Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bagram Airbase 20 October 2006

There are a couple of good things about Bagram; the gyms are great, it is a pretty secure post, although not as secure as say, Burns, Oregon. It is in a small valley that is ringed all the way around by mountains. It like most all of eastern and southern Afghanistan is not to far from Pakistan. After a week here I am truly ready to move on to Qatar, with any luck it will have some variety that will keep me amused for a couple of days. It is hard to be transient for long periods of time with very few people you know. A couple of observations, some may be repeats.

The 10th Mountain Division is the active duty Division currently working in Afghanistan. I have spoken to some young men who have seen more fighting in their lives than many I know. One young man relayed a brief story of how his Forward Operating Base operated. The 10th Mountain Division is really in the fight, they don’t have to take ANA with them to fight the Taliban. They position themselves all along the border with Pakistan, which is in the Hindu Kush. This particular young man relayed a story of daily/nightly fights with the “Taliban” or anti government forces anyway, who came over from Pakistan on a nightly basis. They fired upon the firebase from a position about 150 or so feet higher than the base and well protected from the base itself. Being good soldiers, the 10th had pushed out other fighting positions, so the fight was across a narrow valley, with the FOB down below the combatants. Regardless of what ordinance they used, the Taliban came back every night. This same young man briefly mentioned losing his Platoon Leader, who he liked to a double stacked anti armor mine IED. It struck me that while he appeared to be dealing with it in a decent manner; he has already seen more than I ever want my kids to.

Our soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division (I say ours, because they are yours and mine), are young, 22 years plus or minus 4 years, and lean, because when you are constantly humping a load up and down the Hindu Kush you probably can not eat enough to keep your weight up. The soldier from above was 22, had lost 30 pounds out in the field, and was trying to get it back. Hell of a diet plan. I remember when I was on Active Duty with the 82nd we worked with the Pennsylvania Guard one year, I was completely critical of them with all the experience and wisdom of my 20 years. I see some of that here, but I also see a Guard force that is significantly better off on average than the Guard of 1985. I wish I could say that I think that the 10th Mountain had a great working relationship with the Guard or other units here on Bagram, but I don’t get that feeling. One example is the fact that they eliminated the transient housing for Task Force Phoenix, (Which is and has been National Guard) from the previous location which was about 200 meters from the airport, and moved it a mile or more down the road. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but there is no regular transportation; and if you are transient in Bagram, that means at the least you have 100 lbs of equipment. The location that the tents were occupying sits vacant, with nothing at all on it, occasionally in the last week it has become a parking lot to stage out of. We have some soldiers here who transfer soldiers from the airport to the transient tents via pick up or bus, so that is handled. But that still puts our National Guard soldiers housing 1 mile away from the USO. I am not impressed with that apparent lack of consideration, but I am sure some one has justified it in some fashion. In the military of course RHIP, or Rank has its privileges, so what that means is that senior NCOs, and most Officers are treated differently than lower enlisted soldiers, and what that means is something like this treatment can be downplayed or ignored.

There is a decent MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) building that shows movies daily, DVD/VHS, I caught “Shaft” again the other day, I just love that movie. Good music as well. Phones to call home are upstairs, and they have internet capabilities downstairs as well as a large, if poorly organized library. I think it is staffed by two or three people through out the day. The day here really goes 24/7 which is good as this post is doing something all the time. Well it is now 0130 local time, which is about 2 pm on the 19th in my part of the world. I have another couple of hours to go, but I am sure this is enough for one day….

I hope you enjoy



Anonymous said...

I am going to be deployed to Bagram come January for a whole year. I was wondering waht you could tell me about living conditions for the Troops who are stationed there. Also if you have any suggestions about what to pack.


Keith said...

The Gym is great, theater is great, lots of books, pretty easy to stay in shape I would say. Housing runs the gamut of prefabed metal containers (Good) to B huts, which are plywood construction, hard to keep clean. I would take a set of Khaki pants and long sleeved light shirt, many PT shorts and shirts, plan on doing something for the year, education or physical fitness. Don't plan on any abundance of privacy. Hope that helps.