Saturday, September 03, 2011

Home on the FOB

Every day during a deployment is a Monday...
It is like Groundhog Day....
The FOB I am at is pretty nice. Laundry service with a day turnaround (you do not have a choice, there are no personal washers). Internet to your CHU (Cargo Housing Unit, think small shipping container tricked out with lights, electricity, AC, and windows/doors). A decent DFAC (chow hall), small MWR facility (a bunch of telephones that allow you to call home for 4 cents a minute and internet machines at no cost), decent gym (great free weights and machines area, the cardio could be bigger but not much you can do), PX (Post Exchange, small but stocked with all the necessities, even 12 packs of Diet Doctor Pepper (a must for the night shift! Too bad there is no Diet Mountain Dew)), and a Barber Shop (also does massages and mani/pedicures). About 1600 people live on this compact FOB, along with all our requisite gear and vehicles. We even have an aerostat (small tethered blimp) that acts as a surveillance system in the sky and provides security for us (I love looking up and seeing it there, gives me a warm and fuzzy) as well as our own little air force (Shadow UAV's as well as Apache Gunships).

As expected I did get placed on the night shift. From 2030 to 0830 I am the ranking Signal Officer on duty, working on research projects for my boss and periodically checking in on the other sections, NETOPS (network operations) and the Help Desk. As part of my research I got to go on a short trip to a neighboring FOB to talk with some of the people who interact with the ANA (Our stalwart Romanian allies. Good guys. Though I bet they will never want American food again after 6 months on an American FOB). I even got to meet some of the ANA people, but unfortunately the people who I would have liked to visit were at a different FOB.

Even though I can see the FOBs that I am visiting from the roof of my building just to visit them involves armoring (body armor, helmet and a full load of ammo (this trip marked the first time I ever put a loaded magazine in my weapon outside a range. And I thought that it was just weird carrying the magazine in the pocket, this is another level of reality) up and riding over in a MRAP (Mine Resistant Armored Personnel) Since I was a passenger it gave me my first real chance to see Afghanistan outside of the protected American FOBs. We drove through the town of Qalat and it was quite an interesting experience. The poverty is pretty noticeable and it is like looking back in time. Way, way back in time.

I will say that I was kind of impressed with the facilities that the Afghan Army had. Their offices and workshops would not look out of place on any Active Duty or National Guard facility in the US. Though I do have my doubts on the ability for this country to sustain the facilities and force whenever in the future that we leave.

My first week has crawled by. This may be the most number of hours that I have worked in... well... ever. 12 hour days, in particular at night, can seriously crawl. I have had experience working long hours before and the loss of productivity from both the exhaustion as well as the sheer grind on the soul (people really need down time. I know for me I need 7-8 hours sleep, 1-1.5 hours workout time, eating a meal and just the little things that need doing (dropping off/picking up laundry, etc) makes my time away from work feel hectic, like that countdown clock from 24 is ticking away tracking the time until I have to return to work. Doing this 7 days a week for at least the next 18 weeks will be wearying.). It has given me a chance to either catch up (a lot of the guys in my section came from my the Company that I was the XO of) or meeting the people that are new to me.

PS, I apologize for the lack of pictures but I am somewhat paranoid about OPSEC. Until I am safely home and removed from Afghanistan I don't feel comfortable sharing (outside immediate family and close friends) something that could endanger lives, even remotely. Heck, that is why these posts are time delayed.

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