Thursday, June 10, 2010

Looking For Dust in All the Wrong Places

As I write this long overdue entry to my blog, I am about to finish my third week in theatre at Camp Mike Spann. I wanted to update my blog several days ago, unfortunately this past week all of our work computers have been down and use able due to a network outage. Due to security protocols on all Army computers thumb drive memory sticks are no longer allowed, and all the products we create must be stored in shared drive memory bank. That system works great, so long as the network is up and working. When the network is down, might as well head back home because there is little work that can be done. Which is exactly what I did a couple times after spending the morning working with my Afghan Battalion. It is amazing how much, we as an Army relies on computers and the Internet.
Afghanistan has taken a little bit of getting used, but hasn't been that bad. This past winter I spent in southern Arizona (Yuma AZ),and the area that we are in reminds me a good deal of that area. We pretty much in a desert here, fortunately almost all around our base we have very beautiful tall mountains surrounding us. On average the temperature has been getting into the high 90s (Fahrenheit) here,fortunately there has been little to no humidity.
My one major complaint thus far about Afghanistan is the timezone that they have here is totally screwed up. There is no daylight savings time, which I can understand and accept. I'm assuming to correct for that fact the time zone is a half our off, we are 4.5 hours ahead of Greenwhich Mean (Zulu) time. What is screwed up is if anything we should be about 5.5 hours ahead of Zulu. In the morning the Sun is out and shinning at 0400 am, and by 1930 it is pretty much dark. I fear that come the middle of winter it will be dark by 1530 in the afternoon.
I'm slowly getting settled into my new room. The first week that we were here, our team had to stay in a couple large tents. The unit we were replacing had not moved out of their old rooms, or future rooms.The day they left we basically got one night in our new rooms before we had to pack up a bag to leave for another base to do some more training.After our week of training at Marmal, which is the name of the German ISAF/NATO base at the Mazar-e-Sharif airport on the other side of town,we were all excited to get back to our rooms and start to make them our own. Our rooms in the 'B' Huts in which we live are probably 6' X 9'.They are a little cozy, but fortunately I do not have to share my living space with another soldier, like some active duty folks on this base do.It has been nice to finally have a bed without somebody below me on the bottom bunk, or 3 feet away in our open bay. Additionally we all have basically been living out of a duffle bag for close to the past 3months, so it has been a treat to unpack. For all the stuff that the Army has given us, I still have one and half bags sitting under my bed.Odds are that I will never open of the bags again until I begin packing up to go home next year.
The base here is not too bad, although quite austere compared to the last two bases I was stationed at during my deployments. There is no base supply store here to purchase personal items, fortunately I have had most everything I needed plus the guy who had my room before me left me a lot of things. One of frustrating thing about not having a store here, is not being able to purchase magazine or books to read or other little novelty items. I was counting on being able to purchase a folding chair when I got here, unfortunately I still have yet to be be able to make that work out. On the bright side though there is a descent dining facility here for us, and the showers for the most part provide warm water. There are signs all over the place that say the water is not safe to drink and we should use the provided bottled water to brush our teeth with.
Right next to our base there is a little, what we call, 'Haji Mart' bazaar. They sell bootleg DVDs for a couple bucks, Afghan rugs and clothes, and various cheep electronics. The Afghans at the bazaar really hustle to try and separate us for our dollars. I sense that for the right price and a few days of time they would be able to get what ever my heart should desire. A lot of guys in my unit have purchased scarves to help keep the dust out when we are traveling in our convoys, and a few have purchased some movies or rugs. Thus far I have yet to purchase anything for myself, although I keep debating on some gift ideas for some friends and family back home.
Overall I'm getting pretty well settled. At times it seems like the days go by fast, but the weeks go by slow. There have been times,from the time in which I get up in the morning I hardly stop moving till the evening when I go to bed. I'm sure that there will be some boring and frustrating days ahead, thus far though I'm enjoying my job, and enjoying the Minnesotans and Croatians that I am deployed with.

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