Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Goodbye Asia and Europe - Hello United States!

Sorry it's been a few days since I was able to write, I have been focused on getting done with my demobilization and internet here is sorta sparce. In fact I had better access to it in Afghanistan - strange.

We left Manas on time, with a very full plane. In fact the entire "first class" section of seats were filled with bags. They looked nice all buckeled in for the flight. I was on the baggage detail to load the plane and we filled the front and back of the 757 completely down below. The flight attendants had never seen anyone have to put bags up in seats. Yeah, we are special!

The flight was LONGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGgg. I think it ended up being 23 hours total, including air and ground time. We did get to leave the plane in Ireland for a couple beers, and again in Maine on our last fuel stop, but they made us stay on in Turkey. I think that was because we landed in some farmer's field and there really wasn't a terminal. I am exaggerating of course, but it was a tiny little airport. I mentioned we stopped in Maine - we were supposed to stop in Canada but we were re-routed at some point. It was nice though as the local VFW had about 30 people out to greet the plane and they were all in rows clapping for us as we left the plane. Meant a lot to actually drag people out to the airport like that. Steve is from Maine so he called his brother who then came out to the airport! So, he got an unplanned mini family reunion out of the deal!

It was SO great to be back on US soil. I had forgotten how nice it is to go someplace where they speak your language without an accent, and the food is what you grew up with and they take your money without having to do some sorta mental conversion.

We took off from Maine and had a short flight down to Norfolk where the group family and friends that had come to see us were setup along the tarmac under a big tent. It was dark when we landed, but it was just as you have seen before....just a long row of tired people trudging towards the hanger to get back to life. Spirits were high, but its hard to be jumping for joy when you have been up 30 hours!

We went into a big warehouse and they inspected our weapons and took them from us. I somehow ended up in the slow line, typical for me, but eventually I got done with that, and headed over to the admin section where they gave us some paperwork and a key to our rooms. It was nice to just walk around without a gun.

Kara came out to see me and was waiting in the area where all the people had gathered. It was great to see her and the whole thing seemed to go like a blur. I guess with all that was going on it was just hard to concentrate on anything.

We started our demob the next day and have been doing that since Monday. They said it could take up to 14 days, but we all knew better than that. Basically we jammed the process as best we could and fit ourselves in whenever possible, which made it go a bit faster. I am actually DONE as of today and will be flying out today and will be in St. Louis today! It's almost impossible to believe.

Bob and Steve and I had dinner together last night, our last supper of sorts, it actually felt like any other dinner we have had over the last year. We talked about a lot of the same things we normally discuss as well as some things going forward. I think we will have lunch today before I leave and then that's the last I will see of them for a while. Sad really. I will definately miss those two.

Sometime later this week or early next whenever I can get my life back in order, I will sit down and hammer out some final posts and try to sum all of this up. I haven't quite figured out how to "end" this yet, it has become a big part of my stress relief. Much of what I typed, never actually made it here. I would type it, read and re-read and then delete, or paste it somewhere else. It was theraputic to just get some things out. I'd like to say I need to keep this going in my normal life, but honestly, I think my stress level will be low enough that this won't be necessary, and even more honestly, I don't think you want to read about my life!

Thanks for reading, thanks for enjoying and I appreciate you being along with me on my trip.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Goodbye Afghanistan

The ride to Kabul International (KAIA) was uneventful, just lots of people looking and waving and a whole bunch of school kids who evidently had a half day off, out and about waving and giving the thumbs up.

We hung out at KAIA for a couple hours before we boarded the C-17 and headed up to Bagram. Now, this is the interesting part. Bagram is only an hour by vehicle, and around 40 miles from KAIA. The entire flight from wheels up to touchdown was 8 minutes. 8. Odd to say the least. We landed in Bagram at around 3, and had oh, about 12 hours to kill before our next flight. If you think you have it bad with an hour delay here or there, try flying US Airforce Air. Again, I wasn't complaining, it was just an entire day of waiting. By the time we got to the point of boarding the aircraft in Bagram (about 1am) I think we had averaged about 2 miles per hour on our trip.

We loaded up the last C-17 OUT of Afghanistan, everyone dead tired and with little fanfare. It was good to just be on the plane. The flight to Manas Air Base was just under 2 hours, so I think it was about an hour past holy crap it's late, and 2 hours before 0 dark thirty when we arrived. More buses, and then a "short" brief and they cut us loose to the tents. By this point it was light out, and breakfast was being served, I went ahead and ate and then took a 3 hour nap.

That brings me to now. We awake our next leg to say adios to this little slice of heaven. In between then awaits 2 beers, a shower and a hopefully decent nights sleep.


ps. Have I mentioned I am OUT of Afghanistan. Not that I am happy about it or anything :)

Goodbye Phoenix

We had to be up and ready at 630 for our 1145 flight. Everyone was there on time and they had big 5 ton trucks ready for us, and after taking attendance, they loaded up the first group of 53 into four trucks and headed out to Kabul International(KAIA). I was in group two so I had a bit of time, I really didn't do much, just hung out and waited for them to get back because it's only an hour round trip including the drop off.

My turn came and I hopped up in the back of the big truck. Very interesting ride because I didn't have ammo, and for the first time was out on the roads without being enclosed. The sights and smells of Afghanistan tour. I should have had to pay extra for it!

So long Phoenix!


Monday, May 07, 2007

Goodbye Blackhorse

Sunday morning we packed up for the final time, loaded up the trucks and said good bye to Camp Blackhorse. I can't say we really "liked" it there, but it was our home for a year and was one of the better places to be stuck, if you had to come to this country. It was good to leave though, hard to say good bye to some of the friends we made, my guess is, being the small world that it is, we will cross paths again.

The new Navy team drove us over to Camp Phoenix where I am currently located, waiting to finish all my out-processing and to find out when we fly out of here. So far so good, it was a solid admin day that I think put us real close to being done. Tomorrow we have to turn all of our stuff in to customs - except our carry on items. Now...the issue with that is, all my bags have my clothes, toiletries, towel, shower shoes, etc. My carry on just has carry on stuff, books, electronics etc. That poses a large issue because we drop it off tomorrow (Tuesday) and fly sometime later this week, before we board our charter flight even later this week. Hmm. We are all going to smell. My current plan is to completely repack and stuff my carry on with some clothes and hopefully get enough in there to survive a few days. That still leaves me without a sleeping bag - this event was well thought out. I'd say I care, but I am on the way home.

It's good to see all the guys from last year at Shelby. It's interesting what a year will do though. We were all pretty tight last year having gone through 2 months of crap training, but after a year apart, everyone is sticking tight to their groups that they actually went downrange with. Just today some of the cliques are breaking up, I guess it will just take time. We will probably all come together in time to separate again.

Some bad news to temper all the good news. We were slapped in the face with the fact that this is a war zone last night. The prison we visited last week has Americans as it's mentors and last night two were killed and two were injured after being attacked by a guy in the Afghan army. Amazing - the guys we are here to help -completely turning on us. I don't know yet who it was, but it's a small crew over there and we met almost all of them, I will be shocked if I don't know them. Sad, and it will be the first people here that I knew that were killed. I think it's time to go. I am very disheartened by the fact that it was ANA that did it. I figure he was a Taliban guy who got himself into the ANA, but regardless, it doesn't make me feel better about the situation.

I think that's about it, I am well on my way, and will do my best to keep up the progress reports!


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Single Digit Midget

We did out check out with admin, ran all around the camp getting our required signatures and finished up our last bit of paperwork. It's all just un-important paperwork that someone is going to have to shred after we leave, but it is keeping someone employed.

Turned in our ammo today, I am completely bullet-less. Basically my best weapon at this point is to heave my 9mm at someone. Come to think of it, that would be fun and I have a list of people that I'd like to try it on. We also spent a couple hours yesterday cleaning our weapons. Dirt, and sand find their way into every crevice of those, and its a royal pain to clean them. They obviously will be inspected before turn in, so we had to make sure we got every last bit of crap out of them. I wanna wrap them up in a zip lock bag now so they don't pick up any additional chunks before we go.

As stated in the title, I am in single digits for leaving Afghanistan. Whoo frickin who. Again, it's starting to sink in that it's real and that I really do get to leave. I bet leaving prison feels just like this. Maybe that's why we have such a high rate of return to prison. I feel so good I just gotta go out and kill someone! Maybe not.

Change 1001, we are now stuck at Blackhorse two more days. Phoenix sent out an email telling us that we were persona non grata and that we needed to wait as long as possible due to overcrowding. Its like a shanty town over there I guess. No sweat for me, I prefer being here anyway. The only bad thing is that I was mentally geared up to leave, but I'll deal. Hold on.....ok. I'm good.

Mailed the last box I am mailing today. Basically as I looked over all my crap, I started debating how much I liked it, and whether or not I liked it enough to carry it for 9 days. Needless to say, some of my stuff lost that battle and will now fly home before me. I think at this point, other than my computer which I have sold, I am down to the stuff that I will bring home on my back.

Before I couldn't get the days to go fast enough, now I can't slow them down!


Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Bonus Blog Alert! Bonus Blog Alert! Bonus Blog Alert!

No, it wasn't that kind of kaboom. I bought speakers last year so when we watched movies on our TV, we could have a good sound with a sub woofer. I had arranged to sell them to one of the Marines here, but Steve decided tonight to ignore all the things we have learned, and plugged my 110 speakers into 220 power. Boom, all gone. Now Steve owns my broken speakers!

I did something really fun tonight. I took all of my ammo out of my clips and put it back in its case. We get to turn it in tomorrow, so I wanted to ensure it was all still there. No shots fired in anger or any other mood for that matter - yeah!

Found out we also check out with admin tomorrow, woo hoo! This is real. I get to leave!!


The Big House

Today was our final trip and the last item on the list. The Garrison S-3 officer has a friend who is the S-3 for the prison in Pol-e-Charki, he invited us and we had always wanted to go for a visit so we went! It's only about 5 miles from the camp, so the trip itself was quick. Once we arrived, it looks as you'd expect - big walls, guard towers, razor wire and guards with guns. No surprise, but as we went in we had to leave our guns, knives, phones and cameras outside. It was the first time I've been outside Blackhorse without a gun on....I felt very odd. The no camera rule was a bit of a bummer, I would like to have gotten some pictures inside. I guess in thinking about it, its a good thing they aren't allowed.

It's actually two prisons side by side - one is the Ministry of Defense Prison(political prisoners and war criminals), and the other is the Ministry of Justice (civil crimes). We toured the MoD version, which is newly renovated, and much nicer than the other. Looking over at the other building and talking with the American mentors who have looks JUST like you'd think a third world prison would look and from what they said its WORSE inside. It has a reputation with the Afghans, enough so that most of our terps declined to even go on the tour. Both prisons have capacities in the area of 700, the MoD one is almost empty, the other has over 1000 inmates. Bad juju going on in that place.

We walked around and saw all the facilities and they took us to an empty wing where we were able to crawl around in the cells and see basically how they live. We were purposefully taken away from the prisoners so it didn't seem like the big bad Americans were showing off their captures. This is an Afghan run prison through and through, and they want that idea to continue in both the guards and captives minds. We did see some inmates lining up for lunch, they didn't look happy. Not exactly sure what they were in for, we didn't ask, but they are transferring the guys from Guantanamo Bay to this prison. Being as it was just renovated, this is a NICE facility. Way nicer than any Afghan house I've been in, and a whole lot better than we had at Camp Shelby. The bars are a detractor though.

We had lunch in the guards lounge area, it was good, same food as usual. We departed shortly after and headed back. Our last field trip complete, we talked about how we only have a couple trips left on Afghan roads before we fly out!