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.