Monday, February 28, 2011

Feb 26, 08:30

This photo of the laydown yard and tower beyond shows the Hindu Kush range some 30 miles away

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Feb 20 21:00

The weather is improving as is my health. 10 day flu, yikes. Sunny today with temperature around 60, it feels like spring. I spend the one day off doing laundry, shopping at the bazaar, and exploring the base. New job duties include mobilizing materials for TFI. Materials shipped by C17 freighter arrive on Air Force pallets and sent to the Army laydown yard. From there, European and US standards material are separated and repacked into 20' cargo containers. My partner and I work with Sgt. Terstreip who is an IBEW wireman and reservist from Tucson. Days go fairly quick yet leave time for daydreaming. For the first time in years I have idle time to sit and ponder. Often, distant memories come back for no apparent reason, either I have lost another screw or the lack of pressure and stress allow the mind to roam freely. It is a strange and pleasant phenomonon. I think that in a way, my passion for current events, politics, and being connected, led to stress that I was unaware of. The stock market, unemployment reports, political bickering, trade deficits, global warming, so much generally depressing information and news- gone. Mostly. News is seen here in measured doses generally, and brought to us by the Armed Forces network. AFN is non-partisan and broadcasts shows from the entire spectrum.

Feb 20 20:00 Former Soviet MIG bunker

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Feb 15 19:10

Sick. Picked up the crud late last week and it has now turned into the mother of all head/chest colds with body aches. It is particularly challenging since the overnight low is 8F and we generally work outside. Medical support for contractors is non-existant with the exception of loss of limb or life threatening injury. A medical issue would require a flight to Dubai which could take days to arrange. A simple infection, untreated, could easily cost thousands. The motto here is "take care of your hands, feet, and teeth". The weather is generally clear with a few high clouds during the day. Daytime highs are around 50, it feels much warmer in the sun. It makes for plenty of facial color, and few have the prison pallor. In bed by 8 up at 5 looking for a productive cough instead of the current the death rattle.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Feb 10, 19:40

I am finally feeling human for the first time in a week. Up for 36 hours straight until last night. I am hoping for better sleep from here on out. I am certain the elevation is taking it's toll, I am told the additional red blood cells required at elevation take some time to generate. We will get used to it, most of the FOBs and COPs are higher, generally between 7,500-10,000'. The food may also be having an effect, it is salty and it's origin unknown. Containerized food can be from anywhere, labels appear to be written in Arabic. The raw fruit and vegetables are decent and readily available at Bagram, smaller bases with less access make do with less. I find it difficult to concentrate and often feel out of sorts, the day to day comfortable existance I enjoyed two weeks ago is gone. While sitting in the DFAC (dining facility) tonight, I was having my dinner alone while listening to Neil Young with my noise cancelling earbuds. I had the strangest feeling that I was living in a documentary starring me, directed by Rod Serling. I was surrounded by hundreds of strangers, many of them foreign (Italian, Bosnian, Egyptian, Finnish),  those that were not, were carrying assault rifles or hand guns as required by their jobs. The large screen in the corner featured Hannity doing an interview with Donald Rumsfeld. It felt surreal, after following the politics of the middle east for many years, I am now living them. It seems OK to be this far out of my element, and I am thankful for the opportunity. Thank you to my friend Alan Espy for showing me the door of perception.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Feb 8 19:00

Feb 8 18:30

Task Force Ironman will be providing electrical inspection and corrections service to the Army. We are the first of 30 teams that will deploy downwind to identify and make corrections to electrical installations on FOBs and remote sites in the north and eastern half of Afghanistan. Two man teams are provided two conex type structures, one for living the other for tools and materials. We will be working with and for Army base supervisors to identify and make corrections to the electrical installations that pose hazards to the soldiers. The initial work was done by either US, British, or Afghan installers, and in most cases not by electricians. Installed systems also include entire bases wired to european standards, 220/380 50 Hertz. We are expected to make corrections and modifications to those as well.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Feb 7 05:00

Arrived Bagram 13:00 20-06-11. We were greeted by heavy snow which made it even less inviting. Initial orientation by ISI provided us with site rules and regulations. The 6 of us are provided base housing which serves ISI. It appears to be a former Soviet structure, all concrete with thick exterior walls.    Our accomodations fall somewhere between summer camp and Belushi's Tri Delta Fraternity house, bunk rooms for 2-4 are semi private. The showers are hot and reasonably clean. Those of us whose time clocks are off are sitting in the common area watching the Peas perform the half time show on a large plasma tv. It is nice to work for an electrical contractor that cares for it employees. ISI is know as one of the better employers on base.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dubai 21:30

Flew into Dubai just prior to sunset after a 14 hour flight.  We were able to see many of the high profile resort projects from above. It was quite impressive especially the Burj Dubai Tower which was off in the distance. ISI has two apartments for employee's stay while waiting for incoming or outgoing flights. Several of the group went to the City Centre mall for dinner where I purchased dinner from a Lebanase restaurant in the food court. Shoppers at the mall seemed to be from varied ethnic backgrounds with many families shopping late into the evening. Dubai reportedly has minimal oil reserves and has directed it's economy towards finance and tourism which is evident wherever you look. Flight out to Bagram tomorrow at 8am.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


    Friends and family-   
    The process of going to work  in Afghanistan began Monday with a new hire package and a book 2 dispatch at Local 613. There are six new hires including me. They are from San Antonio, St Louis, Chatanooga, Everett, and Atlanta. The physical requried us to travel to the Ft Benning area for the most complete physical I have ever had. I received 8 shots including typoid, hep a and b, tetanus-diphtheria, and TB test screen. I was also given EKG, hearing, full blood anylysis for heart screening, and HIV test. Several applications were compromised and those fellows will try again.
     Army training included a 10 hour SERE course. Survival Evasion Resistance Escape. This provided the means to manage a capture scenario. I now have a better understanding of what our troops are prepared for. While the likelyhood of any ISI employee encountering such threats is minimal, the training is required for civilian contractors entering the theater. It was an eye opener for me and gave me a new appreciation for our troops. I am certain my appreciation will grow.  
      Tomorrow (Feb 3), we will receive our employee and base ID, this should complete the Army required  registration. It is an intensive and exhausting paperwork maze.  Friday evening we depart for Dubai for an overnight and leave Sunday on a military transport to Bagram air field. Amazingly, while writing this, I sit watching a revolution explode in Cairo, Egypt, the city appears to be on fire. I cannot help but wonder what the future holds for this region.