I am located on Kandahar Air Field (KAF). KAF is the biggest military base in Afghanistan. Coalition forces include: Romanians, French, Canadians, Dutch/Netherlands, and United States. The majority of soldiers here are U.S. military.
I have learned during my experiences from traveling in desolate places that it greatly benefits you to make friends quickly. My rule of thumb has always been to get to know the cooks and supply people. Being such a big base, chow is already taken care of. I watch the Army pile their plates full of bacon, pancakes, and syrup every morning while the Marines stick to a disciplined diet of boiled eggs, oatmeal, and fruit. At dinner, they have a whole buffet line of desserts. If you get tired of the rotation of food served on the main line, go to the short order grill where you can order omelets, hamburgers, fries, onion rings, etc. This is a change of pace from my Agency days. In the past, my team would set up camp and I would hire a local cook to make us food. This would always be a challenge the first couple weeks until guys with culinary skills schooled the cook on what we could digest. Since you can’t find any produce or quality meat in most of the places I deployed, we traded bottles of alcohol with military cooks and loaded our SUVs with said supplies. It wasn’t the best, but it worked.
Driving around base has the feel of being in a Transformers or Star Wars movie. Today’s military vehicles have changed dramatically from when I was in the Marines. They kick gravel aside while pressing down on the road with impressive force and posture. I don’t know how any regime as simple as the Taliban would consider initiating contact. The first few days, I used a small GPS to mark the roads so I wouldn’t get lost. Everything has a brown, hazy, dust lined look, with few reference points.
I’m now familiar with where I can do laundry, workout, eat, and acquire supplies. We have three Afghan SUVs to drive around base. I am not sure how they hold up in this heat year round. I was driving back to my camp a couple days ago and noticed there was no oil or coolant in my truck. I drove around and found a motor pool where local Afghans work to keep light duty vehicles up and running. The Afghans that are employed by the Coalition fear for their lives because of threats by the insurgency. To hide their identities, they cover their faces and look like bank robbers. Being the resourceful person I am, I struck up a conversation with a Pakistani working at the motor pool. I know a little Urdu and managed to get my truck tuned up along with a few extra car batteries to bring our other vehicles back to life. I offered him ten dollars but he refused over and over. I have made “crack” deals like this forever and become really good at getting things done. All you have to do is be nice, establish some kind of rapport, and you can get whatever you need.
My lodging has improved. I now have a bed elevated off the floor and clean towel. The towel has not been used in roughly four days because we have no water. We are supposed to have water sometime today and I’m really look forward to another cold shower. In my room I have a bed, small dresser, tactical gear, 9mm pistol, and a M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) light machine gun. The machine gun is basically a full auto version of an M16 that shoots 800-1000 rounds per minute. You shoot 3-4 round bursts so you don’t overheat and melt the barrel. In the Marines, I was taught to say in my head, “die mother fucker, die” to sustain this rate of fire. Believe it or not, this correlates with the frequency of the trigger pull you need. I still say this little cadence in my head today while deploying/firing this weapon.
I am doing laundry once per week. It’s my mark for passing time because we have no days off and it can become like groundhogs day. So I say, “8 more laundry days” for example. Everyone uses the same laundry. We have a covered station outside with roughly 60 washers and dryers. I have figured out the best time when it’s not populated to do my wash. While I was waiting the first day, I noticed a little Afghan man that appeared to be making sure everything was running efficiently. I initiated a conversation with him and now drop my laundry off for 3 dollars per load. I literally pay him like it’s a drug deal because he would get fired if his employers knew he was “on the take.” It’s worked out well so far minus two lost socks. Crack deals and no waiting around!
Check out part 2 at: Inside the CIA: Rocket attacks and limited hygiene
Previously published by SOFREP 04.09.2016, as written by Drew Dwyer.