Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The following is the sixth in a series of letters home from my nephew Keith. I am publishing them so that we may all have a better understanding of the young men and women who are placing themselves in harms way to protect us, and our way of life. They have been following him through his training, and will continue into his deployment. I do so with his permission, and the concurrence of his wife and son.S/SGT Keith is an army veteran and civilian police officer who joined the active reserves after the September 11th attacks. He and ten members of his MP unit have been called up for deployment to Afghanistan to train new Afghani police officers. All eleven are either police or corrections officers. This is the first letter from Afghanistan, describing his transit, arrival and assigned quarters. I am withholding his last name out of courtesy to his family and simply thank him for his service to our country.
Update #6 Aug 08, 2006
Let me start this off by saying that I have arrived in theater safe and sound as I’m sure most of you have already been made aware. It was quite an adventure that took me through several states, several countries, and 6 airplanes; but we made it. Those states included Texas, Maryland and Delaware. Then we proceeded through Germany, Qatar, and finally into Afghanistan.
The best of our stops was in Germany. I really enjoyed being back there, getting to enjoy some of the food, and of course, beer. We spent the night on a small army base not too far from Ramstein Air Force Base; in a warehouse that was set up to handle soldiers who are in transit. On the base was a small Kantina that served all the local favorites, and is owned by a German family. I was surprised at how much of the language I remembered, considering how many years it has been since I was stationed there.
After we left Germany our next stop was in Qatar before we moved onto Afghanistan. We flew to Kandahar Airfield which is in the southern portion of the country. Our intent was to remain there for only a short time while we waited to catch our final flight north to Bagram. While we were waiting our commander and another member of the detachment took the opportunity to meet with some of the people we will be working with down in Kandahar. While they were away our flight schedule changed and we were set to leave a few hours early. Obviously we could not leave two of our people behind, so I volunteered to stay behind and let our commander know what had occurred. Another member of the detachment also stayed behind with me as the rest of the detachment moved north. By the time our commander returned, there were no more flights going north for the night, so we had to remain in Kandahar.
I must say that when we first arrived in Kandahar, and I was walking into the building that acts as the terminal, I walked by a memorial that commemorates all who have fought and died during the war on terrorism; and also those who died on 9/11. When I entered the building that was the last stronghold of the Taliban, I immediately noticed how it had been scarred by war, and not just this war. I’m sure some of them were inflicted during the Russian invasion. I found myself feeling as though I should be quiet and respectful, almost like I was in a museum. After advising our commander of the situation, we were given a tour of the base, which is quite large. This portion of the country is no longer under the command of US forces, but has been turned over to NATO forces. As we toured the base I saw soldiers from countless other countries, and realized the enormity of this operation.
Shortly thereafter, we had some dinner and we were set up in quarters for the night. I was extremely tired. I probably hadn’t slept more than 3 hours at a time for 5 days, and was really looking forward to a good nights rest. Unfortunately, as many Generals have said, plans are fantastic, but the other guy gets a vote also. Well the other guy cast his vote at about 11:00 PM when he started lobbing mortars into the base. I didn’t hear the detonations, but I sure did hear the warning siren. We left our room and made our way to the bunkers until the “all clear” was sounded about 20 minutes later. We returned to our rooms and tried to fall back to sleep, only to have to return to the bunker after only 10 minutes, due to another volley of mortar shells that were inbound. This time we did hear the detonations as one impacted approximately 150 meters away from our bunker. Again, after about 20 minutes, and some return fire from the perimeter element, the “all clear” was sounded and it was back to bed. This is when I found out exactly how tired I was, because I fell asleep almost as my head hit the pillow. I would have thought that I would have lain in bed thinking about what had just happened, but apparently I was too tired to think about anything just then. I guess my body’s vote was to save it for the morning when I’m better rested.
The next day we were able to get 4 seats on an Air Force C-17, which is a large cargo plane, and made the final leg of our journey. We arrived in Bagram and were met by the rest of the detachment. We spent the rest of that day going to some briefings and moving into our new quarters. Now I know in conversation I have stated that I have my own room, but let me explain what I mean by that. I am living in a B Hut, which is basically a wood building that is housing 8 of us. The interior is separated into living areas by ¾ high walls that create some privacy. Everybody ends up with an area that is approximately 8 feet square. In that area I have my bed and a cabinet to hold my uniforms and other items. I went and purchased a rug, a fan, and a small television. We have access to cable television and internet in your individual area for a monthly fee, which I was more than happy to pay. Not sure how the wife feels about that though. I wish they made a television remote so I could change the channels at home all the way from here. I know she misses me doing that.
The next couple of days will include some more briefings, and we will begin on the job training so we can relieve a detachment of soldiers who are nearing the end of their deployment. I am looking forward to getting started as I feel time will pass faster once I am able to get into some sort of routine and start doing my job.
Well, that is all for now. I love and miss all of you and will forward another update when time permits. With internet access in my room it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Talk to all of you soon. Let the countdown begin!
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