Monday, January 30, 2012

January 30 0620

Pre-engineered structure commonly referred to as the K-Span. Built in place, the corrugated sections are extruded on site with a roll forming machine. Interlocking sections form the roof structure,which, when placed on concrete foundation walls at the base provide raintite protection for equipment and personnel. Ends are enclosed, doors added, and, with HVAC units attached, these are often built out for office space, gyms, mechanic shops and anything else you can think of. The successor to the quonsot hut, a K Span is quick and cheap to erect, erected by the thousands these are often put up by Seabees, the Navy's builder/fighters.

January 30 0615

Relocatable building (RLB) type housing common for troops. These site assembled structures are put together with insulated steel interlocking panels placed on a concrete slab. A modern day BHUT with showers and toilets, these are a luxury compared to tents with accessory latrine shower shave (LSS) building. Thousands installed in Afghanistan.

Friday, January 27, 2012

January 27 1900

I drove past this several times before I realized how unique this was. First time I have seen anything other than swallows, starlings, chikadees, and the occasional hawk. Beautiful and noisy! Hooray!

January 27 1900

Unique BBQ built from unexploded Soviet ordinance. Righteous burgers, at first.

January 25 2000

Fort Lewis Strykers preparing for their day. Enlarge the image to see the artillery these carry. In front of the vehicle is a "SPARK", self protective adaptive roller kit. Roller banks are designed to cause the pressure plate IED to detonate under the rollers instead of the armored vehicle. Behind the Stryker is a light duty MRAP and an up armored semi. The semi has the same MRAP type V shaped frame, designed to deflect an  IED blast outward, not upward, away from the vehicle compartment.
        IED design, using copper formed in a concave shape to enclose the explosive, turns the copper into a molten material capable of burning through 8" of steel. Unbelievably destructive. Soldiers in the Iraq war struggled to protect themselves from these deadly charges, often strapping whatever they could find to the bottom of their Humvee. From garbage can lids to doors from destroyed hummers they used what was available. The loss of life and limb from this learning curve was devastating. A deadly game of cat and mouse, no sooner did we identify and take measures against one type of attack, another was quickly devised. As one general said "show me a ten foot wall and I'll show you an eleven foot ladder".  Highway One is littered with patches from the IED, scores of good guy individuals design and install "culvert denial" systems to keep the easily placed IED out. All the while, drone craft do their part to watch the highways for insurgents placing IEDs. This is a full time job for both sides.
        In other middle east news, radical Muslims in Iraq continue their favorite past time, killing other Muslims. 28 killed today in a funeral procession suicide bombing, 17 yesterday, 53 on January 14, for a total of over 200 since the first of the year. Hard to believe they were not shooting at the US forces as we were leaving last month. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth knowing that the US spent a trillion dollars to stabilize that country(?) and in record time the meltdown has begun.
      In slightly different news, Syrian President (?) Assad continues his slaughter of citizens there. Stepped up attacks on citizens by pro-regime forces are now using mortars to destroy buildings in neighborhoods. A representative for Assad was quoted as saying that  indiscriminate sniper fire and kidnappings were not sending a strong enough message. Arab monitors have left to figure out what to do. Any takers for this one, it's coming.

January 26 2010

Soviet MIG graveyard at Shindand. Site of a new, under construction airbase in the west, this is a former Soviet base. A friend who traveled there on an expeditionary trip, the first US citizens to set foot here, described the half eaten meals left in place. The new base with extended runway and the ability to land large cargo planes is part of a massive expansion that triples this base in size and now allows for C117 to land there. This is an enduring base and second only in size to Bastion.
       Shindand is set to become the center of a Afghan flight training facility. Believe it or not folks, the US is on it's way to creating an Afghan Air Force. Just try for a minute to imagine how much that will cost. The illiteracy rate in the Afghan army is 90 percent and those are the best of the best we could find. Now, the US has found a few capable of flying helicopters and perhaps a few to maintain the helicopters we are providing.......    The dollars are stunning but no less then other obstacles we have overcome in this country. And, lets face it, what is it worth for a fighter base near the border of Iran? Practically priceless. Photo courtesy of IBEW member Tim Sullivan.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January 25 1950

353 of 480

January 25, 1930

Oceans Three  Tovar, Claude, & Arne,  penned by Tovar Camp. These are my friends.

January 22 Mud Pit

Local weaving down the middle of a busy thoroughfare at KAF. After two days of rain, the median is the only high spot in this corridor. Unpaved sections (the norm) are mercilessly pounded by 40k pound tactical vehicles (eight suburbans ) creating soupy ruts 18-24" deep and 10-20' long.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 22 1930

Welcome wagon at KAF. This is a largely transient. camp, teams route through here between assignments. Some 40 electricians doing assessments and repairs provide electrical support for hundreds of small bases in the south. These teams of two are sent along with their containers for 2-6 months (depending on the size of the camp) to make safe, the existing electrical installations. Often, smaller camps provide minimal support and teams can end up living in the 20' metal conex provided by ISI for material storage. Clean out the isles, empty a couple of shelves, install an AC unit on the end, and throw in a couple of cots. That's home! Any takers? Free MREs, extreme temperatures, and ducking the occasional firefight are added benefits. Living with a small Army unit creates a sense of camaraderie unique to this setting. Most men that I talk to would not trade their experiences over here for anything.  30, snow forecast.

January 22 1900

Stars and stripes with the five branches of the military. Flown at the 465th Engineering company KAF

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20 2012

Perhaps the first line of defense. Working dogs go through all vehicles prior to entering the base. In some cases they require an additional search like this guy. Entry control points (ECP) manage all traffic in and out of the base, vehicles sit for at least 3 days in a cool down yard. None of this prevents insurgents from trying to enter a base, 16 attempted incursions rumored in November alone. Tunnel, over the wall, embedded with local workers on base, hiding in cargo, the fact that bases are generally quiet speaks volumes about security and how effective the Army is at maintaining it.
       Outside the wall however is another matter. Today, a car bomb attempting to target a NATO convoy succeeded instead in killing seven civilians including 2 children. I felt the blast from one half mile which shook the building we were in and, left a mushroom cloud two hundred feet in the air. Eight others injured, all Afghan nationals. The Taliban accepted responsibility.
     On Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded bazaar killing 13 and wounding 22. There may have been international troops killed in the bombing however none are confirmed at this time. This is continuing evidence that the Taliban has no regard for the Afghan populace, and, should serve to isolate Taliban from the citizenry. I am not convinced that it does, somehow, it seems that the ideals that the Taliban promote including sharia law, appeal to a segment of the male dominated population. In other words, in a country where women are often seen as property, what is to be gained by the international community promoting women's freedom and independence?  Perhaps little for the average man. He may have several wives and why give them any ideas.  Compare the personal freedoms for women in Saudi Arabia and those folks are 100 years ahead of the Afghans.
    We are planting thousands of seeds here, if only there was something to build upon. Sadly most of what these poor people had, has been bombed out of them by the Soviets, the Taliban, and now Pakistan's support of the Taliban. Hope is what we provide.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17 2100 Twilight Zone

Stencils on blast walls are everywhere. Whether these represent the company, battalion or their favorite cartoon character, guys take the time to build them and paint them up. A modern day Kilroy. Cold here at KAF, temps over night in the 30's and much better than Bagram where overnight lows are 10-15 (with fresh snow). Hold my spot, I'll be there in a couple of weeks. Rocket attack today managed to hit the sedimentation pond, take that you infidels.
     In other Mideast news, Syria continues to murder it's citizens by the dozens if not hundreds at a time Arab monitors are dumbfounded at this new development and not sure what to do besides observe. In a separate development, an official speaking anonamously says that Iran appears to be providing weapons to Syria in an effort to assist the crackdown.
     In Iran, another nuklear scientist is blown to bits, this, the fourth kill in five attempts. Clearly a high risk position. (sorry for the scientist and their family, they are pawns,). How does not the Ayatollah and Akmadinnerjacket understand that rogue nations with wackjobs for leaders DO NOT GET TO HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Help us out here Hillary, can't you just spell it out for these folks?
      Most important in my world, rumors of peace talks with the Taliban persist. This in spite of a recent video showing Marines pissing on dead Taliban. Locally, the Stars and Stripes headline reads " Taliban will not let offensive video derail peace talks". Unbelievable statement from a hard line Islamist movement. At first glance, this sounds like a North Korean style political maneuver. We'll see, I am hopeful, still.   

January 17 Kandahar Airfield

Tovar Camp and the author. At the British PX, KAF 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

January 13, 2015

Troop housing 2011. This is slightly better than sleeping in your MRAP vehicle. Actually the man in the top photo is an ISI electrician, stationed on this combat out post (COP) to assess and repair the electrical installation. The top photo shows the Hesco walls that make up the perimeter structure. These are wire mesh reinforced gigantic sand bags designed to withstand rocket attacks. Smaller sand bags compliment the openings and rooftop. Co-workers have described the vipers, camel spiders and scorpions found inside their huts, you put your boots on before you  roll out of the bunk. All in all, much better than being outside the wire. The southeast (near Jalalabad) is home to the Haqqani network as well as numerous smaller networks looking to make a name for themselves. A camp like this is built with troop labor and starts with a delivery of plywood, Hesco forms, lumber, nails, generator, fuel, and, hopefully,  an excavator to fill the bags. Add a pallet of water, pallet of MRE's and a few MRAPs, and you have the beginning of a round the clock effort to establish a presence. Ass busting work in 100+ degree temperatures and hopefully nobody shooting at you while you work. The final product lacks port-a potties so BMs go in the left over MRE bag and get burned (you get the visual here, some balancing required). Showers if you get one is under a .5L water bottle. God bless the kids that do this. See the documentary Restrepo for a real eye opener about war and this war in particular.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January 13 1940

Tip of the spear? Maybe. This helium filled surveillance blimp carries the latest in camera technology allowing bases to see clearly for up to ten miles. Tethered to the ground by powerful winches, aerostats hover for up to a month at a time keeping a watchful eye out for insurgents planting IEDs as well as potential ambush situations. The ability to read the brand on the filter end of a cigarette from a mile away also means that the images taken of suspected Taliban and Haqqani network are crystal clear and saved for future reference.  Banks of computers catalog faces and vehicles for future reference, one way to connect insurgent dots. Tracking insurgents from Pakistan to Kabul helps the military understand movement and origins of these little rascals. A billion dollar game of cat and mouse, this cat uses facial recognition.  Dozens of these are deployed throughout Afghanistan and the latest generation, as long as a football field have DOD procurment scrambling to find helium to keep them in the air.
      Nine US soldiers killed in action since January 1 2012 including four young Indiana National Guard killed when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Total US service member killed since the 2001 invasion, 1,750.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January 11 2000

New artificial turf field at Kandahar Airfield. KAF is actually the site of Kandahar International Airport, built in the 60's with the support of the US. Who would have thought I'd be here hiding behind blast walls and ducking rocket attacks in 2012? The terminal was damaged by the Russians in the eighties and further during the rule of the Taliban regime (if you can call them that, a rag tag bunch of Muslim radicals bent on domination of women and children). Anyhows, this is possibly the only green surface I have seen here except for the first weeds in spring, shortly before they are coated with a 1/4 " of dust and sand. There is little here to distract folks from the war effort,  a turf  field is an unbelievable luxury and probably less than the cost of 1 MRAP or 10 hours of F-15 flight time (the math here is ugly). The field is enjoyed by the NATO forces here, US and its European counterparts (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
      This week sees a return to drone activity into Pakistan, quiet for the last six weeks out of diplomatic respect. OK, enough of that, lets get back to hunting the Taliban hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan (what WE do well, where they live and coordinate attacks in Afghanistan). 35 evening lows, 55 daytime high at KAF

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 0945

Typical data and comm structure installation by Inglett and Stubbs. This includes the fiber and copper duct banks, all cabling and terminations. From zero volts to lighting bolts- courtesy of a full service electrical contractor and IBEW members from all over the United States.

January 8 0930

Dangerous ride. Not the TV version.

January 8 0930

A de-mining souvenir at Bagram Airfield, most likely left by the Soviets. In some cases these are found by contractors excavating around the site. This includes my employer and co-workers using backhoes to bury cable. There is considerable structure in place to manage mine fields and their cleanup. Unfortunately, there are surprises out there, it's not a perfect world (quite messy actually).

January 8 0900

Construction of an "Alaska tent" on a small outpost. Made in the USA and assembled by soldiers this unit came in a package with cord wired interior lighting and receptacles to be configured by the user. Also included is a 208v enviornmental control unit (ECU) for heating and air conditioning, capable of cooling to 55 degrees with 110 degree outside temps. This package included 8 tents, accessories, and a 200 kw generator allowing a small COP to be set up with troop labor. Pretty nifty. Concrete slab under the tent. This would be living in luxury for many. Cots for beds if you have one!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January 4, 1400

This is the new US embassy under construction in Kabul. Each floor about 80,000sq feet, this thing is massive. I can't imagine the square foot cost, it has to be astronomical. 1 billion dollars, not out of the question. Workers must be housed on the property, travel in this city is limited. The truck bombing of US contractors put a stop to most civilian access; there is little scheduled travel here, random movement is almost required for safety. Quite possibly the only two tower cranes for 400 miles. US workers with secret clearance only.

January 4 1400

Traffic circle in Kabul at Jalabad road. Ten years ago there were fewer than 4000 cars, today there are approximately 400,000. I have never seen a traffic circle where traffic goes both directions but they do here (think about that for a second). Sidewalks and medians mean nothing, no drivers licenses required. Driving with Army support in an up-armored SUV is not for everyone, often both drivers and passengers are spent after a 20 minute drive. No desire to get out and mingle. 35 today, 8-12" snow forcast at 5000'.

January 4 1400

I spent the New Year holiday in Kabul at one of the cluster bases. Colorful sign pointing the way home for some of our eastern European partners. I have been told by many soldiers that the Polish, Croatian, and Bulgarian soldiers are some of the most dedicated and steadfast in theater. These forces are our friends and partners in this fight. Thank you.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January 1 2012

In Kabul to visit some friends for the new year. Entrance to the Embassy.
 Open up you crazy guys!