A Reservist's Tale Of A Tour

Posts Tagged ‘settling in

At Last, Home

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We landed Fredericton in the early evening on a bright, sunny day, with fall colours still very much in evidence, and started doing what we do best – hurrying up and waiting. Starting in line to pass through the customs. While it was a slow process standing around, it was a fairly smooth process. I somehow managed to actually pick up all my gear and drag it to waiting trucks which took us back to Gagetown and the LAV Barn where a well-organized DAG awaited us. The only thing they really did wrong was not having food and water laid on for us, though I think that was probably changed for the next chalk that came through. We then formed up and marched through the connecting hall into the Battalion building where families were awaiting their loved ones as soon as we were dismissed. I said goodbye to a number of people who were getting set to leave, and then we played Kit Tetris shoving four people’s gear into a van the came from Halifax to pick us up, and at 1am I was met by my wife and my unit Adjutant in Halifax… and headed straight to bed.

My first order of business Monday was heading to pick up my new motorcycle. My plan was to get it broken in and head straight to Arizona. I wasn’t quite so lucky, unfortunately, because Hurricane Sandy put quite a damper on things. But I’ll come to that later. Maybe.

Getting on a motorcycle again was probably the greatest feeling of getting home – besides, of course, the hug I got on seeing my wife for the first time in months, and sleeping in my own bed again. There’s something about it, and having such a wonderful day to be out, that made things perfect. We stopped on the way home at one of my favourite cafes for lunch as well. Monday night ended pretty early, I was exhausted by about 9pm and went to bed, only to wake up very early, which was good as I had an interview for a job on Tuesday. I took advantage of the time to ride out to Peggy’s Cove as the sun rose. I’d never been there in the fall that early in the morning and I can say that it’s absolutely breathtaking, so much that I got home much later than I planned and was forced to scramble a little to make the interview timing. It went well, though, and I’m waiting to hear but I think I know what I’m going to be doing as far as a civilian job now.

Tuesday I’d hoped to go play trivia at one of the pubs in town as I did before going away, but again, I pretty much collapsed in the early evening.

Wednesday to Friday were three half-days at the unit, basically, to get some of my claims paperwork finished, to get the lay of the land on what’s going on with the unit, to catch up with everyone, and to vent some war stories with people who actually understand them. The one thing that can happen to people coming back is having a bundle of stories to share but no one who cares to hear them – or worse, to want to talk but not be able to because they’re not for public consumption. It’s funny, one thing that came up constantly is “deployments are addictive”, and that’s actually quite true. The other truism was that it’s important to actually have some space before you go back to work… That said, I’m feeling pretty bored and frustrated waiting for clarity on my job situation and just having nothing really to do.

I went up to see my folks for dinner as well, before they left for their winter home. Nice to get some time with them before they leave.

I had planned to set off for Arizona Saturday, but with Sandy rolling in, it just wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I decided to ride to New Brunswick to meet some friends, and then to Prince Edward Island, a long weekend as it were. I didn’t even get that lucky, because the storm sped up and I had to hightail it back to Nova Scotia. I stashed my bike at my parents’ house in their garage, and I’ll either pull it out for some more rides, or grudgingly accept that winter is here and it’s got to get stored until next season. I guess we’ll see. I keep reworking plans to try to leave a week later, but of course, I can’t really seriously believe it will be possible.

Being home is strange – as expected. It’s a combination of feelings – of awkwardness, not fitting into things, of just not being sure what to do with myself – that’s going on now. All what I expected. If the trip had gone off, I think it probably would have helped, but that’s how things go, isn’t it? We’ll see over the coming weeks how things smooth out, but I expect they’ll be fine. In January I’ll be off leave and I’ll return to my unit, wearing a green uniform, and being a Class A Reservist again. And in a few weeks, I’ll be wearing a suit again and back to working like a regular civilian again.  We’ll see.

Oh, and in a positive development, it seems my wife’s cats like my Afghan carpet, and don’t have any inclination to scratch at it – which means, I think I’ll get a hold of my friends still over there and see about getting another one sent over. I was regretting not getting another one, might as well sort that out.

Written by Nick

October 31, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Home Is Where…

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Camps in Afghanistan are interesting places. They’re essentially small cities, more or less entirely self-contained, and designed to provide space for residents to live, work, play, and generally enjoy a comfortable existence during their residency.

Camps are run by the Mayor’s Cell. There is an actual Mayor, though he’s appointed by virtue of his job, rather than elected. He employs a number of officers who look after everything from housing (billeting) to food services, to contracting services, to managing classroom/office space, to discipline on certain matters like water consumption. There’s a fire department, a post office, shops, a telephone exchange. There’s a small army of local nationals (Afghans) who do maintenance work, run the DFAC, and so on. It is a very busy place at times.

As far as water consumption goes, the hope I have is that the massive snowfall Afghanistan has “enjoyed” this winter will make sure that the aquifers are well replenished and hopefully we won’t have any issues with water supplies. Right now there are none, but with the summer coming and some movements into my camp on the horizon that may change. Problems have happened before, there are posters about rationing to be found in some places, for now mostly common sense prevails. Note that this is water for washing and so on. Drinking water is all bottled water, which is abundant. There are “kiosks” literally everywhere piled high with bottled water – mostly from Uzbekistan, some from a plant in Bagram that is as I understand it Afghan-owned.

That’s actually one of the interesting things in the DFAC – stuff comes from all over. Pepsi products from Germany. Coke from the UAE. Orange juice from Uzbekistan. Milk from Bahrain. It’s a little bizarre to think about how out supply chain works.

Of course, for all the cozy atmosphere here, and it really is, there is no escaping the reality of the place. The camp is ringed with Hesco Bastion walls, topped with barbed wire. Observation towers surround it. The entrance point has a complex system of controls for anyone entering, manned by armed guards with no sense of humour. Bunkers are situated around the camp in case of an indirect fire attack. This is, after all, a military encampment in the heart of a country with an active, dangerous insurgency.

Part of inclearance is a series of boring briefings – don’t play with feral animals lest you get rabies, reviews of ROEs and other policies, and even a trip to the clearing bay to prove you can safely handle

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Written by Nick

March 2, 2012 at 4:09 am