Afghanistan-A-Go-Go

A Reservist's Tale Of A Tour

Posts Tagged ‘care packages

Site Stats And So On

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WordPress, which hosts this little blog, is pretty neat in that it offers me a bit of a “statistical analysis” of where hits come from – what countries, what sites refer, and even what people type in to Google or other search engines that gets them here. Some of the Google terms are bizarre, I must admit. Some of them make me laugh, and some are totally random. What’s interesting is that a lot of them are questions that I could actually probably answer if someone posted comments to ask the question rather than just realizing that the search terms haven’t gotten them to where they want to be.

Some of them are pretty simple: How long is the flight from Leatherneck to Kabul? About an hour and a half. Add half an our or so on each side while they load and unload kit. Oh, and in that 30 minutes, expect to be sitting in stifling heat with no airflow. Hydrate before you go.

Is there a PX at Camp Clark? Not when I was there. There were Afghan shops that sell everything anyhow.

What’s the daily routine of a soldier in Afghanistan? There isn’t one – everyone has different jobs, different demands, different op tempos. Someone wanting to know for themselves if they’re deploying would have to ask the people they’re replacing.

Why don’t Afghans get along? Actual search term the other day. Complex question, not one I’ve got the scope to answer, but reading Afghan history will help.

Where is the massage place at BAF? Near the PX off Disney Drive. It’s inside the barber shop which is around the corner from the Harley-Davidson dealership and more or less behind the Pizza Hut. One hour is $30. Make sure you bring PT shorts.

How can I convince my Afghan mom to let me use tampons? Wow. Er, well, I got nothing for that, you’re on your own there, anonymous Google person. That is probably the most bizarre one of bunch so far.

Lots of questions about care packages. All I can say is ask the person you’re sending them to if they want anything specific, because it varies. We get all sorts of strange and bizarre stuff.  Popular things around our way are freezies and microwave popcorn, but for people living on more austere FOBs, well, those aren’t so useful. Universally useful things are those little drink crystal pouches, the single serving ones, Starbucks VIA coffee packs, beef jerky, candies that don’t melt, and things like that. But really, if you’re sending one to someone specific, just ask them what they want.

It’s interesting to see where all these hits come from, because it’s not as though I actually make any effort to “promote” this, and it’s as much for me to remember stuff as anything else, while telling stories a bit.

Been A While

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It’s been over two weeks, apparently, since I put up a post – I can’t believe it’s been that long, because BAF still seems almost like yesterday – it’s been busy here, a bit of a blur. We’ve moved offices, which was a bit of a gong show, because it left us with no access to our computer networks for a couple of days (despite assurances it’d be nothing more than a couple of hours… yeah right!).

We’ve been busy working on transition plans, adjusting to surprises about manning, and some other things that have cropped up. One of the Australians here came back reporting that he had received a rather prestigious posting, which means his tour will be cut short, as his new battalion will be deploying to Tarin Kowt before too long – he’s got to go home, move his family to the new posting, and then get set to come back.

Funny story though. He’s a bit of a Diet Coke addict (or, Coca Cola Light as it’s called in most of the world outside North America!), and has been known to vociferously complain when the DFAC runs out. So when he left, we began to accumulate as much of it as we could – taking a couple of cans out of the DFAC a day and piling them up on his desk. We had 225 cans for him. Which we had to move when we moved offices. But it was a good laugh for all. He brought back some souvenirs from Australia (including stuffed koalas, for the joke he’s been poking at Canadians about travel), and I’m going to miss having him around.

That’s the bizarre part of being in the military in general  – and here especially. We become family. We call each other brother not to be trite, but because that’s really what it’s like. The Army became my second family when I signed up. In many cases, they were closer and more important at propping me up during some of the most difficult and darkest moments of my life. But we do it because we have to. During one of those experiences, when a close friend of mine was killed over here in 2008, it was my brothers that help me up – and I did the same. Even people newly posted in to my unit who I barely knew did their part. We had just gotten a new Sergeant Major. The day we got the news and converged at work, he came up to me, among others, and simply said “I’m sorry about your friend.” There was no pretense to it – no faking that he knew him, as he didn’t – but those words were just right. Later, a mutual friend I told about that put it even better: “The life we have chosen requires us to hold each other up in times of trouble.” I bolded it for a reason. It’s not an option.

We don’t really have much of that trouble here – we’re lucky. But we still have to keep an eye on each other, make sure morale stays high, crack jokes as needed, work to break the monotony. And when it’s time for people to rip out and go home, you have to wonder how that void will be filled. In our case, with transition, we’ll see more of it – we’re joking that the last one out has to remember to turn out the lights, and it will be a Canadian, we’ll be the last ones here.

We keep coming up with things to do. We’ve started a running club, which I’ve joined even though I despise running, which includes regular trips to a couple of grueling routes – one which is a 5km out and back – sounds simple right? Oh, wait: You climb about 500 ft over the 2.5km – actually, over a lot less than that, because the first kilometre is flat. But the view at the top of the hill is worth it. There’s another route up and down four hills – I haven’t tried it yet but might soon enough. And by the way, we’re 6000 ft above sea level. The air’s a little thin. I can’t wait to get down to somewhere low and see what it feels like.

Oh, and I’ll get to soon.

So, I have this nickname – Captain Good Go. I’ve earned it by getting to go on some pretty gucci trips – but one coming up is pretty much the gucciest of all.

Basically, I’m going to teach in Germany for a couple of weeks, as part of a three-man training team going to run some train-the-trainer courses. Pretty awesome, really. I’m honoured to have been selected to teach – the audience is comes from all across the NATO alliance.

It’s just a matter of sorting out how to get me there and back that has to be worked out – so I’m sure there are clerks all over the place cursing my name – but that’s fine. A wise man once said, “HATERS GON’ HATE”, after all. Let ’em. There’s also the small issue that I have basically no civilian clothes here – because my brilliant plan was to order some stuff online closer to my leave since I need new clothes anyhow – so I’ll be sporting some 5.11 stuff from the PX probably. Oh well, everyone will think I’m some kind of contractor. That’s their unofficial uniform. Or I’ll have to do a little shopping in Germany and look like some Eurotrash clown.

What else to include? A few days ago, I was up to Camp Phoenix on some personal business (that involved getting angry over pay issues, and sorting out details of my leave trip, which incidentally will be awesome), and our drivers decided to drop by the post office to see if we had any mail we could bring back to our camp. No small supply, but in it was three huge boxes of goodies from a group in Buckhorn, Ontario, who got my name and address from some friends. Awesome. Lots of good stuff – though we’re at the point of almost saying “we don’t really need anything else!”. I sent an email back to say thanks – pretty awesome that people do stuff like this, especially considering so many people don’t even know we’re here.

For now, all is well – my biggest frustration lately has been traffic – two and a half hours today to travel about 15km, but we went through a part of Kabul I’ve never seen before, which is kind of neat – at least I got to see something else new.

Mail Call

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I returned from a little trip to discover a huge amount of mail waiting for me – two unexpected boxes.

One came from the Halifax MFRC, a box with some Easter Candy and some other goodies, and a couple of cards from school kids in Nova Scotia, so I’m going to have to send a letter back to their school at some point soon. I almost wish I had a photo printer, but what I think I’ll do is add some pictures to flickr and send them a link to see them. Or something like that. They apparently send along a box every season, which is great. It had some copies of The Coast and some other stuff. They also apparently had Tourism Nova Scotia send another copy of the NS travel guide, because I got one already and had another arrive. It’s just nice to see pictures of home. And maybe entice some of my colleagues to plan a trip there.

I got an expected box from my folks with some beef jerky and some Mexican candy (Pulparindo – whoever combined tamarind and chili is a genius) that they get down in Arizona for me – and also a Toblerone that I’ve hidden away for a “rainy day”. I also got a package from my lovely wife including some awesome fudge and some other things I asked for from home. It actually arrived in pretty good time, though the box of pashminas and other goodies I sent here hasn’t made it there yet. I’m still also waiting on my Keurig replacement, which as of last week was in Kuwait or something, but who knows when it’ll turn up. It’s just going to go back into my MOB because we have a functioning machine.

The funniest package, however, came from a friend of mine who’s a brother officer and my most common partner in crime before he moved to Ottawa. On packages, you have to list on the outside what is in the box, and his list was hilarious.

In the CF, for some reason, we choose a bizarre way of labeling/describing items. For example, the tunic/shirt I usually wear is officially known as “Converged Coat, Combat, CADPAT AR.” On my feet, I wear “Boots, Hot Weather”. We stretch these descriptions to ridiculous ends at times. Things like “Pencil, Mechanical, 0.5mm, High Speed Low Drag Type”. To these descriptions on our EIS (Equipment Issue Scale) the number you get is added. So it’s “Converged Coat, Combat, CADPAT AR, 4 each”.

So, among the items listed were “Coffee, freeze dried, hipster, 16 ea.”, “Mix, drink, sports, assorted, 20 ea.” and “Book, Reference, 1 ea.”. Maybe it’s not so funny to the average flat-faced civvie, but it got a good chuckle from everyone here. He also sent along some spices I’ll need to figure out good uses for, but if I don’t they’ll serve me well at home anyhow.

The funny thing is I’ve gotten so many offers for getting things sent over, but in reality, there’s not much I really need – we have so much of almost everything available, and I’m pretty comfortably situated to get anything else. If the shops here don’t have something, I can just ask and they’ll find it. Even that’s not a big issue. I have an allowance for myself of spending money (based on what I have to keep here) and I don’t get anywhere near it normally.

Written by Nick

April 7, 2012 at 2:38 am

On Morale

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I can’t make any real complaints about how things are running over here. Morale is pretty good.

If you recall, I sent a Keurig machine and a lifetime supply of coffee over in my UAB which has yet to arrive, but we’ve been doing okay even without it. We have ourselves quite a nice little set up, actually, our own coffee bar.

 

Where there is no coffee, there is misery.

There’s a pretty staggering amount of stuff here, to the point that we’ve had to basically start getting rid of things. There’s been a ridiculous amount of “care packages” arrive here, which is awesome, but some really, really bizarre things show up in them too, apparently. We had a bunch of canned asparagus that has been here for so long no one can remember when it arrived. Canned asparagus. Really. I appreciate that people are amazing and want to support us, but I have to wonder who thinks “I bet those guys want them some canned asparagus…”

I actually keep getting offers of such packages, with “Tell me what you want/need, and I’ll send it over!”. I get constantly stumped when asked what people can send me, because in truth, I don’t really want for much of anything. I had a burning desire for PC Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies the other day, but other than that, I can get basically anything I can normally think of wanting here, or I have it coming already. Most of what comes is junk food, and frankly, I’m trying to avoid that, because I want to get in better shape while I’m here, not be desk jockey gorging on junk food from various corners of the world sent by well meaning and awesome people.

Written by Nick

March 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm