Friday, June 11

20 May 2004

Today I'm going to Kandahar. I didn't find out the flight leaves early until late last night-- too late to go to Bagram Air Field. We have a curfew restricting off post travel late at night till the wee hours of the morning, but I still needed to wake up at 4 a.m.

The convoy to Bagram went smoothly. We passed three ISAF (Int'l Security Assistance Force) patrols. I had been concerned that by leaving Kabul so early, we'd be the first convoy out for the day and likely the first to encounter any IEDs that may have been placed overnight.

I got to the terminal and checked in late. And then waited over four hours for the plane to arrive. I talked with CPT White, our Bagram Press Center Director, most of the time. In the terminal they were showing the movie "We Were Soldiers" which had my eyes watering at times, and others in the terminal too. I don't know why soldiers feel inclined to watch sad movies that we have so much in common with. In the movie, Mel Gibson leaves his house in the dark hours of the morning while his family is still asleep. I remember telling Melissa that I wanted to leave the kids and her that way. That I didn't want a big, teary farewell. I told CPT White about this as we were waiting, and tried to describe my last goodbye to Trey and Evie as my in-laws loaded them into the car in Junction City to take them home after we all had dinner there. I didn't get three words out of my mouth before I was too choked up to continue.
We're all loaded up in the C-130 Hercules airplane now and the engines are revving up. My two journalists from Paris Match magazine are sitting right across from me. The Australian journalist is sitting further down and across with MAJ Bathrick and 1LT Hutchinson, both from the CJTF-76 PAO shop. 1LT Hutchinson is a Marine and genuine war hero. He was wounded several times during the original attack on Iraq, when he was a Marine Platoon Leader. He's not trained in public affairs, but he's a really good guy doing a really good job.

I could see out a port hole (there arent' many windows) of the airplane as we were taking off from Bagram. It's just amazing the kind of junk/mess the Russians left behind. It kind of reminds me of the time I went to a former Russian base in Germany. They left all kinds of broken down armored vehicles, generators and other equipment. Bagram i s littered with the same crap.

You can see destroyed/ransacked soviet tanks and APCs beside the road from Bagram to Kabul as well. It's hard to tell if they were destroyed when owned by the Russians or if it was during the ensueing civil wars between the War Lords.

We're at cruising altitude now. Everyone is sleeping. The two load masters sit in slings at the back of the airplane, peering out the windows dutifully. I presume they are looking for threats from the ground, i.e. missile launches.

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