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.