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March 07, 2005

Welcome to Afghanistan!

Via the good offices of AFSister, we at the Castle have been introduced to a senior NCO working in Afghanistan, MSG Keith J. - who has been sending regular reports back to his pals in the World. We've secured his permission to reproduce them here, so we're going to. He's been there a while, so we have some catching up to do - so... Welcome to Afghanistan! Subsequent reports have pictures, too! The Armorer's eyes snapped to one - of a relatively rare rifle. We'll cover that in a later installment.

Welcome aboard, Keith!

8 Oct 2004

Well, it's been an interesting two weeks. After sitting through Hurricane Jeanne, I left Ft. Pierce about 3:30pm heading for Ft. Benning, Georgia. We made it as far as the state line when I decided to stop for the night. Driving at night in 50-60 mph winds, driving rain and trees laying across the highway was not my idea of fun. I checked in Monday morning, and spent a week rocessing. For those interested, I fired a 300 out of 300 on the 9mm pistol range.

I left Atlanta Monday afternoon at 4:40 pm for a nine-hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. After about an eight hour layover, we flew 4 hours to Incirlik AFB, Turkey, then another 3 hours to Manas AFB in Kyrgyzstan. We arrived at 4:00am and sat around waiting for a flight. 100 or so names went on the list for 65 seats on two flights. I got on the second one and flew out arounf 2:00pm. We flew for two hours in a C-130 to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Sitting in a web seat staring at the guy across the aisle who was so close I couldn't straighten my leg out without kicking him in the leg. Delta Airlines, it ain't...

By the time we processed in at Bagram, it was too late to be picked up by the guys in Kabul, so I slept in a circus tent next to the flight line. I called the next morning and was told to be ready for pickup between 10:00 and 11:00. They got there arounf 12:30. Traveling anywhere outside of US compounds requires a convoy. So we ended up with six vehicles that picked up 10 of us with various types of luggage. Me and the two Marines had all Duffle bags. Apparently, the Air Force isn't aware of duffle bags since the four or five AF people had luggage like they were going to Disney World. We "borrowed' some tie-down straps from a pallet sitting nearby and tied all of the luggage to the roofs of the vehicles and headed for Kabul. We looked like some gypsy caravan with people stuffed into every seat and bags tied to the roof.

It took about 45 minutes to get to Kabul. We were on the 'New' Bagram hyway, which didn't look too new to me. The driver we had seemd to enjoy hitting all of the potholes. We passed by landscapes that looked like photos of the moon. As we drove along, seeing desloate areas, and people, I thought to myself, "What the @#$& did the Russians want to invade this place for?" Maybe I'll figure that out after I've been here awhile.

When I got to the US compound in Kabul, I checked in and was given my sleeping quarters in the Maxwell House. I share a room with another Sgt. I introduced myself, and asked him what he did and where he was from. His response, "Vero Beach, Florida." Seems everyone on my floor is the National Guard guys from West Palm/Ft.Pierce/Vero Beach. Imagine that. Deploying half-way around the world and end up bunking with someone that lives 15 miles away.

Around 1:30 I was awakened by a loud explosion. It seems some of the local idiots like to shoot rockets at the compound. They're always bad shots. This one hit a gravel parking lot outside the US embassy. After about an hour, the "All Clear" signal was given and we could leave the bunkers and head back to bed. Welcome to Afghanistan.

I should note - his next ones are a little more upbeat! If you've ever traveled US Air ForceAir, you know how tired you can be... all I can add is - Keith, at least you didn't make that trip with a parachute on!