I want to write this about what the people, environs and just plain existence is like around Kandahar Airfield. But, as much as I may try to focus, my heart and mind are not set upon it. But the following has been my experience and my thoughts on it all:
The climates between nearly 6,000 feet and 3,500 feet, between the Hindu Kush and Gobi-like desert, are stark. Walking around I am sweating a little. It is warm in the tent that I work in. I am seeing mid 70 degree temperatures in February with nights in the 40s. Bagram, is still damn cold and damp. This difference a C-130 can cover in less than 3 hours. Afghanistan is not the Middle East. It is not like Kuwait, Saudi, Bahrain or Iraq. Neither are its people. Neither is this war.
KAF (Kandahar Airfield) is a NATO base, and our allies make their presence known. This is a good thing. I have my choice of international cuisine for my meals. As well as my choice of American, Canadian, or French coffee. So far, Canada is the best Coffee I've had on base. If you ever get the chance to get some coffee from Tim Horton's. Do it. Among the best coffee, and the single best inexpensive coffee I have ever had. 12oz coffee and two cream: $1.50. The French Café on base, I hate to say it and I doubt it is a sine qua non, but they make a pretty crappy latte.
Rocket attacks: They are much more common here.
Every base is different. It strikes me as a form of fingersplunkt (the German word -- if I spelled it correctly -- meaning independent effort towards a common goal, part of blitzkrieg) the way we operate our bases here. Everyone I've been to has different rules on everything. This is a good thing that I will not elaborate too much on.
But, to the points that weight heaviest in my mind: The utilization of Sailors by the Army.
All of us Augments: Air Force, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard. We all are trained as to what the Army is like and how the Army expects us to perform. I personally was trained by the best Soldiers I've worked with to date. The Army learns about what our capabilities are by us showing up. Just yesterday I had a couple of Command Sergeant Majors call me "Sir". So either they saw my crow and literally thought I was a Col. (Many junior Soldiers do) or they knew I wasn't a Col. but, they hadn't a clue as to what I was. This is a trivial example, I know. But, it points to something larger. The units we are reporting to are not trained on Navy culture or a Sailor's capabilities. How can I do the most I can to accomplish the ISAF mission when my leadership doesn't know how best to employ me? To put this another way: How good is a Soldier with their rifle before they are trained on how to use it?
We are only working one-half of the equation. Normally, I wouldn't care. I would just consider my feels as gripes. But, this is war, the whole ballgame out here. If the Army needs us so desperately, they need to be trained on how to use us as the force multipliers that we are so we can really do some good for them. When we sell weapon systems to other nations, do we not also sell them the training package as well? The Army needs something like that.
I've said it numerous times, I am not needed as much here in AFG than I am back on my Ship. I've even said it in emails back to my CMC and CO. I truly believe that. Even to the extent that I feel like I've abandoned my Shipmates back home. I wasn't completely altruistic in volunteering to go IA. I knew the benefits that would be bestowed to me; and even before I knew any details, I knew it would just get me off the Ship and so, that would be a plus. I kinda feel guilty in this respect.
This is why I know I am more needed aboard my Ship: My shipmates are working harder than I am. It is that simple. I talk to them on facebook and via email, I have a fairly good gouge on what all is going on. Hell, I worked harder at Earl Industries than I do out here, by an order of magnitude. The hardest thing I've ever done was my last deployment, nothing comes close. A distant second place? The yards period at Earl we had after my last deployment and I am an admin puke, imagine how the snipes were being worked.
Between the units I have now served with, one constant has remained. Sailors are better informed aboard ships than they are with Army units. Again, this may be a cultural--Navy thing. But, it's hard for me to deal with. I almost got more involved in this war, I almost was given the opportunity to really contribute, here is the story:
I flew into KAF from BAF (Bagram Airfield) and the next morning the Master Sergeant that picked me up, brought me to the unit's compound. First place you go to when checking into an Army unit is the orderly room, where types like myself check you in. It's like a personnel office aboard a ship where the PS's work, except there is more bureaucracy. The Company's First Sergeant has his office in there. When I met the First Sergeant he looked at me and said, "You're our new Security Manager. Great to have you here!". I thanked him, and felt a little surprised. But, as you know CTAs and YNs merged a year or so back, so this still kinda made sense to me. So, I didn't say anything to the contrary to him. I went with it.
All this happened over the course of two days. For the evening between them, I thought I really would be able to make a difference in this war, in a manner I think I am best suited. It felt good.
I keep being told that we learn new things that will benefit the Fleet. Well, everything I have learned is good. But, they're personal--even introspective. I am learning how to operate within a system without fear of failure. All of my learning has been on my own. Which in thinking abstractly before actually having experienced it, I thought to have been of the contrary. I more or less always thought that there would be some wise, sage like leader who's feet I could sit at and learn from. But, to date, I've never had a mentor, basically at all, at any command I've been to. It has always been where I have to look at the decisions made by my leaders and critique them to myself.