Saturday, May 29

Running a military base is like a running a little city. Here you see the "rural water district" of Bagram, and our versions of water towers. These are called water blivets. They hold non-potable water for showers, toilets, laundry, etc. All the water we injest is bottled water.

Friday, May 28


Bagram Air Field (BAF) welcome sign.

First hour on the ground getting organized and ready to split the teams out to their locations.

View of Bagram air traffic control tower and mountains in background.

Where our Bagram team sleeps.

One of the sights on the road from BAF to Kabul.

Panoramic view from the road.

Thursday, May 27

14 May

First steak and crab leg night-- 52 to go.

We sat out in the court yard with a couple of 211 MPAD folks for about two hours talking and smoking Cuban cigars. It was a very pleasant evening. We joked around, reminisced about Fort Riley, and pondered how ironic it is that we were dressed in civilian clothes, smoking cubans in a beautiful garden, in the middle of a combat zone!

Friday is the Muslim Sabbath-- much like our Sunday. For us, it means it's a 'slow tempo day'. There is less work to do since none of the Afghan media are working, and we get to wear civilian clothes to work.

I went for a jog for the first time today. I went at about 6:30 a.m. I could really tell we're at high altitude here. I ran about 1.5 miles and got pretty winded. The only place to run is on Gator Alley, which is the little road running from the gate, past all the houses, down to "the swamp" and the pedestrian gate at the other side of the compound. It's about 1/10th of a mile each way.

15 May

We held a press conference on our own today, and did a pretty good job. We also credentialed about six journalists. Many of the journalists I've been talking to lately are German. I made a plan to send ZDF to Kandahar to be embedded with our forces there. It was really nice talking to them in German.

This evening, much to our surprise, the ZDF crew brought us dinner. Evidently there is a German restaurant in Kabul called der Deutsche Hof. The schnitzel was pretty darn good!
11 May

After we arrived at Bagram, my Kandahar team got on the waiting list for the next flight out to Kandahar. Those going on to Kabul stayed long enough to get our SAPI plates-- the bullet resistant ceramic plates that go in our Kevlar vests, and to eat before we headed out.

We traveled in three Toyota Land Cruisers on the one our drive to Kabul. It was a very stressful drive, but I think the unit we were replacing made it much more stressful than it needed to be. Maybe some kind of 'initiation' :-) They drove very fast, cut people off, drove into oncoming traffic, went fast over speed bumps and pot holes, and generally were very stressed during the hole drive. It was very tiring even for a passenger on the one hour drive.

12 May

Today we helped run the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) press conference. It was naturally on the ISAF compound about five minutes away from ours. However, on this day there was a big protest that caused traffic jams. This made us very late. Apparently, the Afghan government had just laid off about 2000 workers-- the workers were very upset.

The Italians were manning the front gate. A Polish officer served as ISAF's spokesperson, and our CFC-A spokesperson sat next to him. We provided a female at the gate to search female journalists, escorts to walk the journalists from the gate to the press conference, and we helped setup the room. We also video taped the conference and later published a transcription of the conference internally.

each spokesperson make an opening statement and answered questions from over fifty media. ALL the questions were for our spokesperson and were about our treatment of persons under control (PUCs).

Later in the day some of us went for a orientation drive through the city. Most everyone waved at us. One feminine looking young Afghan man even blew me a kiss! I guess it was 'man-love Thursday'. The guys we replaced said on Thursday many men here spend a lot of time holding hands, etc. I'm not sure yet whether there's a large homosexual population here or if it's just their culture. Probably the latter. Gays were oppressed and killed under the Taliban, so now that the Taliban are gone from the city they might be experiencing a renaissance of sorts.

We drove to the Hotel Intercontinental, which is on top of a small mountain in the middle of the city. From there we had a panoramic view of Kabul. It's amazing how big it is. Not many tall buildings, but lots of small ones tightly spaced and reaching for as far as you can see except for where they but up against the mountains.

Tuesday, May 18

More photos!

Front view of our C17 on the Manhattan airport tarmac.

Loading one of our ISU 90 shipping containers.

Pushing the ISU 90 deeper into the plane.

View of our cargo and passenger seats from rear of aircraft.

The 105th MPAD walks towards the airplane at dusk.

View of the bulk head at the front of the plane that I described in an earlier entry.

View out the back of the plane after we landed at Bagram Air Field.

7 May 04
continued from 6 May entry.

An Air Force Sergeant boarded the plan shortly after landing at Charleston to take the First Sergeant and myself to the terminal while the rest of the unit got their gear and boarded a bus. He really rolled out the red carpet for us. He put us in the Special Category Lounge -- a VIP waiting area.

When the bus arrived my soldiers were escorted into the normal passenger waiting area. 1SG and I went to get the other officers and bring them to the VIP lounge. We all sprawled out on the nice couches and were very giddy at the accommodations. Did I mention before that you gotta love the Air Force?!

Then the Sergeant came back and chased my officers out of the lounge saying it was only open to the 1SG and I! We all thought it was funny, but I felt awkward about it so I mostly hung out in the terminal.

After finally learning at about 2 a.m. that the plane couldn't be fixed, we decided to get billets for the night. We went to the billeting office, which had no rooms but gave us contracts to stay at a local hotel. Then we went to the base armory to check in our weapons, GPS systems, and night vision goggles.

It was 4 a.m. by the time my head hit the pillow in my hotel room. I woke up at 10 a.m. Six hours of good sleep after a shower was plenty to recharge us. Several people just wanted to sleep in the terminal and were PO'd that I wanted everyone to sleep in a hotel. They figured the they would have rather slept the two hours spent getting to and settled into the hotel. I stuck to my philosophy that quality sleep is more important than quantity of sleep... and I'm glad I did.

They couldn't fix our plane in time so moved our equipment to another plane which they later determined also to have a problem. The next afternoon we finally departed Charleston for Germany. We went straight up the coast to Rhode Island where we did air refueling before cutting across the Atlantic. We had one of my guys in the cockpit with a video camera taping the whole operation. It was pretty cool.

We got to Germany in the early morning and were supposed to stay only long enough to refuel and change crews. However, apparently they had a sensor malfunction over the Atlantic and needed to fix it. Our third plane to have a mechanical problem!

We stayed in Germany 10 hours. I tried calling several of my German and American friends. Unfortunately none were home except one. It was nice to talk to Tony. Sorry to have missed everyone else :-(

I ate a curry wurst at the base exchange, mit pommes frits, and bought some fresh gummi bears for the rest of the trip.

We picked up about twenty extra passengers for the final leg into Bagram, including several civilians. Some are private security guys like Blackwater-- former special forces, going to make big bucks in Afghanistan. One was going to Bagram to fix a broken Predator drone reconnaissance plane. There were also two women going to Bagram to run an extension of the University of Maryland on the base. Imagine having time to go to college in a combat zone!

When we entered Afghan airspace, the air crew donned their combat gear and turned off the plane's navigational lights. Passengers were told to put on our combat gear if they had any.

When we came over the mountains that surround the "bowl" that the air base is in, the C-17 dove/descended sharply... like nothing I've ever experienced before. Then it leveled out as if we were about to land. I could see the ground through the small port hole in the door on the opposite side of the plane. We were pretty close to the ground. However, the plane continued on swerving back and forth for what seemed like five minutes until we finally landed. Whew!

The crew opened the side doors as we taxied to the tarmac. Through the door I saw my first glimpses of the beautiful snow-capped mountains that surround the base. I could also see base infrastructure, tents and equipment-- all protected by sand bags and Hesco barriers. Hesco barriers are like sandbags as big as washing machines that are reinforced/contained by a wire basket. They pile them two and sometimes three high to form a wall to protect tents, buildings, and aircraft. Nearby was a row of A-10 'Wart Hog' airplanes. Yes... we were in a combat zone now.

Monday, May 17

Here's a couple of belated photos from when we went rappelling at the Manhattan Fire Department's training tower the week before we left Fort Riley.

This photo is taken from the top of the tower of some of us waiting for our turn.

Here I am going over the edge.

Here I am on belay. The belay man holds the rope at the bottom. If the person on rappel loses control, the person on belay pulls down on the rope. This has a braking affect on the rappeller so he/she doesn't come crashing down. Nobody lost control so luckily the belay men didn't have to do their jobs!

Saturday, May 15

6 May 2004

D day. Deployment day is here.
06:30 wake-up.
07:30 formation to go over the day's schedule and eat.
09:00 the last of the bags are packed and loaded in a truck. We take them to transportation to have them palletized for military air transport.
11:30 lunch. Most of us went to Cracker Barrell for our last good meal for a while.
13:00 Issue weapons from arms room.
15:00 Go the the manifest site. Weigh-in with full battle rattle and carry-ons. I weighed in at 279 pounds. Then we relaxed with Red Cross refreshments.
17:00 Go to Manhattan airport. Wait in a snack bar that isn't open for business. Ordered pizza delivered. Excitement picked up when our C-17 arrived. Everyone went outside to look at it taxi towards it. The adrenaline was really pumping! VIPs then showed up to see us off. The Kansas Adjutant General, and the PAOs from both Kansas and Oklahoma were there. I went out to watch the cargo handlers load our pallets and to watch the fueling operation.
21:00 Board the plane. The plane is huge and looked funny at such a small airport. We have tons of space. Just three ISU 90s, a pallet of duffles and rucks, and a small pallet of MREs and water.
21:41 Take off. Everyone was talking, laughing, and having a good time as we taxied. We were seated sideways facing the center of the aircraft, with the cargo in the middle. Take off accelleration was pretty strong compared to airline takeoffs.

Well, it's easy to see why people say the army is a bunch of 'hurry and wait'. The airport was 25 minutes from our barracks, but had to get to all these places so early. You can tell they're used to handling much larger units than ours.

Once airborne, people were settling down. Also on board is a Raven team. These are Air Force security police whose job it is to secure and guard an aircraft when it lands in a potentially dangerous place.... I guess Afghanistan qualifies :-)

There are three Load Masters in addition to the flight crew. Much to my surprise, they passed out pillows and blankets! Ya gotta love the Air Force.

The plane is short and fat. Almost as wide as a 747, but much shorter. You could shoot baskets in this airplane if there was no cargo. At the front was a bulkhead. At the center of the bulk head is a 8 foot flight of steep stairs that lead to a large cockpit. To the right of the stairs is the loadmaster's work station. He has a fancy chair that swivels, a desk, computer, and other equipment.

To the left of the stairs is a small passageway leading to a galley-- I wonder if they'll bring us coffee later :-) To the left of the passageway is the lavatory. I'll check that out later.

About 40 minutes after takeoff they tell us we're having engine trouble and we're going to stop in Charleston, SC. Hmmm. That's a two hour flight from where we were. Sure hope it's not a big problem!

The cargo area is completely unfinished. You can see all the wires, pipes, heaters, insulation, cables-- everything. The floor has rollers so the pallets can slide on/off. The walls are semi-finished. They're panelled and have power sockets, first aid kits, oxygen tanks, cargo straps and braces, lights and electronics built in.

Plans to watch DVDs on my laptop computer and listen to music during the flight are aborted-- the background noise is too much.

The C-17 flew from Charleston to Manhattan specifically to get the 105th and take us all the way to Bagram. It really made us proud and honored to think we're considered such a valuable asset to the effort in Afghanistan that they committed this strategic airlift resource to move our little unit. Our expectation was to be crammed in with another unit on a space available basis.

More later......

Monday, May 3

We had our farewell ceremony this past Sunday. We had a lunch buffet at a club on post with all our families and VIPs and colleagues from our home states of Oklahoma and Kansas National Guards. There were of course some speeches, including one from yours truly. We also showed a 15 minute slide show of our training and other work we've done in Topeka and at Fort Riley. We presented a couple of awards to soldiers that have shined in these first two months.

Melissa planned a whole weekend of activities for the families of the soldiers and even found a way to fund their hotel rooms, a few meals, and the cost of renting the club. She worked her tail off and justly earned the Command Coins presented to her by the State Command Sergeant Major and The Adjutant General. Now I'm jealous. I don't have any Command Coins-- and I'm the one in the Army! :-)

We're leaving later this week. I can't get specific on the web. We'll be flying military air directly to Afghanistan with one or two refueling stops. Please pray with us for a safe and quick flight.

Things will be a little hectic the first few weeks and I won't have 'connectivity' during our travel, so you may not hear much from me for a while. But rest assured you will all be on my mind and I'll be maintaining my paper journal along the way so will hopefully remember the highlights to share with you later.

Here are a few more pictures from the Reflex Fire Range. This range is designed to train our reflexes in reacting to a target, aiming quickly, and squeezing off a controlled burst of fire. In the first photo we're in the bleachers waiting for the safety briefing.

In this photo you can see me next to the safety officer transitioning from the weapon 'low ready' position while walking alertly, to the point that I'm drawing a bead on the target that just popped up. Yes, the target looks close-- and definitely was too close. However, the idea is that when you're in an urban environment you might be that close when someone pops out of a doorway and you want to be quicker than him.

Here's a close-up as I'm firing at the target.

Well, it's late. Take care y'all, and keep in touch!

-- Rick

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