Sunday, October 4, 2009

Welcome to the experience of Afghanistan

Obviously this blog isn't coming live, but I feel like Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam: I am a U.S. Navy public affairs officer headed to Afghanistan for a year as an Individual Augmentee. That means I'm going by myself instead of with a Navy ship or squadron.

Right now I'm in the training pipeline, which is to say I am at a training course here in the United States. Since I'm a Sailor and not a Soldier I am getting basic solder training so I can attempt to protect and defend myself if I end up in a firefight with insurgents.

It seems rather ironic to me: I am a Sailor being sent to a land-locked country in the U.S. Army's uniform! If I go to the command I was originally ordered to I shouldn't see any action, or fighting. If I do things would be going very badly!

This is my first deployment in a while and so far it's much easier because of the new technological tools available. Specifically, Skype, e-mail and cell phones. Both my wife and I have laptops with video cameras. In addition, I am on land, not a ship, so I have access to the Internet daily. I can see and talk to my wife every night. Of course it's not like being there, but it's a lot better than not talking or e-mailing for weeks on end.

Enough diverging.

My intent is to describe my experience of going to war. I will also express my personal opinions based on my observations. Sorry Taliban, but I won't be providing any intelligence or classified information.

So far the Army training is about what you'd expect for someone who has only been a Sailor! You wear a bunch of heavy equipment and gear; hurry-up-and-wait constantly; and get hot, sweaty and dirty.
The Army's solution to additional daily taskings is to get up that much earlier instead of staying later. For example, we're getting up at 4 a.m. tomorrow to exercise and run.

I don't care much for Army chow, either their dining facilities or MREs (Meals Ready to Eat: what they serve soldiers when they're in the field). But, I do have to give them credit for their latrines: I have never been in a port-o-poddy that actually smelled clean! They also use normal toilet paper instead of the thin, rough paper required for ship's septic systems.

Fortunately we don't have too much time left here and then we'll fly to the Middle East and finally Afghanistan. I will spend a year in Afghanistan and I will probably be working 18-hour days 7 days per week. I'm told we get 2 weeks off after being there 6 months, but we'll see.

Until next time ...

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