spend the night refuel and then off to the mission or simply refuel and be off.   This is a lights out base so no white light at all after dark.  We walk around after dark with red or green flashlights. This means no landing lights at night—pretty weird being outside after dark and here are 5 helos 2 Chinooks and 3 escort gun ships coming in at the same time landing with no lights and come out in the morning and they are less than 150 ft from your bunk—and that is no exaggeration.  We are right next to the landing field. We have come out in the morning and the rotor blades actually hang over the Hesko by 6 feet and you could run and jump from the bunkhouse door and touch them.

So enough for today—This barely scratches the surface of what is here.  I will try to be better about getting things written and posted.  Next I will talk about some of the missions I get to go on…See Ya—V.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First week at FOB Gardez

My first 10 minutes at FOB Gardez.
I arrived at FOB Gardez on Saturday  the 30th of August 2011 about 10:30 in the morning.  As we pulled up to the FOB the first people that you encounter is the security force that is manning the entrance gate.  This security force is made up of Afghan Army personnel.  Since we had US ID we were not scrutinized like the Afghans that were coming on the base.  We had to wait until a representative of the Nebraska Agriculture Development Team 2 arrived to escort us onto the base.  Any Afghan National that was entering the base was subjected to a pat down, and vehicle search.

Apple nursery --grafted Red and Yellow Delicious.
Once we pulled up to the area that the NEADT occupies introductions were made and we went into each of the 3 buildings that ADT are housed in.  One building housed the Security Team, one for the Ag Team and one for Administration.  There is also a barn and barnyard that houses a pair of goats, a pair of sheep and a BUNCH of chickens. 

One of my first missions upon arrival was to eat—it was chow time.  The mess hall is about ¼ of a mile from the Ag Hut which is where the Ag team is housed.  We walked over to eat which is somewhat of a challenge in that the rock on the ground is huge.  Not like what we have but more like 4-6 inches which is constantly shifting under your feet.  The food was very good.  It is like eating at Golden Corral every meal as Col. Heng—the Commander of the mission likes to say and he is right.  Several entrees to choice from, a grill, multiple sides, fruit, deserts, all kinds of beverages and then a rack with things like cereal, jerky, cookies, muffins, etc. that you can leave with.  First thing I was worried about going through the place for the first time was my diet.

Once lunch was finished we headed back to the Ag Hut.  I was set up at a desk with a computer that has access to unsecure information only and internet that has some pretty tight constraints on it.  Now I felt like a fish out of water.  New country, new office, new people and no idea of where to start---but that was short lived.  Just a bit after I got there plans were already in the works.  We started scheduling missions.  A mission is a convoy out of the FOB to a location that there is finished, in progress or proposed contract to do work.  The first mission I was scheduled to go out on was to the DAIL.

The DAIL is an interesting concept.  It is both a person and a place.  DAIL is Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.  This mission was to cover several items; my introduction, other team members introduction and to sign a large wheat contract that would provide wheat seed to several hundred farms in the Paktia region of Afghanistan.  Paktia or also spelled Paktya is the region that FOB Gardez is located.  Each region has a DAIL and the Director of the DAIL is DAIL Zandran.  Within the Paktia region there are 12 or so districts. The DAIL is in charge of Extension for that region.  I was also introduced to the head of Extension in the region, Faroq -------.

The mission was scheduled for Aug 2nd.  It starts long before that but for me it started Aug 1st at 5:00 as all missions start the day before at 5:00 with a security briefing.  The participants of the mission meet in the security hut and the mission is outlined and security detail is appraised of the mission and how the mission is to be orchestrated to laid out.  Each mission rolls with 6-8 MWARP which is a large armed personnel carrier.  The crew consists of driver, leader in the passenger seat, gunner who mans the 50 cal or bigger on the top of the rig and a person that sits in the back facing out that keeps watch in his or hers direction.  Last but not least the passengers.  Everyone on the mission must attend the security briefing. 

The day of the mission, the mission for the security team starts 11/2 hours prior to departure. They load the trucks and get everything ready.  Everyone meets about 45 minutes prior to departure time and there is another briefing and the mission is again read through.  Everyone gathers in their truck assignment and as a group each truck walks through a dry run of how the dismount and reloading and movement takes place.  The groups are dismissed to get the body armor on and last things loaded and then you meet for a prayer and then you load up and head out.

Col. Ross Finley is a BIG hit.
My second mission was August 5th.  That mission was three pronged.  First we visited a cool storage facility; I stayed on the truck for that.  The second part of the mission was to visit a vet clinic in the village and the third part was to visit an apple nursery project that had been completed and evaluate the progress.   We had to park on the main road of the village.  The trucks park about 100 ft apart in case there is an incident and only one truck will be taken out with a hit of any kind.  The security team dismounts first and secures the area which takes 15-20 minutes and then those on the mission that are not security dismount with your armed escorts and they move you through the vehicles handing you off to the next team as you proceed through the line. We had to walk quite a distance to the nursery.  Down the main road through the alley or back road that runs parallel to the main road and on the backside of the shops and then into the nursery that extended several hundred feet. The nursery was primitive but the pant material was excellent.  They had grafted Red and Yellow Delicious, Fuji, several types of Gala and Red Chief.  I would have been pleased if they were mine.

The rest of my first week was about getting acclimated to the FOB and projects that were in the works.  All of these were hand-offs from the Oklahoma Team that preceded Nebraska.   We also started brainstorming about projects that we wanted to get going ourselves.  These included developing the demo farm, composting, cold frame, pine nuts, food dehydrator, mulberry for forage and about 20 others.  Next---The FOB Itself.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Travel to Gardez

Kabul to Gardez was a very interesting trip. We left the compound about 7:30 in the morning for the 60 mile 3 hr trip. The convoy to get me there consisted of 3 vehicles—2 soft skinned and 1 armored. All three were Land Rovers. The armored vehicle was in the middle which is where I was. A Ronco security team was in charge of getting me there. At 7:30 am many people are trying to get to their assignments so there are a lot of vehicles trying to get out of the place and it is slow going. Each vehicle passes through a series of 2 gates with one gate opening and closing behind then the second opening leting you out of the compound. When we got to the street we picked up our armed rider for the vehicle I was in and we also picked up the 2 soft skinned vehicles each having 4 armed personel.  Instructions were if we take fire and are incapacitated then we move to the nearest mobile soft skin for escape.
Traffic in Kabul was crazy and everyone had to keep up with the vehicle in the lead. In and out of traffic, dodging bikes and motorcycles, avoiding pedestrians…just general chaos. Nothing looks clean or prosperous and everyone looks poor. Lots of men milling about, lots a kids running around but very few women. The word is that the women were at home or in the fields working while the men sat around talking. Lots of taxi cabs running around, as you drive around lots of people washing vehicles. Air compressors sitting at the curbs everywhere with tires in the shade and sometimes a conex with tools where cars pull up to get air or just fixed.
As you got ouside Kabul there were lots of little communities. Shops along the road that sold everything. Rugs, watering cans that they use for hygene, tea pots, tons of fruits and veggies, meat that is just hanging there covered in flies and pieces chopped off as sold, propane vendors. 100 pound canisters that people brought up smaller tanks to fill. Lots of little freon tanks being filled with propane. So all sorts of things being sold. No shop was really empty and most seemed quite full and people everywhere.
As you got into more rural areas there are lots of fields with all sorts of things being grown in small plots that they call jeribs which is a very inclusive term. Lots of them were empty so there is potential for some multi cropping of some type. Lots of sheep, goats, donkeys and a few camels. These generally have free range. As you look over the landscape you can see tents associated with these herds that house the Kuchi or the nomadic herders. These are a tribal people that really answer to no one but their tribal leader.  These nomads are also some of the primary beekeepers in the country. They move their bees with them as they migrate. They move using trucks, tractors with trailers or anything else for that matter.
We almost had a bad incident on the trip. Lots of people hanging out along the road. A lot of kids. We finally got to a straight away that the caravan gained some speed---not fast just sped up a little. A little girl ran out in front of the lead vehicle. He literally laid 40 to 50 feet of skid marks and went sideways and almost went into the ditch but regained control, came to an almost complete stop and then we proceeded on.
The final stretch of road to Gardez was very mountainous and dangerous. The security detail was pretty nervous about driving it as the Taliban can sit in those mountains and just pick you off and that happens regularly. It was actually a very beautiful drive. As we got into Gardez it was the same as all the other towns other than the fact that it is a University town. The University is only 5 years old or so. The FOB is just outside of Gardez.
We arrived at the gates of FOB Gardez right at 10:30 am. We went through security and waited for an escort onto the base. It took an hour or so for that to happen. Once we got in we met up with the ADT group immediately and were shown around their area and introductions were made. It was then chow time and the food is pretty darn good. It will be hard to stay on my diet here. We ate and then headed back to headquarters. John Morris and the security team left at that point and left me to the ADT gang. That was Saturday the 30th. Five days behind schedule or around here right on time—everything is in windows, nothing is right on time especially travel. Next….My first days with ADT

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


John Morris the Project Manager and Creed McCaslin the head of security for GTW Consultants arrived at the Bagram airbase around 8:15 to Drive me to Kabul. We made the trip in a reinforced Land Rover which means it had bullet proof glass and body armor. It was about a 20 mile drive that took an hour. That was a very interesting hour. First we had to get through the quagmire of vehicles that were trying to get on and off the base. Many Afghan support people and services were pushing their way onto the base as we were trying to get out. The Afghan Army actually mans the gates and takes care of security.

Once off base traffic opened up quite a bit but the roads were absolutely horrible. New asphalt that had gapping holes in it then abruptly back to the original dirt and rock road, No true shoulders so people walked and road their bikes on the edge of the road. The most interesting part of the trip was no driving laws. You make forward progress however you can. That means you drive on whatever side of the road that allows you to keep moving forward. You can pass on or off the road. If it is a divided highway and you aren’t moving forward as fast as you like you just jump the divide and make your way in those lanes. Accidents are taken care of at the scene generally a cash settlement. That includes pedestrians being killed. You agree to a settlement at the scene in most cases. Traffic police are there to keep traffic moving if it happens to get overly congested.

The land is desolate and the people very poor. Brick makers dotted the landscape. Many little roadside stands lined the highway. Herds of goats, sheep and some donkeys were prevalent on the plains. These herds belonged to nomadic tribes who set their tents up and graze the area then pack up and find a new spot. There is very little vegetation available to support the herds so movement is constant.

I was driven to a facility in Kabul called the Green Village. This is a high security facility in Kabul that houses contractors from around the world. The Russians own it and Nepal is in charge of security. You have to go through a series of solid steel gates which are guarded by armed personnel to gain vehicle entry. ID’s are checked and the vehicle is inspected for bombs. Once you gain entry you have to go through a metal detector also and security to bodily gain entrance.

The whole village is surrounded by 20 ft steel walls reinforced by 4x4x4 containers of sand that ate stacked to the top of the wall. Armed guards with machine guns are posted along the wall. A security detail of several dozen armed men patrol the grounds 24/7. All where very friendly and vigilant.

The compound consisted of 12 or so residence halls that each had 30 rooms, a office facility that contacting agencies housed, dining facility, soccer field, sand volley ball, basketball, swimming, shops and a spa. The place was very nicely landscaped using poplars and willows for trees and lots of rose moss and sunflowers for color. The court yard of the spa had seating and was very nice. The food was awesome—it had a very European flair.

I stayed at the Green village for the week recovering from the trip and the Kuwait experience. Arranging for transport also took some time. Travel on Fridays does not happen because that is their day off basically and if you drove the highways you would be a big target so travel is avoided as much as possible. Next....Travel to Gardez

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kuwait and Beyond

As promised, all of us that did baggage detail flew in business class.  We loaded on to the plane right after the officers that were on the flight.  I sat in the 5th row from the front and a window seat.  We flew on World Airlines and I don't know what kind of plane it was but it was big.  There were 3 seats on each side and 5 across the middle.  Part of the business class gig was that we got a empty seat between each of us so there was plenty of room.  Our first stop was in Germany.  It was a very painless flight.  Somewhere around 8 hrs. long.  We watched the A-Team and two other movies that I truly don't even remember what they were.  It was kind of weird because night only lasted about 3 hrs from the time it got dark to the morning sky was turning red.

I'm not really sure when we arrived in Germany but it was the same time as the first news coverage about the shootings in Norway.  We hung around the airport and visited a couple of shops.  They had some great Bratwurst.  We were there for about 2 hours while they refueled and cleaned up our plane.  It was a good break.

Row of AC tents

One of many runs of tents
We loaded back onto  plane and headed off to Kuwait.  That was a 4 hr flight.  I'm not really sure where all the time went but it went fast. Again, I'm not sure what time we landed but it was still daylight and hot around 120 so it was starting to cool off.  We off loaded the plane and got onto several buses to start our movement to Ali Al Salem Base.  We sat on the buses packed like sardines while some other lucky souls got to unload the baggage into 2 semi trucks.  The convoy of trucks and buses were escorted by security quite a ways.  We had been on the bus for a heck of a long time and everyone was eady to get off for one reason or another.  We finally came to the first check point and so many people were in dire straits that they let us off to go to the bathroom.  It was a mad, unscheduled rush. We were only half way to the base.  We finally got to the base and unloaded in a holding area where we got iced down, truly cold water for the last time.  We were there standing around  for a long time as other groups joined ours.  There were several hundred people there before we were loaded up once again and transported to tent city.  By that time it was well past dark but it gets dark here at 6:30.  We all gathered for a briefing which lasted an hour or so then everyone went out to unload the trucks and try to find their duffels.  The military guys and DOD civilian each had 4 bags and the contractors each had 2 bags.  It was kind of chaos.  Those of us that were sticking together helped each other out. After we got our stuff located we had to go in and get our ID and LOA stamped for a flight out.  We then went to get a tent assignment.  John Lucas and myself were in Q6.  We went and got the stuff we could carry and went to look for our tent.  It was around 10 PM at this point.  Each tent had 10 bunks and was air conditioned which meant it was a nice cool 95.  We claimed our bunks, locked our stuff in lockers returned for the rest of our belongings hoping they were still there and went exploring. 

Bunkers in case .......

These are everywhere.
We found a Pizza Hut, KFC,Subway, Mc Donalds and a doughnut shop.  All open but the doughnut shop.  I got some KFC.  We then went to the tent and crashed.  Even though it was 95 it felt pretty gosh darn good compared to the outside temp.  There was a flight to Bagram at 2 AM and both John and I needed to get to Bagram but it was booked.  We slept until we woke up, showered and went to see when the next flight left.  Show time was 1515.  That means you are there and if there is room you get on if not ...oh well there is always next time.  Some folks are stuck for days here before they can get on a flight. That was the only flight to Bagram for the day. There was all kinds of free food there...the Honey Buns were the best.  We hung there for a couple of hours because it was cool and we would be farther up in the line to get a chance at the flight.  When showtime came ...we didn't make the cut.  We were in Kuwait for another day.  We hung out for a little longer in the cool and then went and found the entertainment hall and watched movies and got a pizza and hit the sack.
Added reinforcement

Communication dishes.

Tent City transportation services.
When we got back to the tent some bottom, cooler bunks had opened up and we moved into those.  At about 4 am we got new tent mates who were rude as heck and we were basically up for the rest of the day.  We went and showered and back to the terminal to see if there was a flight.  At 4 am the sun is starting to come up and it is already heating up.  It ended up that there was a flight to Bagram that afternoon (Monday) and showtime was at 1300 so we had a Honey Bun and went to get our stuff deciding that if we missed the flight we would just stay at the terminal until we did get a flight--no matter how long--because it was cool and no more noisy than our tent.  We lined up at 1300 and were the 3rd and 4th in line and got on that flight which was scheduled for departure at 1600.  We had a briefing, palletized our baggage got in line and loaded onto the buses and drove to the airport and waited on the buses until the plane was ready for us. That was a 2 hour process.

Were were flying from Kuwait to Bagram Afghanistan on a C17 A which is a huge cargo jet with 4 engines.  There were at least 200 of us on this flight. When we pulled up in the buses the back ramp was open and we could see that there were no seats inside.  A transport rig of some sort pulled up with a section of seats on it and they loaded them on the plane and secured them and the cargo plane instantly became a passenger plane.  Once the seats were in place we exited the buses and loaded onto the plane.  Once again I got lucky and got into the 4th row aisle seat.  These seats were really tight.

The flight lasted for 4 hrs.  No stewardess, no food, no movie so I read a book on my iPad for the 1st hour and a half and then got up and walked to the back of the plane where some of the guys were standing and just hanging out rather than sitting the whole flight.  Some were laying on the floor sleeping.  Stood for the rest of the flight until about 15 minutes before landing.  We landed and they unloaded some of the cargo and we all marched off the end of the plane wearing our body armor  and helmets and carrying our back packs.  No bus at the Bagram Airfield....we walked about 1/4 of a mile to the terminal.  The best thing about being on the ground was that it was cool and misting.  Once we hit the terminal we had a briefing.  It was 1 am,  show time for my flight to Kabul wasn't until 3:30 am so some more waiting.  The mantra for this whole experience has been "hurry up and wait". I had been up from around 4 the previous morning so it had been a long day.  3:30 came along and I made the flight which was to leave at 6:30 .  Fifty-nine of us made it.  When 6:30 came along 19 were bumped from he flight including me.  Had to make a call and it was decided that GTW would drive and pick me up and transport me to Kabul. I was of the guys in our travel group was going to be stuck there for 5 days miminum.    Next.....My First Day In Afghanistan

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Beginning---CRC Training

CRC Drive
This is the start of a series of blogs to share my experiences during my preparation and stay in Afghanistan.  This opportunity came about after working with the Nebraska National Guard ADT2 ( Agribusiness Development Team) group.  The group spent 2 days with me at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Kimmel Education and Research Center in Nebraska City, NE learning about alternative agriculture practices. We covered topic that included grape production, vegetable production, tree and small fruit production, intensive production practices, season extension and high tunnels.  The group participated in hands on activities such as fruit tree pruning, grape pruning and grape propagation.  We had a great 2 days that resulted in my being asked to travel to Gardez Afghanistan to work in the field with the ADT2 group and their interactions with Afghan farmers.  The basic premise is to help the Afghan farmers re-establish agriculture in their country.  To help them transition from war to agriculture production.
Starting from the beginning.  My Afghanistan Experience started at Fort Benning GA on the 15th of July 2011.  My visit to Fort Benning began when I arrived at the airport in Columbus, GA and loaded onto a bus that took myself and 30 or so others to CRC training at Fort Benning.  We arrived and were immediately billeted or in civilian terms assigned a room and issued 1 set of sheets, pillow case, wool blanket and a very noisy uncomfortable pillow.  Each barrack consisted of 10 rooms each having 2 sets of bunks, 4 sets of washers and dryers and 1 latrine.  All total there were approximately 400 military and civilian attendees who were deploying to various parts of the world that participated in this CRC training.

Saturday the 16th was the official beginning of CRC and we had a 0900 formation and were bussed to a very large tent for a briefing that basically laid out the ground rules and some medical info that sent 1/2 of the contractors into a tail spin because they announced the TB test was good only 30 days out rather than the 90 days printed in the information provided so many of us including myself because my test was 38 days out had to scramble to get TB tests re-done.  Several local clinics were available for anything that was needed. We then did computer based training on subjects like Survival, Escape, Recovery and Evasion (SERE), Heat Injury Prevention, Suicide Prevention, Human Trafficking, Cultural Awareness and some others.

Sunday the 17th consisted of another briefing, being fit for body amour and helmets and continued the computer based training and ISOPREP which basically  next of kin info and a series of information that you generate about yourself that can be used for identification purposes if you are captured.

Monday the 18th started with a briefing and we were transferred to another facility for the initial deployment briefing, ID Card validation, meet with a Chaplin and then legal advisers about wills and power of attorney.

Tuesday the 19th we were again transported to a different facility for our medical certification which was a very long process.  At this point many were declared "NO GOES" because of some medical issue.  This process started at 6 am and I was finished at 1 pm upon which we were transported  to the supply warehouse where our body armor and gas mask were issued.

Wed the 19th again started at 6 am.  We had more trainings on Sexual Assault and Prevention, Identifying Improvised Explosive Devises, Evaluate Casualties, Shock Identification and Treatment, First Aid on Head Wound, First Aid on Abdominal Wound, First Aid on Chest Wound, Transport Casualties and Requesting Medical Evacuation.

Thursday consisted of pre-flight information and makeup for anything that you may need.  Lots of free time to get everything packed.  I was allowed 2 duffels, 1 carry on (back pack) and I could  on my iPad satchel.
I volunteered for baggage detail along with some of the other guys that I met for Friday morning the reward for that was business class seating on the flight from Benning to Kuwait.

Robert Taylor, Tom, John Lucas and Greg Capitano

John Lucas, Squirrel, Mike and Tom
Friday the 23rd....shipping out day.  Got up early--kind of nervy.  repacked for the heck of it, turned in my bedding and moved my stuff to the area that we were to assemble at.  Baggage detail--20 of us were to report at 0945 for instructions--bags in 12 a straight lines with 2 ft between so the drug dogs could get through.  There were just shy to 700 duffel bags and other luggage. When that was completed we signed out.  At 12:30 we started loading the buses-6 of them and heading to the airport.  A very slow trip, just a few miles that took an hour and a half.                                                                  Unloaded into a very nice converted hanger around 1400, an hour behind schedule.

Mr. Lee
We then hung out here for quite a while and had a briefing after which we had to file through security with our carry ons to get weighed with everything we were taking on the plane on our person.  We then had to slide our carry on bags into a sizing box to make sure they were not too big and  line those up for the drug dogs to take a sniff and pass through a metal  detector.  It was finally time to eat.  Also time to meet with a Chaplin, go to confession or go to a church service.  Another briefing and then load onto the plane.  We finally lifted off at 7:00 pm, 2 hours off schedule for our first stop which was in Germany.