Alexander the Great's Castle, Qalat, Afghaistan

I take a lot of pictures of The Castle…


Yesterday, in It’s All About Me, I mentioned we had a mission to Kandahar Airfield (KAF).  As I have said before, KAF is the mega metropolis of bases here, rivaled only by Bagram Airfield (BAF).  I have only spent about 5-6 hours at BAF, 90% of it in the passenger terminal waiting for a flight.  I spent a few days at KAF in May and quickly determined I didn’t like it!

Since my arrival in October, I have successfully avoided the place.  I was able to fly out within 45 minutes of landing from Kuwait in October (almost unheard of!).  I had to go there for some training in late November, which required me to spend 2 days there.  Otherwise I have spent my time at Apache or traveling Zabul Province.  Hopefully I will continue that trend for the next 5 months.

I actually wanted to go yesterday because I needed to have a pizza.  The last time I ate pizza was when I was at KAF in November; it had been nearly 4 MONTHS!  That is crazy – pizza is one of the primary food groups in my diet back in the real world, so to go that long without has not been a high point of the deployment.  The DFAC serves little discs that they claim are pizza & they actually look like a small pizza, but they do not taste anything like pizza.  It is kind of like the crap from the UAE in a can labeled Mountain Dew, it is not Mountain Dew – you can’t put a silk dress on a sow & turn her into a super model!

Now, before anyone gets all crazy and thinks we go driving around willy nilly to go get pizza or whatever, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.  When traveling the roads of Afghanistan we are required, for security reasons, to travel with a minimum number of truck & Soldiers.  We actually do our best to minimize our time on the road and take the safer route of flying whenever possible.  But sometimes we have no choice but to drive.

Yesterday’s mission was just that; several of our Soldiers mid-tour leave is set to begin & the departure point is KAF.  We have been faced with several days of high winds & dust; which has lead to many cancelled helicopter flights, including the one for our Soldiers.  In addition, KAF is a big logistics center & we had a large load of supplies waiting to get to Apache.  So off we went.

Our trip was far from smooth.  Our troubles began even before we left the gates of Apache.  As we were preparing to leave, my truck developed a pesky commo problem that we couldn’t resolve in the best way, so we went to plan B and rolled out the gate.  To get to the highway, we need to travel through Camp Eagle (the ANA base adjoining us).  We had barely passed through the gates of Camp Eagle when my radio acted up again.  We halted our little convoy on the side of the road and quickly got it fixed. But as we prepapred to continue on, I discovered my seatbelt had been shut in the door.  This caused the door latch to be jammed in such a way that we couldn’t get it open.  it took awhile, but we were finally able to pry the door open enough to pull the seatbelt out and continue the mission.

However, no more than 2 miles later, another truck got a flat tire.  Luckily we were able to turn around and get back to Apache to have it repaired.  While there we decided to switch out my truck because of the radio issues and the jammed door.  Less than 90 minutes later we were back on our way.

the Brick store

Traffic was relatively heavy and there were a lot of people out near Qalat.   KAF is south and this was my first trip in that direction, in a truck I could see from.

They use logs as supports while building the roof

The scenery was very similar to the scenery going north to Shah Joy, so the pictures are very similar.  In fact, it wasn’t liong before I just put the camera away.  After all, after a few hundred overloaded trucks, buses, pick-ups, cars, tractors, motorcycles, etc it is no longer interesting.

Anything can haul anything if you want it to

There is ALWAYS room for just a little bit more…

The traffic jams look the same – drivers getting held up at a checkpoint, trying to go around one another until they have turned a narrow 2-lane highway into a 5-abreast parking lot.

a 5-lane parking lot on a 2-lane highway

The bridges, blown & not, look the same, the river bed looks the same, the mud huts & little shops along the road look the same, etc, etc, etc.

Abandoned mud hust are also a very common sight

Roadside shops along Highway 1

Kids at the well in Qalat

The kids in Qalat run to the highway to beg as we drive by.

Every 20-30 miles will be another crumpled car near the road

For some reason, sometimes the road will be blocked with the little row of rocks.

The only thing different I saw in Zabul was the further south we got the more Kuchi tribesman (nomadic herders) we came across.  They are starting their mass migration north, so we saw large herds of sheep & goats and their large dome tents all across the plains.  We should start seeing them in the Qalat area within the next week or two.

Once we crossed from Zabul to Kandahar Province there was a big change:  the landscape suddenly flattened out & the mountains were far out of sight (in fact because of the dust, you could rarely see them in the distance); the road was no longer a pot-holed, rutted mess, but rather a very nicely paved road with painted lines!  There were real gas stations/truck stops near the highway too.  Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t like our gas stations, but compared to the ones in Zabul it is an amazing difference!  I took a few pictures as we approached Kandahar city, but still not too many.

As we were making our way through the crazily bumpy, curvy, dusty, crappy road into KAF my trucks front tire blew out.  Not the ‘losing air, let’s limp in’ blow out, I mean a real, shred the tire blow out.  There we were, probably ¼-mile from the gate with a shredded front tire.  Just another delay;  everyone was great and we were able to quickly change the tire on the side of the road & head into KAF.

KAF was just as I remembered it, except with the high winds the dust was much worse.  Visibility was cut severely.  It felt as if you needed to chew the air to breathe.

Of course the first thing I did was race to The Boardwalk & stuff myself with a Mamma Mia’s Meat lover’s pizza.  It definitely is not the best pizza, but it is pretty good.  Without a doubt it is the best pizza I have had since October.  It is European style, which is one of my favorite types.  For those that have never had pizza in Europe, it is a cross between a thin crust and ‘traditional’ crust, one-size (~13”) and served on a large dinner plate.  I almost ate the entire thing.  I then walked through the PX (the military’s version of Target) & then back to the trucks.

The weather started getting worse (higher winds, more dust) so we quickly mounted up and headed out.  Fortunately we had no issues on the way home & made it back to Apache in record time.  Home Sweet Apache Home…

Bummer…for some reason I cannot get any more pictures to load…I will put them in a gallery & put them up tomorrow…sorry!

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2 responses »

  1. Aaron Staines says:

    Hi, my name’s Aaron and I’m from Oakland, CA. I came across your blog via a Google search to find the location of FOB Apache- you are hit number 8 for that search today, but you should be #1, as your post from March 9th was the most informative.

    My best friend Matt Bustos deployed to Apache last month. Thank you very much for blogging- any news or photos those of us back home can find helps, but when it is coming from a soldier it really helps a lot. Thanks to you I know a lot more about where you guys are than I did yesterday, not least what it looks like.

    I’ll be checking in here daily- keep up the good work!


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