Posted by: Dude in the Desert | January 3, 2010

3 Jan 2010

first off — HAPPY 2010 !!! …and thanks to everyone for their wishes, and thanks a lot to all who had a drink for me…well, this year started off with a bang — road trip to Kandahar…it was a long and adventurous trip…we started the year with a pre-mission briefing…there were lots and lots of red spots on the road–indicating found/exploded IEDs in the past 90 days…in one section the entire road was covered with red… we couldn’t even see the road, just hundreds of red marks all jumbled together…we knew there was lots of bad shit out there, but I didn’t realize how bad it was till I saw that intel map…areas of known snipers/shooters, areas of IEDs, areas of ambushes, areas of jingle trucks getting jacked and blown up, and all kinds of other bad stuff in different areas, but most of the way all along our planned route…now, I have been on many missions before and been in bad areas, but this one was a little different …most of my trips were under 8 hours to the destination… this trip was calling for 14-16 hours on the road…that’s a long time to be out there in the “danger zone”…we all loaded our gear in the trucks, did some commo checks, engaged the combat locks on all the doors, then we headed out the gates and hit the open road …it was dark, cold, and a bit unnerving…as we got out the gate we all locked and loaded our weapons …the convoy crew consisted of all kinds of different jobs…mechanics, commo, supply, and some I don’t even know what they do…one guy was an actual Special Forces/Green Beret type–the rest of us were just support type guys…I was the truck commander in my ride…I also had a doc with me… Captain medic type–not sure if he’s a Dr. or nurse, or physician’s assistant or what…doesn’t really matter– he knows how to save lives a little better than the rest of us…there was also a terp with us…a local guy, riding in the front truck showing us the way–he is from Kandahar so he drives that route aomewhat often–he had his body armor, helmet, and an AK-47 rifle…we rolled thru the winding, battered, “potholes-with-some-road-in-between-them”, so-called “streets” of Afghanistan…we made our way down to Kabul…it was pretty uneventful except the difficulty and adventure that is just driving in Afghanistan…once we got into Kabul, we hit all kinds of crazy roads and roundabouts, turns, traffic, markets, sheep herds, donkey carts, etc…and it was in the early dark hours of the day–what the hell are these people doing up right now ?? they should be sleeping, dreaming, or maybe waking up and feeding the kids–something at HOME …there is no reason for people to be out that time of morning …well, I say that, but WE were out at the time of morning…so, whatever, they weren’t going on missions to Kandahar…anyhoo…things went pretty smooth except for the driving thru back alleys and making about 4 circles–we kinda got lost…not really lost, just missed a few turns that we should have taken…we finally ended up outside the city and back on the open road…as the sun was coming up we pulled into an American camp…we all jumped out as fast as we could and either lit up a smoke or squeezed up against the truck to relieve some bladder pressure–some of us (including me) did was freezing cold… we were at about 8000ft elevation…there was snow and ice on the ground and my throat hurt from the cold breaths…we kinda hung out for a minute until everyone was done watering the rocks…we decided to hit the chow hall for breakfast…the Lt. went to find a truck, the rest of said “screw it, we’re walking” …the chow hall was warm and cozy, smelled great, and had some comfortable seats…the seats in an MRAP suck…they are great for keeping you alive and strapped in, but comfort is not one of their primary selling points…MRAPs in general are not made for comfort, they are made for protection…anyhoo, we sat in the chow hall for a while to warm up and let our asses and legs regain feeling and movement…we headed back to the trucks to see what was goin on…the Lt. decided we were gonna wait for the RCP (route clearing package) to make it’s way up towards us…the point of the RCP is to find IEDs along the routes…they go really slow, they stop often, but they make the road a helluva lot safer…so we sat at the FOB for a few hours … I ran into some Air Force friends and hung out with them for a little while then I used an empty bed in their hut to get some rest…around mid-day I heard someone come in yelling my name … I jumped up and ran outside…we were hitting the road … time to load up…as we headed back out another gate the game face went back on ..time to be vigillant and on your toes, eyes open, head on a swivel, all that good stuff they teach us in combat skills training…riding with these guys was a little different than when I was here before …these guys just use names or ranks on the radio–“yo John, point that weapon in the other direction” “Mike, this is L T, you guys got your battle locks on?” “alright boys, lock n load, turn your jammers on” …very informal…of course, these guys wear their fave baseball team hats, fire dept hats, locally made scarves, different uniforms–some ACUs, some BDUs, a hooded sweatshirt with some school or town name on it….these guys are much more relaxed than the other units I’ve been with… but I guess that’s pretty evident on the camp where I live too…anyhoo, we headed south and opened up those trucks … we got up to 72 mph at some points …but some places we had to crawl thru …there were spots where the bridge was gone, there were giant holes in the road–obviously from IED explosions, some places were just eroded and cracked apart so bad that we had to creep over them to avoid tearing up the trucks….but, where we could, it was pedal to the metal, haulin ass…some places slowed us down because it was a town/village/market-place and there were giant speed bumps in the road…other places were blocked by herds of sheep or goats, and there were a few curved areas where the speed would have thrown us off the road or we would have rolled those bad boys…we slowed down for culverts to make sure there weren’t any wires going under the road…I think we averaged about 45-50 mph over a few hours–that’s awesome for driving an MRAP in this place…it was a nice sunny day, crisp and cold, but sunny and clear…we could see for miles and miles…we were in a relatively flat area with mountains surrounding us on the horizons…there were people out in the fields farming, little kids came running to the roadside to wave at us, some people just stood and stared as we rolled by…we had to move around some traffic and wave weapons at people to get them out of our way…it was the same as other convoys I had been on–a scene that was very familiar to me…it’s hard to believe it’s been almost 2 years since I left this place last…seems like I was just here doing the same thing yesterday…it kinda felt good to be back in the saddle again…something I never thought I would be doing for the rest of my life…but, once again, that’s my job and that’s what I do…so we kept the hammer down and covered a lot of ground …later in the afternoon we stopped at another coalition forces compund–I think this one was Polish–not really sure…we found some small American camp for the special forces guys and pulled in there…I jumped out and had to pollute my lungs…that was good smoke…being in those trucks rolling down the road might seem like a simple easy thing to do, but the adrenaline and the constant scanning and mental toll really drains a person–at least this person…I felt like I had been jogging and fighting and working out for about 6 hours straight…I noticed on of the trucks had gear oil all over the inside of the tire…usually this is a sign of a blown hub seal…the wheel hubs need oil for the gears in there–without oil they will lock up or heat up and start melting–bad stuff either way…I took a closer look and it was just a vent line that had a hole worn in it…these were brand new trucks, so that happened while we were rolling…there was also a check engine light on our truck…we got with the civilian mechanic that deals with MRAPs…since all the other gages were good on our truck it seemed to be because of the thin air “confusing” the truck’s computer system…he reset the light and we called it good…the vent line–we hopped on some 4-wheelers and hauled ass down to the PRT section of the FOB …no luck on a line…we crusied back to our trucks and decided to patch it up with some perma-putty type stuff…it was gonna take about an hour to set…after sitting there for a little bit and explaining the truck situation to the Lt. he decided we were staying the night…the area we were about to head in to was a very hot spot…pretty much guaranteed to get hit with enemy fire/IEDs/ambushes and whatnot…it would be dark in a couple hours or so and he thought it would be smarter to cruise thru in daylight in case we had to fight…so we unloaded our packs and sleeping bags and found a tent…this was a plain ol tent on rocks–there was a carpet laid over the rocks to make a “floor”…there were a few piles of mattresses on one side of the tent so we all grabbed a mattress and threw them on the floor in a somewhat organized pattern to make room for everyone…some people made phone calls, some found food, some hit the real toilets, some hit the sack…I grabbed some grub…some beef jerky, a Snickers bar, can of mixed nuts, and a bottle of water…there may have been a protien bar in there too…not sure…then I sat on my “bed” and busted out the baby-wipes…I cleaned my feet and threw on a new, fresh pair of socks…hit the hot spots–groin, armpits, butt crack, and changed the undergarments…I felt a thousand times better..then I went outside and brushed my teeth with a bottle of water…I went back in the tent and laid down…we all sat around BSing and talking about what we saw along the roads…one crazy thing was the busses with cars on top of them…yes, a bus full of people, had 3 cars sitting on top of it…actually there were more than one..there were a few of them…check out the pics…these people will stack things on top of a vehicle until they can’t stack any more…no height limits, no weight limits, no safety standards…and most of these things are just tied down with a thin rope or twine or something…some things have chains, but only the super heavy things, like other vehicles on top of a vehicle…but only one chain per car…it’s amazing how they even do that…I don’t know how they get that much stuff on top of a bus…so after some talking and joking and whatever people start to lay down, go to chow, watch movies on their laptops, pop in head phones, etc…I just laid back and kinda passed out…I woke up to find my fleece jacket, fold it up and use it for a pillow…then I was back out…I slept pretty good for a while… I head the Lt. come in and tell us to be up at 0600 ready to hit the road…cool, a few hours of sleep would be great…then later he came back in with a change to the change…we were to be up really really early at 0-dark-thirty…well, I woke up and there were some people talking about the beer they saw in the kitchen…this was another one of those small FOB kitchen/chow hall things…there was a kitchen that looked like something in a house …counter tops, cabinets, a regular stove, small double sink and a big fridge…on the other side was a big round table…big enough to seat about 10-12 people…there were lots of shelves filled with cans and boxes of all kinds of foodbasically all the non-perishable things you can think of…chips, muffins, candy bars, protien shakes, beans, tomatoes, rice, MREs, spices/herbs, sauces, cans of soup, mac n cheese, instant everything, and a whole bunch of other stuff… they had enough food to last 10-12 people a few months…but, being out a remote FOB like that it was probably good to have all that stuff…anyhoo, there was some fake/non-alcoholic beer in the fridge…one of the guys thought it was real stuff so we went to check it out …as I walked in the kitchen, a cat ran in the door… I walked in trying to catch it and there were a couple guys already in there–civilian clothes, beards, obviously team guys–they said the cat was OK so I just let it run around …it ended up jumping on the table sniffing around…that’s when one of the guys grabbed it and put it back outside…apparently the cat knows where the food is…we opened the fridge and confirmed that it was fake beer…I still had one…it was the closest thing I had to a drink to celebrate the beginning of 2010…me and this guy–Beck, he’s an Army mechanic–sat there in the kitchen swapping stories about who knows what…I am guessing this was about 2300 hrs and we had to be ready to roll in a few hours, so we went back to the mattress tent and crashed …in what seemed like 12 minutes I heard alarms going…cell hones and watch alarms…I woke up and looked around…people were getting up so I rolled up my sleeping bag and started packing my stuff…it was freeezzziiiinngg outside… there was a full moon, too…it was nice and bright out there…the moon seemed like it was only about 4 miles up above us–it looked giant and like it was about to fall on our heads…amazing…also, there was a blimp sitting directly overhead…yes, a blimp–helium filled balloon looking thing…they use it to see everything around the area…it’s eqipped with awesome high-tech cameras…that was kinda wierd to see…anyhoo…the trucks were running, heaters on HIGH, radio checks being done…poeple were loading up bags and gear…it was time to hit the road…the sun would be up by the time we hit the bad spots-at least that was the plan…so we hit the road … again, it was freezing cold, dark as hell, and just a little eerie…the moonlight was strong, but with nothing on the roads and no street lights, it’s still dark as hell out here…we pushed those trucks as fast as they woud go again…60-70 mph as much as we could until we hit potholes or road blocks or speed bumps or sharp curves…the sun slowly started to come up as we cruised down the road…nothing too exciting going on except the occassional passing car with bright lights shining straight at my driver’s eyes…we were on the road for a couple hours and decided to stop at another FOB…this one was fo sho a Polish owned place…it took us some work to get into this one…we passed up the turn for it so we had to do some crazy 47-point turns on the tiny road that was called a main highway…and it was all right in the middle of this little village…people were starting to open their little market stands and they all stood around watching us like we were idiots…we finally got all 3 trucks turned around and made the turn into the FOB…went thru a couple gates and some Polish guards…we had no idea where to go so we just headed to where there were some tents that looked like housing…we asked a couple people and finally found the chow hall…we all jumped out, stretched the legs and backs and had out nicotine fixes…the chow hall was nice and warm, made-to-order egs, ommolettes, and whatever…it was quite tasty…we sat in there long enough to warm up again–and to let the legs and butt regain consciousness.. after a full belly of cheese eggs scrambled, bacon, milk, hash browns, and french toast it was time to head back out on the road…from here on out was the bad-lands…lots of bad guy reports, lots of IEDs, lots of fighting…we were in the south now…so, we all locked and loaded, combat locked the doors, and went out the gate to test fire all the weapons…our 50 cal was down–oh shit… that’s not good…the guys jumped on top, smacked the gun around, recharged a few different rounds, lubed her up, and tried again– POP POP POP–she was good to go …so we slammed the pedal to the floor and got ready for whatever was about to happen…turns out we only took a little bit of small arms fire…some AK-47 rounds most likely…they were skippin across the road in front and back of us, and hitting the dirt next to the road…we returned fire with 50 cals and 240Bs…but, we did notice a lot more holes in the ground from IEDs and maybe RPGs…the RPG and IED guys must have been late getting to work that day because we didn’t get hit with any of those–lucky for us…it was kind of intense, but nothing really new…our Lt. was hyper and goin crazy with the yelling and excitement.. I think he was just happy to pull the trigger on something…he made things more intense/exciting than the bullets flying around…kinda good because it kept our attention levels up, but too much excitement like that could easily make someone scared or nervous and cause them to not perform properly…he’s a young guy so it wasn’t that much of a surprise to me that he acted in that manner…we made it to the town/city area and things cooled down..there were plenty of people around and lots of “normal” daily activities going on so that was a good sign that there weren’t any bombs in the area…along the way we passed a lot of different friendly forces–Brittish, French, Romanian, US, Afghan, and some others that I didn’t recognize–but most of them were rolling in our older model hummers…we all waved at each other as if to say “hey, man, stay safe out here” …we finally made it to the Kandahar area…it was a big city, but we only had to hit the outskirts–thankfully…we turned off and headed more south and saw airplanes flying..this was a good sign..this meant we were close to the air field…we knew we were close when we saw more and more friendly forces on the road…we finally found the gate and got into the safe area…we all unbuckled, de-helmeted and all breathed a huge sigh of relief…it was a great feeling to be at our final destination …the whole mission was to deliver these trucks to the guys down there and then fly back home…so we rolled on to the base itself–this place is HUGE…it is definitely bigger than Bagram…the overall area might be smaller, but there is way more shit goin on…this place was like a city…lots of side roads and intersections and roads going everywhere…there is even a big sign on one building announcing that TGIFriday’s is coming soon…TGIFriday’s??? are you serious ?? is this really a war zone ?? crazy …but, I guess if there are enough people there will always be the franchises moving in…and I’m sure they will make some good money there too…after driving in circles for what seemed like an hour we finally found our camp…we pulled in and parked…everyone jumped out and threw their body armor on the ground or on the truck or whatever –as long as it wasn’t on our body anymore it didn’t matter…they showed us a b-hut to store our gear …we had to unload everything this time …all our personal stuff and the weapons and radios and equipment we brought with us..basically if it wasn’t permanently mounted to the truck we took it off…one guy went to talk to the air people to see if we could get out of there that night…we got word that we would be there a couple days, then only a few poeple could leave out that night, then everyone, then nobody…it changed 20 times…some poeple hit Burger King, some hit the chow hall, some just went wandering…I stayed in the hut with all the weapons and gear …again, I ate some beef jerky, some protien bars, candy, nuts, whatever I had in my bag o goodies….and again, I did the baby-wipe bath and changed the items touching my skin…one more time outside with the water bottle brushing my teeth….this time it was raining tho…it wasn’t too bad as it was a lot warmer there than the last few places we stopped…a little later I was standing out there BSing, having a smoke and a nice, clean, healthy black lab came running around the corner …I called him over and pet him and let him lick my hand and whatnot…he ran over to some other guys and they grabbed his collar to bring him back inside the hut from whence he came…apparently he was a bomb sniffer that was smart enough to figure out how to unlock the b-hut door form the inside.. he wasn’t supposed to be out on his own….his handler/owner came up and was talking to him like a little kid–“hey, what are you doing out here…you know you’re not supposed to come out by yourself” etc, etc…all the while the dog was kinda hopping up and down, licking hands, waggin the tail and generally happy just to be around people…so I went back in the hut and chilled out for a while …rearranged all my crap so it would be easy to carry on whatever bird we were to catch…then we got word that we were all on the bird, that night…so everyone started packing and trying to figure out how to carry all their gear along with some 50 cal machine guns, 240bs and all the other crap we all had…we all helped each other get this shit out to a truck and rolled to the pax terminal…we all walked inside and got yelled at by some Brittish soldiers about having loaded weapons inside the terminal…shit, we didn’t know any better… I mean we ARE in a war zone and we all have weapons and ammo all over the place…well, we all had to go outside and make our weapons safe and take the magazines out…we also had to take all of our knives and multi-tools and any other kind of weapon off of our person and put it in our bags…this was a pain in the ass…we all have many knives, tools, and whatnot all over our IBA, belts, in our pockets…so we got everything off our bodies and then sent everything thru the x-ray machine–even the 50 cals…they had to x-ray them to make sure there was no ammo in them…but once we got on the other side of the screening area we all got our bags back with our weapons, knives, ammo and everything else…it was ridiculous…anyone of us could put our knives back on our belt, put ammo back in the weapon, whatever…it made absolutely no sense…then we decided on our own what would go on the baggage pallet…if we wanted to carry our pack with all the knives in it we could…what’s the freakin point?? whatever, I didn’t care, I was getting on a C-130 heading back to Bagram–to my own bed in my own room, with hot showers and a chow hall…I was happy…so we stood around smokin and jokin for another hour or so and then we built up the baggage pallet…after some hustle and buslte we loaded a bus to take us out to the bird…I think we were on the bus for about 45 minutes driving around the whole base to get to our plane…it was crazy .. I still can’t believe how big that base is…we finally got on the plane and it was pretty nice…there was one other item besides our baggage pallet and about 35-40 people…we had room to kinda spread out and have enough room in each seat to get comfy…we all sat down, buckled in and kinda dozed off…then we started the taxi/takeoff process…can’t really sleep thru that…the seats are sideways so when they hit the throttle you kinda lay over or have to struggle to sit upright…but, after we got up in the air and leveled off I passed out…before I knew it we were dropping out of the sky…combat areas require a little different flying…we dropped really fast, banked hard, slowed down, sped up, whatever…I could see the lights of the air field…it was a great sight…never thought I would be happy to see Bagram air field again, but this was exactly what was happening…I was happy to see it…as soon as we landed Beck got on the phone and called someone to come pick us up…as we walked out of the terminal we saw the truck pulling up…we threw our IBA and hand carried crap in the truck and waited for the baggage pallet…as soon as the forklift dropped it I immediately started loosening the cargo netting around it…I was the only one for a second and I said “hey, if you want your shit, help me”…the net was off about 10 seconds later …we all grabbed our gear, threw it in the truck and took off…we all signed back in to our command section and headed back to our rooms…I threw everything on the floor and stripped down to nothing…threw on a pair of sweatpants, grabbed a bottle of water, and lit up a smoke…as I sat on my front step, I just breathed deep and thought about how great it was to be back in a freakin shipping container at Bagram Air Field…that’s nuts…but it felt good…after I chilled for a little bit I went and took a nice hot long shower…I think I actually went thru my normal washing ritual about 4 times before I felt clean…I took my time–as it was 0100 or something I didn’t worry about using too much hot water or holding someone else from getting their shower…I enjoyed it as much as I could…I came back to the room and passed out …I slept till about noon today …it was good sleep too…today I went thru my stuff and put all my gear where it goes, took some laundry in, got some lunch, and have been sitting around doing nothing this afternoon…it was a cool trip to go on, it was exciting and interesting and fun and all that too…but I’m glad to be back to boring ol BAF…well, I guess that’s about all for now… love you and miss you all…talk to you soon



  1. Well, that was quite a trip. And as short as it actually was, it sounded like a week or more. Very descriptive story…good reading…a little unnerving, except that you were “home” safely when you wrote it. Where are the pictures? I’d love to see those cars on the buses. OOL

  2. Like your mom said, that was a little unnerving. Glad you’re back in one piece, though. I’m working on a kid’s sweater to send along to you. Anything else you could use that we could send along? I can send more of the alpaca socks, too, but I think we’re out of stock of the navy blue ones.

  3. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 01/04/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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