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.

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