Friday, December 30, 2011

December 30 1830

Bill Mlnarik and Fuzzy getting ready to fly the Stars and Stripes and Packers flags at FOB Sharana

December 30 1800

My friend Bill Mlnarik at the scene of the crime. Excavation for underground utilities is bull work and not for the unitiated. Note the shovels, much of this is hand trenching and no lack of rocks here. There is nothing like digging in 115 degrees let alone dragging the 500mcm tray cable through the ditch. Bending this cable for terminations is something like bending 3/4" reinforcing bar. No tool for this, it is  hands on, old school. Electricians interested in overseas work can apply through the IBEW Local 613 web site. Room, board, and body armor included.

December 30 1750

Sign posted over the toilet at the flight terminal, only in Afghanistan. I end this year in Kabul, hopefully, it will be quiet and uneventful. In a year marked by ups and downs, I feel like there were more ups than downs. Expansion of drone attacks into Pakistan seem to be successful in eliminating insurgents before they cross over, or preventing their return. US intelligence identified the Haqqani network as responsible for some of the spectacular attacks in public areas as well as the targeted assassination of public figures. These attacks meant to frighten the citizenry seems to have  negatively affected the public's impression (finally) of insurgents, other groups, including the Taliban have distanced themselves from attacks on Afghans.
        Hundreds of NATO and US soldiers have died this year, ten times that many insurgents. Unfortunately there were many innocent Afghan lives lost, 16 killed last week by suicide bomber after attending funeral services. dozens more injured. On the positive side, Karzai is still alive, I am afraid much hope depends on his leadership and survival.
        After years of training, Afghan troops have, in some cases, fought back when under attack. That was hardly the case one year ago and it feels like their rate of success is improving. Small villages that lived under Taliban rule have found freedom and with the help of the US armed forces, now have irrigation, bridges, schools and hope. The articles are run weekly in Stars and Stripes and are uplifting. Day by day we are improving the lives of regular people. The Kabul Stadium was re-opened last week to much fanfare, another reason for hope and a radical departure from the Taliban's use as a showcase for public executions.  Two weeks ago the country's first railway opened, the first ever piece to the longest missing link in Asian trade. Women's rights are being discussed with the central government, unthought of  two years ago. All this in a country where women are seen as property and girls schools sought out and burned by the previous regime. The US has done much wrong in Afghanistan, most notably, pulling out after the start of the Iraq war. If no one else notices, what I see is resolve. Resolve to stay until the mission is accomplished and we make up for walking away 8 years ago, leaving villages to be slaughtered by Taliban. Atonement perhaps.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December 26 1900

1877 Martini Henry single shot breach loading rifle. Again, these are sold in bazaars everywhere. $120. I am guessing that the average Afghan is swapping these out for Kalishnakovs if they had not done so already. Heaven knows the stories one could tell.

December 26 1400

1861 Enfield muzzle loader used by the British empire. These are sold by the hundreds and probably thousands at base bazaars around this country. Many are shipped back home as souveniers. $200.

December 25 1800

Fueling up before a patrol.

December 25 1640

I'm not sure why anyone would hang their stockings on a bomb shelter but it looks nice and makes things feel a little festive at BAF. Live music on Christmas day provided by an Air Force band as well as special meals served at the DEFAC. I watch soldiers leaving on patrol at 7 in the evening, in freezing temperatures and it reminds me that the war does not stop for holidays. To the contrary, it is a popular time for Taliban rocket attacks as was the case here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dec 18 1900

Aftermath of fire.

Dec 18 1900

A co-worker heading towards the scene of a rocket attack sparked fire. Stubbs manages the overhead grid on base. Not your typical service call in the states, fairly normal here. These guys are on call 24/7 and manage the entire grid system. Generally power outages are a result of large cranes hitting the overhead lines. No driver licensing requirements here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

November 6 0830


Truck with mattresses in a plywood box makes a great taxi for the locals. My friend Jason and I waiting at the helicopter landing zone at FOB Salerno.

November 11 1100

View over a river valley in Paktia provence some 4 miles off the Pakistan border. This is taken from inside a guard tower. 50 caliber in front, the shells are almost 5 inches long.

November 10 0930

Structural inspector on roof at Bagram with Hindu Kush in background. They are 18k' peaks on the north side of the base.

Nov 21 0700

Newport beach baptism. At last, water.
On a recent stop through Dubai, a cab rider suggested that I would perhaps be interested in a camel ride. Not exactly what I was hoping for but it was fun none the less. 88 here December 3.

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 13 2000

Some heavy duty electrical installations going on here. Check out the temp power cables on the ground. That's 4 conductor 500 mcm tray cable.Those that know can feel the pain of bending that cable on a cold  morning.
       The 1000kw gensets associated with this service  have 48 cables in each plus grounding conductors. At $50/foot the 1500 feet laying here begin to add up. Panels, cable, and much of what you see installed here arrives by 747 freighter. The cost just to ship a 1500 pound reel of cable is staggering. Costs include army security, and contracting oversight,  each part and piece is handled 10 times before it is installed. One 747 round trip is over $1m.
     One structure of 400 on one base of 740. This is a tiny piece of the expenses in this country. Lets not forget about the bases in the former Russia, Kuwait, UAE, Dubai, Germany, and Turkey. The list goes on and on. It is staggering. Re-fueling tankers fly 24/7 overhead. 

Nov 13 2130

This little dude is just sunning himself. He will make a mighty fine snack for the starling types here. Photo taken at UXB demining camp. 80 degrees. This week Afghan President Karzai is convening a Loya Jirga in Kabul. Some 2000 are expected to attend, meeting in tents. Afghanistan's relationship with the United States will be discussed. The Taliban has warned those planning to attend, violence can be expected. The Taliban has published the security plans for the meetings letting would be attenders know that their safety is not secure. Violence expected but no more than the Revolutionary War. It is good to see self determination being show even if it does not always go the way we would like it.

Nov 12 1900

Nov 12 1830

My friend Eric (from Michigan) and I, waiting on concrete for this massive genset slab. Coffee time. 70 at 9am

Nov 10 2110

Nov 10 2100

A convoy of jingle trucks from Baluchistan. These are sort of a Middle East version of the Cubans 57 chevy. I can't imagine what it takes to keep a 1950s era Soviet truck on the road but this convoy had 15 of them, nearly identical. No AC.  75 today.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 4 1800

Serious about security in the south

Friendly stray on COP. These "pets" are discouraged, many carry rabies.Yikes

Typical transport to assessment projects

It is now beginning to really feel like fall with lows in the 40's and soon into the 30's. Terrible violence in larger cities coming primaraly from Haqqani network. These attacks are primarily directed at officials, Afghan police and Army units. Often there is collateral damage to civilians. The Taliban has announced a plan to keep civilians out of the attacks. Last week yet another female suicide bomber  in Kandahar,  figure that out. The Taliban has seemingly nothing to offer that gender, another example of religious brainwashing. 208 days.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October 27 0700

At Kandahar with my friends Allen Harrison and Ben Brady both from Local 613 Atlanta. Behind us is the UAE camp and their mosque. Dusty and hot, 102 on this day.

October 27 0600

                                                          VOTE FOR PEDRO!

October 25 1930

"Modern Tanker- Super Deluxe- Road Star- Best Man" ! That an individual takes enough pride in his vehicle to do this, gives hope for this country. Perhaps it is something worth fighting for.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

October 6 2130

Egyptian hospital motorpool, which maintains the last 3 Yugos in captivity. A tired looking but fairly well represented fleet.  80 today and mostly clear. Last nights lightning storm also brought the first snow to the mountains surrounding Bagram Airfield. The accumulation was clear in the 12-17,000' peaks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Images from Base Kandahar Bazar. Spread out across 5 acres, this draws everyone interested in knockoffs, rugs, cigarettes,  hooka pipes, stones, jems, brassware, linens and bongos. I love coming here and will miss it when I return to the north. The vendors are a combination of quirky, persistent, pushy, fun and funny. Haggling is expected and a delight to watch and practice. 102 today.
Rug shop at Kandahar Bazar.

Front and backside of terminal. Notice hesco walls, concertina wire and gunner placements on roof.

Soviet graveyard next to US base. These are scattered around the country, remnants of the last war.
Kunduz street market scene. This daily market stretches for one half mile and across 20 side streets.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

 Locals on highway, waiting for our convoy to pass. Military convoys are given a wide berth.
Ballistic mesh which wraps the outside of US armored personnel carriers. It is designed to protect against RPG. Heavy, composite knobs are intended to detonate incoming rounds prior to vehicle impact.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rolling kitchen at remote COP. Uses JP8 fuel for ovens, burners, and heaters. Food is stored in the type of containers you see rolling down the road with freezer units attached. Roadhouse menu below, pancake on a stick =corn dogs. Nothing goes to waste here if you know what I mean.

Preparing for a convoy with SSGT Manjarrez. After a little joking around he tires of it and tells me "drop down and give me twenty, slacker you are not ready for todays army". Clearly I am not. Preparation for convoy and lineup prior to departure. 2 hours to Kunduz. I am seeing some of the most desolate and bizarre scenery to date. We drive through villages where you could easily imagine Moses walking down the street. Except for the armed ANA soldiers.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sept 20 0800

Afghan border crossing station near Tajiik border. Securing borders around the country is increasingly important to stem the flow of insurgents and weapons from adjacent countries, specifically, Pakistan and Iran. Both countries help supply arms and insurgents used to KILL AMERICAN, NATO, AND AFGHAN TROOPS.
      Author preparing for convoy.

Sept 20 0600

Flag pavilion at Mazir I Sharif. Hindu Kush range beyond. The north side of this mountain range is void of trees and appears like sand when view from above. More likely however, it is a combination of dirt, sand, and dust just like where I am standing.
       Photo below of existing generators being removed from a new power plant. This is the type of work ISI typically does at military bases. As an assessor, I travel to bases and put together asbuilt  drawings for estimates prior to the installation. It is a great position and I really enjoy doing this.