Kabul Blues: On the Road to Kandahar

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
On the Road to Kandahar with a pissed off contractor, Belgian comfort food, French C-123's, and the eternal question "Why did I volunteer for this?"

Submitted: April 03, 2017

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Submitted: April 03, 2017

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From: Morton, Eddie C Mr CIV OSD
Sent: Sunday, February 08, 2009 7:24 AM
To: LIST
Subject: Beautiful Kandahar home of dust with dust on it

Got a "Mr Toad's Wild Ride" (a genuine Disney Land e-ticket) though downtown Kabul in an up armored humvee at what must have been traveling at speeds approaching the speed of sound. That would explain why folks on bicycles couldn't hear the sirens or horns as we approached and damn near ran over them. One guy, who won't have to go "Number 2" for a while actually fell off his bicycle in front of the guntruck that I was in. The driver put it into a sideways 4 wheel skid and we came to a stop with the outside edge of our left rear wheel touching the sole of his sandals.

The soldier in the gunner turret, behind the medium machine gun, kept yelling "Yeeeehaaaawwwwww!" and reminded me of Slim Pickens riding that A-bomb in the closing scenes of "Dr. Strangelove." I think what saved the kid who fell over in front of us was her yelling "f**k" loud enough to be heard over everything else in this city and thus alerting the driver, who has a window the size of a small paperback to look ahead through, to anticipate obstacles and skid safely to a stop.

This wasn't a joyride. Apparently, this is the way the teams that run folks to the airport from Camp Eggers and other local NATO compounds get there without being blown up. As well armored as these vehicles are, they aren't much of a match for an old Nissan packed with C-4. Taliban die-and-go-to-paradise tactics, like Al Qaeda die-and-go-to-paradise tactics, are to come from the side or catch up from the rear and go to paradise as they ram your vehicle. 

Its kinda rough to scare the dickens out of the locals like this, but I think they're used to it, and, its a whole lot easier to get over being scared than being washed off the side of a building and down the sewer by a municiple hygiene specialist with a high pressure water hose.

We'll get 3 or 4 more of these rides before actually get on an aircraft for Bagram again.

At the airport, we were packed into a Genuine French Air Force C-123. The truly curious thing about the flight, other than the fact that the aircraft has to be as old as me, is that for the last 30 or 40 minutes, it sounded and felt like the pilot had cut the engines and we were coasting in on a final glide path. It was spooky because these damn things are normally really loud but it became so quiet you could hear yourself think and talk to the person next to you without yelling.

But it did bring back memories. 

The last time I rode in a C-123 it was filled with pigs (they were all "hogtied" so they couldn't run around the cargo compartment) and chickens and it was a memorably aromatic flight. That was about 41 years ago, and on one of the stops we made the pilot seemed to put the aircraft onto a near vertical approach path that set chickens to fluttering and pigs to jettisoning sundry previously-internally-held substances, and making a mess in general.  He did something similar on takeoff, but by then we were carrying fewer chickens and pigs.

There weren't any pigs or chickens on this aircraft.

Anyway, we'll be in Kandahar for a few days and then we'll be going to Kabul to something called the "New Kabul Site", also known by its initials "NKS", and transitioning them to the new system.

When I told my partner we were going to have to go back to Kabul, she had a few choice words for me, my ancestry and the Colonel who forgot to tell us about the "New Kabul Site". I explained that she could go back to Kabul or go home and she had a few more choice words. 

Somewhere in this tirade, she has more than one a day, she recited her often told personal history of growing up in the Atlanta Ghetto and not having to put up with this "s**t."

The problem is that I do have to put up with the "s**t" because she is one of the few truly competent IT specialists I've met in my federal career and it wouldn't surprise me if she really were the only one who could do what we need her to do.

I once told her that only my wife and mother were allowed to talk to me like that, but she failed to see the humor. Then I reminded her again that, she is the contractor, and I am the supervising government employee, and her choice was to do the jobs I tell her to do or go home.  That never makes her happy.

On the other hand, how do you just kinda forget a few thousand people, civilians and soldiers, from all over the world that you get to by driving down a sniper infested road that is cratered with huge holes from land mines and car bombs and lined with the broken and scattered remains of what once were storefronts and homes? 

Anyway, we're friends again, or we at least have some sort of truce, until we get back to Kuwait and I tell her we have to go back to Iraq too because the brain dead moron who helped us develop our schedule there forgot a "new site" in that vacation paradise as well.

I don't mind the wild rides in the gun trucks but I sure hate having to work with her when she is pissed off.

Truth be known, when we finally part company in a few months she probably won't have hurt feelings if she never sees me again, either.

But the future holds great promise.  Today, I skipped breakfast and lunch but I'll be eating dinner at the messhall run by the Belgians. I'm looking forward to some really good cheese and bread. I'm told they serve wine at the French messhall, so one night I'll do dinner there for sure.

Then again, I've got so much adrenalin coursing through my veins, I might do the French messhall tonight, otherwise I won't be able to sleep for a week.

Life is good if you survive it.

Eddie C. Morton
 


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