Posted by: Dude in the Desert | December 8, 2009

8 Dec 09

so, I am back at Bagram, alive and well…had a fun, cold trip over the past few days, but glad to be back…we started out at 0430, Saturday, 5 December…woke up early to ensure I had all me gear packed and ready to rock…0530 me and Joe headed over to the ops center to see if we were in fact flying out…things looked good…around 0600 we headed over to the barn and loaded up a kicker full of mail going out to our same destination…0700 we were at the bird with optimism on getting out…it was cold as hell–sunny, but cold…helped load up the bird with a few boxes of crap going out to different FOBs…the bird was loaded and there were three seats left for me, Joe and a civilian contractor(prior Marine)…as we stood there waiting for the crew to check out the bird and get things ready to fly we talked with this civilian guy…we talked about what we do and where we’re from and all that… he actually told us both that if we wanted a job when we get out to look up his company…diesel engine mechanic with a security clearance is in high demand, paying over $120K per year…I’ll have to keep that in mind if I ever want to come back to a war zone when I retire…prob not gonna happen–money is cool, but I got other plans…anyhoo around 0930 we loaded ourselves in the chopper and prepared for takeoff…I popped in the headphones and cranked up some rock…Metallica, Pantera, Slipknot, TOOL, you know, the classics…once again, I was flying over Afghanistan in a chopper…seems like I just did this a couple days ago…of course, as soon as we took off I had to pee…damn hydration crap…we rolled out to the main taxiway and lifted up for some ops checks–up, down, left, right, back, forward, then back to the ground on the far side of the taxiway…had to top off the fuel tanks…a few minutes later we were cruising over desolate, barron wastelands…mud huts, rocks, hills, rocks, and more rocks…a few farms, a little river or stream, and then some snow…it was freakin freezin…I was bundled up in most of my cold weather gear and thought I would be fine…well, I was except the toes and fingers…of course, for those who might not know, the choppers here fly with the doors open…the gunners have to be able to look out and fire on any bad guys…so, there are two side doors up front and the rear ramp/door that are wide open the whole time flying…this make for an awesome wind tunnel thru the passenger compartment of the chopper…so we headed to our first stop–the choppers here are kinda like the mass tranis system in any city…there are certain birds that go certain places and you hop on the one heading your way…and there are many stops along the way, you just watch for your spot and jump off when they land…around 1000hrs we landed at our first stop…my bladder was about to burst, so I helped kick a box out the ass of the chopper and jumped out myself…ran over to the side of the airfield and dropped off about a gallon of urine…man, it felt great to relieve the pressure…I ran back to the bird, hopped in and buckled up…we were on the ground a whole 90 seconds and we were back over the mountain tops…for some reason the cold didn’t seem as bad with an empty bladder–not sure how that works, but it helped a lot…back over some mountains and rocks and snow…and still rocking out to some kickass music…there is something very satisfying about flying in a chopper filled with automatic weapons, in a war zone, listening to Ozzy, Zeppelin, Maiden, Motorhead–can’t explain it, just one of those things you have to experience to understand…so, around 1030-ish we landed at our “home” for the next few days…there were some people there waiting outside landing pad–a big open area of gravel–we grabbed out stuff and ran over to the side…the guys said to wait there until the birds took off and they would get a truck to take us where we needed to be…we had to go to the main ops center and sign in…name, rank, blood type, last four of our SSAN…this is for accountability in case of any attacks…then we told them who we were and what we were there for…got another truck and rode over to our side…we don’t usually hang out with the main base “regular Army”… we went over to the secluded/restricted side of the camp…we met some guy named “Shane” and the mechanic named “Lyle”…all these guys wear some type of cammo mixed with civilian clothing and nobody has a last name or a rank…we don’t know who anyone is or what they do unless they specifically tell us…we just assume they are all badass mofo’s that go out and kill bad guys…we were shown to our temporary lodging–a wood shack with some military cots and boxes of plasticware, condiments, powdered drink mix, and other random things that won’t fit in the chow hall, plus some wrestling mats and a big, heavy punching bag hanging in the corner–I guess it used to be a store room or a gym, maybe both…we dropped our gear and walked around for the grand tour…that took about 4 minutes… tiny, tiny FOB/FB–not sure what they call this one… different people say different things… FOB= Forward Operating Base, FB=Fire Base, COP=Combat Out Post, and there are about 324 other names for these places, and most of them are named for an American servicemember who has died in this country fighting this war…a grim reminder/commemoration of the heroes that have served our nation…this camp was named after Sgt Nunez…we walked around checking out all the generators and getting the info on each one…there were only two that needed immediate attention…one was just beyond repair capabilities at that location–so it needed to come back to Bagram for rebuild, the other was waiting for an alternator that had been on order for some time…that all boiled down to this simple fact–there was nothing for us to do…I called our chief and gave him the info…he said that was all good and we could just hang out and see if there was any other work we could help out with while we were there…well, there wasn’t, so we went to the MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation) hut… there was a big screen tv and some movies, video games, and boxes upon boxes of care packages full of goodies, snacks, home made cookies, tooth brushes, soap, deoderant, wet wipes, coffee, popcorn, hot cocoa, and whatever else can fit in a small flat rate box…we hung out there watching movies and football games for a few hours…around 1800 we headed to the chow hall for some hot grub…they only serve hot meals for dinner…the rest of the day you can get a can of soup, some ramen noodles, beef jerky, and all kinds of other non-perishables…that night was chicken pasta with broccoli and an alfredo sauce, hot-wings cooked on the grill, some beans, and corn…it was quite tasty and the warmth made it about 10 times better…by this time it was pitch black outside, and the temp had to be down in the teens…there was ice on the ground from some previous rain puddles, and my breath in the air looked like a fat puff of smoke from a big cigar…after chow we headed back to our hut…there were two Navy Sea Bees and an Army PsyOps (Psychological Operations) guy in there, along with me and Joe, and a civilian, prior air force guy that works on Heating/AC systems…so we all sat around talking for a while to pass the time…the PsyOps guy told us about a mission he went on–they set up an overwatch position on some hilltops near a road to back up a Marine unit that was passing thru…as the Marines arrived some bad guys started running around and about 25 of them popped out of some trees to start an attack…well, the overwatch team started sniping a few of them, they retreated back into the trees, so they called in CAS (Close Air Support) and had an Air FOrce jet fly over and drop some munitions on top of the tree area…all bad guys gone and no US personnel injured…that’s just some of the types of thing that go on over here nobody hears about…it happens all the time…as long as no civilians are injured nothing gets reported…around 1930 people started climbing in their sleeping bag and dozing off…I fell asleep around 2000 hrs and slept like a baby until 0700…it was nice to get that much sleep…the next morning was slow and easy…took my time getting a shower and cleaned up for the day…the plan for the day was to help out the AC/heat guy…they asked if he could install a heat unit in a radio station that was just at the edge of the camp…he said no problem and we said we would help…breakfast was some microwave oatmeal and banana milk–there wasn’t any regular milk left…we kinda walked around and did nothing for a few hours until lunch time…lunch was a can of beef stew and some crackers…after that we headed down the hill to check out this radio station and try to give them some heat…the place was a concrete building with a couple rooms…on room for sleeping/eating/living/entertaining and the other was for the radio station equipment…we went in and chekced the place out, came up with a plan, and had to go get a saw, some electrical wire, and other odds and ends… the other guys went back up the hill for the needed items while Joe and I walked around this place exploring/being nosey…we were right at the main gate for the camp and could see the local town hustling and bustling–not really, it was a tiny little village…so the guys came back with the stuff, and we went inside…first we had to sit with the locals and have some chi tea, and nuts, raisins, chickpeas, and little snacks put out on plates for us…the tea I got was cloudy, and there were some sticks and leaves in the bottom of the glass…I drank it all up with a smile so as not to offend the hosts…me and Joe talked about the fact that we would be sitting on the toilet all night after drinking this stuff made of well water–luckily we had no adverse effects…so they guys started cutting out some wood to make way for the lines and wiring, and we were ready to help, but we got summoned to another area…someone was asking for the generator guys…we went over to a unit that was pouring oil out of the bottom…we looked it over and decided it was done…something inside was seriously wrong…this generator was made in 1987 and was about due for the junk yard…we ended up disconnecting all the wire leads and ran down the hill to bring a new unit up…we got one over there and rewired everything, turned the power on and everything was good…the guys using that power thanked us very much and told us if we needed anything they would be glad to help out…well, it was about 1500hrs and we were pretty much done for the day…the AC/heat guy had finished his installation after figuring out the ridiculous spider web of wiring running in that building…he said it was surprising the building hadn’t burned down yet… went back to the MWR hut for some tv and warmth…again, the sun was out all day, but it was still freesing cold-and yes, there was ice all over the ground…we also decided to pack up all our gear to have it ready to roll…while we were out working there had been a couple choppers in and out…we got the word that if we could be ready in 3 minutes we could jump on those birds… well, there was no way for all of us to be ready that quick…we changed that…now, we were ready to jump on anything flying at a moments notice…well, it was too late…there was nothing coming in for the next few days…we planned on being stuck there for a while…no birds in the next few days and a snow storm expected in the next few days…a snowstorm would definitely keep us there for a while…while sitting there watching football and movies Shane came in and asked if we wanted to roll out on a convoy heading north to another FOB–this other FOB usually gets birds in every day…so, of course we all responded with an enthusiastic “hell yeah”…the plan was to roll out around 0900 the next morning…I didn’t even un pack my stuff…I took a shower and got some fresh undies on and packed everything back up…kept my toothbrush and toothpaste in my pocket, with some wet wipes handy for the morning…that would be my washing up…I slept in my long johns and a towel for a blanket–that way my towel would be dry before I packed it in my bag…woke up around 0730 and got some grub…dry cereal with vanilla soymilk–or ganic soymilk–it was BROWN…. crazy… never seen anything like it…but it was actually pretty good…anyhoo, we gathered up our crap and headed out to the trucks…we stood around while people checked out their ride and walked past us looking with confusion…apparently Shane didn’t tell anyone we were riding with them…we got all that straightened out and loaded up our crap in a trailer attached to one of the trucks…me and Joe rode in one truck and the AC/heat guy (Justin) rode in another…as we headed out we could tell it was gonna be a long ride…the seats are cushioned, but it’s not nice–it’s worn pads of foam that are about like sitting on a piece of cardboard…this convoy was A LOT different than my previous experiences…these guys live by a different set of rules…all kinds of mix matched unifomrs and gear…high-tech weapons, different attitudes, even a bomb sniffer/tracker dog, and lots of raw testosterone…these are the Taliban/insugent/Al Qaida hunters…these guys don’t go out and give kids stuffed animals or ask what a town needs to help them…they get intel on IED makers, Taliban leaders, training camps, weapons cahes, and aynthing else that poses a threat…then they go out and find these places and neutralize that threat…don’t worry, Ma, this wasn’t one of those missions…altho, a couple times we stopped and guys got out to walk the roads and look for anything suspicious in areas of interest…we slowed, a few guys jumped out and walked as we slowly rolled doewn the road keeping up with them…they stopped all traffic in all directions for our safety…anyone outside the vehicle is a target and anyone other than US personnel is a possible threat…the guys hopped back in and we cruised a few miles to another area of interest…slow rolling for another stretch and then back to cruising speed… we made it up to the other FOB in about 2 hours…ok, I am going to continue this later…time for some chow…love you and miss you all … talk to you soon…. here are a few pictures from my trip
OOL
B

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Responses

  1. Very interesting…thanks for sharing…and always happy to hear that you’ve returned to a relatively safe haven. OOL

  2. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/08/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  3. Great post, did not thought it was going to be so interesting when I looked at the title with link.


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