Monthly Archives: October 2004

Gun Slingers

This Army of One business is well illustrated by the wide variety of pistol holsters and rifle slings in use. Back in the day, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and tanks had piston engines, uniformity was the rule and there was always some anal retentive captain or sergeant major around to hassle you about your privately owned non-issue gear. Now they sell it in the PX! Most troops here are armed at all times, even the Air Force. Lots of aviators here, so lots of pistols, but very few pistol belts. Thigh rigs and cross draw shoulder rigs are all the rage. The cross draw shoulder holsters position the muzzle of the pistol diagnally under the toter’s arm, thus covering anybody who happens to be behind them. Eating chow while looking down the barrel of a 9mm is pretty much an every day occurrance. I had a shoulder holster when I was tanking. It put the pistol directly over my left shirt pocket and smashed my cigarettes, but it kept the muzzle pointed DOWN.

I like thigh rigs on crack troops. Reminds me of garters.

Very few soldiers seem to use the issue sling. Everybody wants a two point sling so they can diddybop down the road with their carbine over their shoulder, across their back, muzzle down, with their hands in their pockets and their shoulders hunched over. These people even run PT with their weapon slung across their back. This army has apparently forgotton the double time at Port Arms.

Field jackets are scarce. DCU ECWS are occasionally in evidence, but most people wear black North Face fleece jackets as an outer garment. They even have a store here full of North Face stuff. Back when I was being all I could be, I would not have gone far wearing a field jacket liner without the field jacket.

Times have changed.

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Stronghold

People who think BFE is out in the middle of nowhere have never been to BFU.

Not much to this place. Nuclear blast-proof aircraft shelters, cracked Soviet concrete taxiways, plywood buildings, shipping containers, tents. Reminds me of North Fort Hood.

The streets are named for streets in Manhattan. The first action of Operation Enduring Freedom was staged out of here three years ago. It is still an important transit point supporting the GWOT further south. I’ll probably be through here again on my way back to the world. This installation is my introduction to this theater. They have a real nice Internet Cafe, airconditioned and not dusty at all.

Shorts are a no no here. Host nation sensitivities to display of bare naked legs, even male legs.

Saw a gray fox at a picnic table at the Green Beans Coffee not 10 feet from where I was standing my first morning there.

We sat in briefings all day, then just waited around for a plane ride. Our luggage came in from the capital city on a truck, and we had to unload it and drag it through the sand and gravel to our tents. Those little folding dolly carts that roll so well on the airport linoleum ain’t worth a crap in gravel.

The folks going to Bagram got their ride early the next morning. The Kandahar folks got told to pack up that afternoon. Built the pallet under the supervision of a real laid back Air Force Sergeant. Footlockers on the bottom, then duffel bags, then carry on bags, then sleeping bags, strap down the net, then tear it all apart because somebody who thought he was going to Kandahar is now going to Bagram and his stuff has to come off the pallet. Give up your ID Cards and get on the strange looking 20-seat Japanese bus. Sit on bus an hour. Go back to Transportation. Wait. Get back on bus. Get on C-130. Sit. Watch while the pallet, now sitting on the C-130′s loading ramp, is torn apart again to get somebody else’s stuff off. The Loadmaster is not laidback. After four and a half hours of trying to be gone, we leave.

Red nylon webbing for seating. I fall asleep. When I wake up the interior of the aircraft is darker than a bag of assholes. No lights at all. Pitch black. Land at Kandahar after about two and a half hours. Kandahar is not very impressive in the dark. It is not that impressive in the daylight, either. Walk off the ramp and get on another little Japanese bus. The Terminal Building has been condemned. We go to a plywood shack that serves as the terminal now. Forklift brings our pallet. We tear it down and get our stuff. White Mercedes truck comes. The bed is five feet off the ground. We must load our gear on this. Taken to a big white barn tent full of empty cots. Welcome to Candyland.

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Yak Air

The next leg of the journey put me on a 40-year old Soviet Yakolev-40 aircraft operated by the national airline of this former Soviet Republic. A bus with wings. Has stairs under the tail you climb up to get into the plane. Russian stewardess and the biggest Asian I ever saw flying it. Koreans don’t get that big. Land in the dark, as usual, at a civil airport on the southern frontier. Very few lights on. Met by escorts from the company, put in a bus and driven through the darkness to a well lit area visible for miles on the horizon. That’s the US stronghold in Central Asia. Go through the outer security checkpoints, manned by indigenous personnel. The van driver says those troops get paid about $3.00 US a month and would hit you up for whatever they could any chance they got. Got to the inner ring of security. Concertina and Hesco barriers. Bored American MP’s searching our carry on bags. Taken to a plywood shed, told to sign a piece of paper, given a sleeping bag, led to a tent full of empty cots. This is where we’ll be until we get a ride south.

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