:: Sunday, December 10, 2006 ::
Sorry about the delay in posting. I have been on an adventure for the past couple of days leading me to FOBs around Kabul in search of missing equipment and accounting for what should be there. It was a journey I will never forget. This whole year is a journey I will never forget.
My trip started early Thursday morning in the freezing cold waiting on my ride to Camp Cobra. While I was waiting, I was in awe by watching these new active duty guys cope with the cold. Almost all of them had their black silkweights on, their black fleece, their gortex, and their body armor. (That's quite a bit of cold weather gear.) Not to toot my own horn, but I had my black silkweights and my body armor and I was just fine and dandy.
Stupid thing #1: Don't wear so much cold weather gear that causes you to sweat. When you remove said snivel gear, the sweat makes you freeze even more.
While waiting on their ride, the active duty guys muster up a quick formation for so the NCOIC can tell everyone to stand fast because the truck is on its way.
Stupid thing #2: Formations in combat zones are a bad idea. Especially ones meant to tell everyone to continue what they are already doing.
Eventually my ride arrived and I hopped on board the uparmored humvee to go to Camp Cobra. I had never been to this camp before so it was sure to be an interesting trip. Little did I know. We actually went on a route recon. We travelled routes that hadn't been travelled recently to see if there were any major changes in the surroundings. I wasn't much help in that aspect. It was definately an awesome ride. We went through the most obscure parts of downtown and some outlying villages. It seemed as if the locals hadn't seen any Americans in months because they all stared as we passed by.
Well, the locals always do that, but these people had a more intense look in their eyes. Downtown Kabul is similar to American cities in the fact that it is overcrowded and has tiny streets that are made even smaller by the size of our humvee. Traffic was horrible that day. We were stuck in traffic jams for what seemed like most of our trip. While stopped the locals seemed to take extra interest in our little convoy and proceed to crowd around our vehicles peering in the windows.
That was freaky.
At one particular stop, I was scanning my sector (AKA looking out my window) and I saw the most peculiar sight. There was a mini-van pulled over to the side of the road with the doors all open and full of locals. Inside the van was a 55 gallon drum cut in half with burning wood inside the barrel. Mind you, the barrel was IN THE VAN.
Stupid thing #3: Setting a burn barrel -- a LIT burn barrel -- in your vehicle.
Further in the first leg of my journey we came upon a gas station, not uncommon in Kabul. It was set up like your regular gas station; a few pumps even spread apart and a gas station attendant waiting nearby to service your vehicle. The odd part was where the gas station attendant was waiting and what he was waiting beside. Between two of the pumps, this Afghan had a large fire inside a burn barrel and he was cowered over it warming up.
What can you expect from a bunch of people that live around millions of tons of unexploded mines and bombs?
Stupid thing #4: Keeping a burn barrel -- a LIT burn barrel -- in the middle of a gas station.
Finally, about two hours after our departure from Camp Phoenix, we arrive at Camp Cobra. Somehow, we got there as the active duty guys did, but we left 30 minutes after them. Of course, once the active duty got to the camp, the took off their cold weather gear because they were sweating and then proceeded to complain about the cold.
The inventory at Camp Cobra went over pretty well. All the equipment was centrally located and ready to be inventoried. While we were waiting for the active duty captain to start the inventory, the leprechaun (one or our supply sergeants) was chatting with an active duty guy about his time in Germany while Todd and myself talked about our wives. During all this chatter I overheard the leprechaun telling the active duty guy the he had no idea where the spare barrel to a weapon was and that was the way he signed for it.
Stupid thing #5: Admitting that you can't account for your property while your higher headquarters is sitting behind you.
Sitting in a pile of equipment were two weapons mounts that I had no idea even existed. Noone had ever seen one before so we were sure they were manufactured. The leprechaun told the active duty supply sergeant they were his to keep. Ten minutes later the leprechaun decided to keep the weapon mounts for himself. When the active duty captain came to inventory the equipment, the active supply sergeant pipes up.
Active guy: "Where the [expletive] are the weapon mounts?"
Leprechaun: "I have no idea." (looks at me)
Me: "Oh, they're right here where you put them after that guy left." (pulls the mounts out of a pile of duffle bags)
Active guy: "That figures."
Stupid thing #6: Don't give candy to a baby, then take it away; don't give a bone to a dog then try to wrestle it away; don't promise a soldier a piece of equipment then try to hide it.
After the inventory was done there, we drove back to Camp Blackhorse to stay the night. The next morning I was stirred from my sleep by Captain Roland.
CPT: "Hey, Walcutt. You wanna go on a medical mission this morning?"
Me: (wiping sleep from my eyes) "Sure."
CPT: "Great. Be outside at 0730."
Me: "Roger, sir." (looks at watch and sees the time is 0725)
Stupid thing #7: Agreeing to a mission before knowing the time hack.
I hastily threw on my equipment and loaded up for the medical mission. After a short drive down Jalabad Highway, we veered off the road into the middle of a giant field of nothing. There wasn't anything around. Not even a road. We were driving on a goat trail and footprints. Classic Afghanistan style.
A mile or so of the goat trail later, our convoy stops in the middle of a barren field surrounded by hills and the mountains. Good place for a medical mission: middle of nowhere, no village in sight, and in the middle of a valley. So we set up our 360 security (I was part of the security force, which should come as a surprise to everyone since my medical experience vastily outweighs my other skills) ontop of the hills and begin to drag out the supplies. Suddenly, from nowhere I promise, a hundred kids or so begin pouring over the hills into the valley, rushing for our trucks.
My heart stopped.
We (myself, a medic, and some ANA soldiers) quickly push the children back onto a ridge and have them wait ever so patiently while the others established a sort of shopping center. Two by two we let the kids run over to the others and get their school supplies and medical checkup. I don't know if the kids were more excited about the fact they were getting free stuff (the Afghans love free stuff) or if they were excited because they had stuff for dad to burn in the barrel at the gas station.
As we were leaving, the navy officer in charge of the medical mission told us about our location.
Navy gal: "Well, we're not quite where we should be."
Me: "What does that mean?"
Navy gal: "Well, the Afghan that led us out here was looking for a school that used to be in this village," (we all look around for the village) "but apparently the school was actually a tent that was taken down because of the winter."
Medic buddy: "So we were looking for a tent that no longer exists?"
Navy gal: "Pretty much."
Stupid thing #8: Set out on a mission that hasn't been scouted so as to confirm the existance of the location.
Oh it gets better.
:: Ben 11:23 AM [+] ::