I Love the sound of velcro in the morning… it sounds like victory.
An average tour of duty is about a year and most soldiers here sleep in tents. This may sound a bit primitive but they are equipped with air conditioning and 24-hour electricity. Something I don’t enjoy in a four-bedroom house in the capital city of Kabul. We are barracked in the ‘transient’ tent. Housing a mash up of journalists, contractors and lightly wounded or soon to be departing soldiers. We all sleep on cots and living space is minimal. There are no ‘masturbation partitions’ in here like some of the more permanent residents of Airborne. This is close quarter living. Even with military standard earplugs you’re required to share farts, snoring and the ripping sound of Velcro every morning.
Conversations with the contactors is illuminating… most of them are earning more per month than I will hope to earn in my whole stay in Afghanistan. I now understand why joining the military is a stepping-stone to the lucrative world of the Military Industrial Complex . They maybe living in the ‘transient tent’ but they are on Trump Plaza wages.
Meanwhile I am just happy to be having three ‘free’ hot meals a day. ‘Will Embed for Food’ is a cardboard slogan I should have had at the end of my bed. But boy, oh boy! Do they feed you! They say an army marches on its stomach. Mine grew at least two inches in the 10 days I was out here. Here’s a small selection from one Dinner Menu: Grilled Steak, Crab Claws, Breaded Shrimp, Cajun Baked Trout, Fresh Fruit, there’s even an Ice Cream Bar… fuck knows what the global impact of getting fresh strawberries out to Wardak in winter is, but Supreme Global Service Solutions , who provide the catering as well as disposal of the abundant bi-products of all this eating, don’t talk to the media. This maybe due to the amount of casualties that the largely Indian workforce (ironic really as the British used Indian soldiers to fight the last disastrous Afghan war) has sustained keeping the coalition’s tummies full. Only don’t Google it… weirdly, like a lot of stories you hear about, no one wrote about it. Maybe it didn’t happen.
The embed was only 10 days long and to get a good insight or actually see some ‘kinetics’ (that’s GI terminology for shooting and shit) I think I should have stayed longer but you have to be careful what you wish for. Since I left, the Taliban have increased their activity and IEDs are now a regular occurrence on the roads around Wardak. This particular one was from the home team… be nice of ‘em to have let us known it was coming .
Thanks to the bloody circus that was Iraq, the American Army has five years of insurgency experience. Things have changed, and for anyone who has watched Generation Kill, where grunts were rolling through Iraq in stripped down Humvees taking heavy casualties, this is a new ballgame. They now travel round in heavily armoured MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected). These machines cost close to a million dollars each and weigh around 10 tons. This is ‘Generation Not Get Killed’.
A routine patrol to a COP (Command Outpost) is a logistical behemoth. Over 50 men in a juddering convoy of eight of these super-vehicles all tooled with 50-calibre machine guns, grenade launchers and god knows what ‘bomb jamming’ technology all just to deliver a fuel pump and a few boxes of crisps to a base 20 kilometres way. The mission takes around 12 hours. At one point it looks like we have to stay overnight due to the weather. Code Red . It’s cloudy! For fuck sakes… which roughly means that if we get hit with an IED the Medi-vac choppers can’t fly. So we wait and wait and wait. This is a take-no-risk situation. There is no Godfather here (‘Generation Kill’ reference folks). Why risk it? Life is cheap here but that only applies to the enemy. The American people, it seems, will not tolerate a third Vietnam… but surely you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. These guys are tough, highly-trained killers. They also believe (apart from the Brits) that they are the only ones doing the fighting .
The Afghan Hound
American Joke – What does ISAF stand for? Answer – I Saw Americans Fighting.