Saturday, February 5, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - freedom

Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday. It's truly a national holiday whether you partake in watching the game or not. While I'm not the biggest football fan, I love to watch the commercials. But my favorite part of the game and all sports games is, The National Anthem.

It is wonderful to see everyone standing, with their hats off and hands over their hearts trying to sing the words in a unifying moment for our country. The USA is a great country! We need to remember this. Yes we all have issues, but we must remember we are allowed to not only have issues, but to voice these issues no matter how distasteful they are to others.

We must agree to disagree sometimes and because we live in the USA we are allowed to do that. We are allowed to walk down the street, chewing gum, smoking a cigarette, carrying a concealed weapon, holding the hand of a same sex partner, who is a different color and a different religion, with red hair and a nose ring and a swastika tattoo, while holding a Koran...we are free.

Take this moment to think about what freedom is to you. Then remember the next time you see someone in the US Military to thank them for fighting for you. No one likes war...but terrorism is worse.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - smells

The smells of Afghanistan gave it a ribbon of foreign taste.

The flight into Kabul from Dubai filled with Afghan men smelled liked goat. But not in a bad way. It was warm and cozy. I could understand a goat herder wanting to snuggle down in the cold with the warm animals and sleep under a blanket stars.

Inside the Military Base in Kabul it smelled like snow. The ground was damp from the cold humid air. The earth still warm from the fall smelled like the fresh unspoiled dirt of a farm with jagged rock mountains rising up behind.

Camp Leatherneck was about 30 degrees warmer. It smelled of jet fuel and dust. Planes, helicopters and jets were landing and taking off twenty-four hours stirring up the find khaki colored sand. Some roads had been oiled which added to the machine shop smell.

When I got out of the dusty convoy at Camp Spenghar it smelled like someone was grilling chicken. The warm sun beat down upon the rock road created at the entrance and the smoky fire smelled so good I commented. Then I was informed it was the burn pit. They burned all the refuse. After I heard that I could detect a sour note in the smell. From then on the smell became distasteful. The other distinct smell of Spenghar was plywood curing in the sun. Plywood barracks had been built within the compound.

The air was so pure and clean deep in Helmand Province you could smell the earth being tilled from the nearby farmers and the grilling of beef kabobs for their dinner.

When I sat on the bench I occupied from noon until 3:30 when the sun disappeared, the sun kissed my face and I smelled the cigarettes of the Marines. I'd close my eyes and huffed the mud brick compound. I tried to smell the blood that had been spilled and imagined the smells of past Afghanistan and felt that nothing had changed in hundreds of years.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - cigars

The best time I had in Afghanistan was having a smoke with the Outlaws. Here I am sitting with 1stSgt. Darrell Carver. Gunnery Sgt. James Schadle, Gunny, had his back to us. I was wearing his hat. 

My cigar was good and we were sitting in front of a roaring fire. Others joined us, SSgt. Sergio Fernandez, Capt. Chris Richardella the CO and SSrg. Oliver Brugoto. This was my last night in Camp Spenghar and it was an honor to be included.

These Outlaws are all remarkable men and their families should be busting with pride. Their deployment is up in June and they will be headed back to Oahu, Hawaii, their home base.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - Nawa District

This photo was taken outside the school in the Village of Gyrowa outside Camp Jaker. This is the bazaar that is comprised of shacks attached to each other with corrugated metal sides and canvas roofing. They are very primitive but this is where the villagers shop. They come from miles around to get spices, their motor cycle fixed, or a new pot etc. 

In the distance you will notice the electronic dish and in the foreground the new concrete bridge. These are courtesy of the Military.

Across the way is the new improved bazaar, made out of concrete with metal door closures, painted a clean white with red trim.

They held the grand opening after a Shura I attended. Here is the Military brass with the Afghanistan Elders of the village talking about the wonderful new improvements.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - chow

Mmmmmm, breakfast. These heated UGR's were our breakfast every morning at Camp Geronimo. There were no cooking facilities or running water so the cook was limited. I can't seem to find the definition of the acronym but let me tell you about them. 

Here we have sweet rolls, sausage and gravy, once fried potato patties and scrambled eggs. A UGR's shelf life is 9 months and it's considered an A ration. If it's good, then it probably isn't a 'real' UGR. They are heated. The key here would be to eat right when they were served as the DFAC (dining facility) didn't have heat and it was about 20 degrees every morning.

I ate dried cereal. I didn't use the milk because I was told by every camp I went to, not to. It was a rich milk from Dubai. If there wasn't soy milk then I just ate my cereal dry. We could also make instant coffee, if you grabbed some hot water before the men started to fill bottles to wash and shave.

For lunch or anytime you were hungry there were MRES, which were heated with a pull tab and 1st Strikes which were pouches of a days amount of food. I didn't eat lunch. Around 3:30 I usually broke into my stash of skittles.

At 3:00 cook started the two big wood fires to make dinner outside. Dinner had to be cooked within his two huge pots or on a grill. The first night I was there, in my honor, we had twice fried chicken and rice. Cook was a master at rice.  This was the first cooked meal the guys had since they deployed to this little base. The next night we had steak and one night we had 'Castaway Rice' which was a conglomeration of rice, spices chicken etc.

The chow was good, then again, I was starving.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes

Lying in my cot in the morning I used to wait until the Sun had just illuminated the sky a pale blue. It was always a rush to use the multitude of porto potties. Of course they called them porto Johns in the Marines, which made me smile because my Mom always called the facilities  a John.

It was hard enough using them in the dark with your headlamp. But at least you could tell which ones were occupied, the ceiling inside glowing like a mushroom. There was no chance of opening the door on someone.

It was cold out. The cold slapped you on your face; so there was no chance of you getting back into your snuggly sleeping bag to catch a little more sleep.

As I lay there in the quiet of my hootch I would hear the Afghan's morning call to prayer. There was a mosque in the village about 1 mile south, by way of the sun. The call was the first reminder that I was in a foreign country.

It takes awhile to adjust to where you are just as it takes awhile to adjust to being home.