Now that you have read part I, I am ready to continue.
There I was in the Brigade (BDE) S1 shop, it’s not even 1030 and I have given up nearly 5 hours of my day to get an ID card only to have a system-wide failure minutes before I walked through the door (for the second time). The timing was unbelievably wrong. I mean seriously, what are the chances that the system would fail within minutes of me arriving to get my ID card? Had the ID card clerk been there when I arrived, I would have been on my merry way; but now things were looking down.
But, I figured those fine folks in DC (or wherever the brains behind the ID card network system were located) would be Johnny on-the-spot and fix the glitch in no time. After all, with it down, it meant the entire Department of Defense ID card system was out of commission – they had to fix it right away. I had a bit over 4 hours before I needed to check in for the waiting to begin for my flight, so really no problem.
I went the USO to use the computers…never mind. The USO shut down ALL their computers to paint on the day I happen to go to KAF. So instead I walked around KAF for a bit, which really sucks and let me tell you why.
KAF sucks because:
- It is miserably hot – generally in the triple digits.
- It is insanely dusty; I truly mean dusty in a way that unless you have experienced it, you cannot imagine it. You can’t. That is just the way it is. I cannot adequately describe it in a way that you can picture how everything is covered in light brown powdered sugar ALL THE TIME.
- It stinks like 1000 overflowing outhouses on a hot summer day. Ok, I have never actually been around 1000 overflowing outhouses, but I have been around several & I am taking that times at least three hundred to get the correct stench potency.
- It is crowded.
- There are few sidewalks so you get to share the dirt (dust) roads with all the vehicles which really stir up the dust even more, allowing the opportunity to become dust soaked inside & out.
- If you drive instead of walk, the speed limit is 12 miles per hour…seriously, everywhere, even on the few paved roads (ok well they have raised it to 24 mph on the remote ring road), but everywhere on KAF proper it is 12 mph; maddening!
- The DFACs are notoriously horrible.
Back to my ID card adventure. At this point I am mildly irritated, but I have confidence that it will all work out, so no worries. I go back to the BDE S1 around 1200, but I am told the system is still down. The Soldiers working seem to be sympathetic to my plight and are all very kind, including the Warrant Officer (WO1) in charge. She tells me to come back after lunch.
I decide to go over to the British area to eat at their little café instead of the DFAC. On a previous outing there I had discovered this little gem called a ‘potato dog’. It is a hot dog wrapped in a tator tot. I mean what is not to love about a hot dog served in a potato. The only thing that would make that better would be to wrap the whole thing in bacon! Anyway, so I went to get my potato dog, but was told they are all out – but the delivery truck should be there later that day.
I didn’t recognize it at the time – but can you see a pattern emerging in which everything seems to be going wrong & I am missing things by ‘just that much’? Curse words! No ID card, no computer & no potato dog! Ugh, I settled for a marginal tasting frozen pizza.
Back to the BDE S1 at a bit after 1300 only to learn still no fix on the network. I ask if they have actually checked the system and the WO1 tells me that she doesn’t need to check because the helpdesk technicians will call her back when it is fixed. That sounds a little naïve to me, but I bite my tongue and tell them I will come back in an hour as it really will be my last chance to still get checked in for the flight. The WO1 answers with what certainly sounds like a little irritation in her voice and asks me if she could just call me when it comes up instead of me coming back there. I tell her I do not have a phone and she does the big ‘sigh’ and walks away.
An hour later I am back. I ask if the system is up & the clerk quickly tells me she will check. As she sits down in front of the computer and begins to log in, the WO1 comes out of the office and actually says ‘do not try to log onto that system, I have told you they will call me when the system is fixed’. The poor Specialist looks a little frightened as she looks at me and gives a hint of a shrug. I suggested to the WO1 that it may be worth at least trying the system as it was around 0200 in the States when the system crashed and there is a strong possibility that the poor helpdesk tech didn’t pass on a message to call 1 of 1000’s of sites back 5+ hours later when the system is fixed. The WO1 looked at me like I was talking gibberish; you know the look like she thought I was dumber than a box of rocks and simply repeated that they would call her when it was fixed.
Now, at this point I was more than a little irritated at how the day was going and I will admit the thought of using my rank to tell her that she should try the system anyway was ‘right there’. But, I mustered up the meager quantity of internal self-control I possess and bit my tongue. After all, they did not even have to do an ID card for me. So with my head about to explode at the idiocy, I quickly left the building.
Seriously, how hard would it have been to try to log on to the system? What was up her ass to make her take such a bone-headed position ‘I’m not going to do anything until someone calls me back.’ WTF, over.
It now looked like I would be stuck on an overnight at KAF; hope to get an ID card later that day/evening & try for an early flight back to Apache. The thought of that fouled my foul mood even more, but I tried to keep it in check.
I went to the PAX terminal to tell them I wouldn’t be using my Space A seat and the nice guy there told me that if I could be back to the PAX terminal NLT 1600, I could still fly. That gave me about 45 minutes…I thought about checking the BDE one last time, but it was clear on the other side of KAF.
The main ID card place was just a short distance away & although they would not make me an ID card, they would be able to tell me if the system was back online. I went over there and the halls were packed with people that had been waiting all day & the signs were still on the door that the system was down. But I asked anyway & guess what? The system had come back online about 1400! Meaning that if the stubbornly stupid WO1 had tried to log on to the system when I was there the last time she would have discovered it was working and I could be impatiently waiting for my flight versus stewing about spending a night on KAF!
I suppressed my anger and tried to think of the positive – I could get my ID card & get on the flight back to Apache, despite the stupid/lazy/stubborn WO1. I raced (at 12mph) across KAF to the BDE S1. I walked in and was greeted by the WO1 who immediately, before I could say anything, said ‘Sir, they haven’t called me back. You should check back tomorrow.’ I stuffed my angry voice deep inside and told her as nicely as possible that I had just come from the main ID card facility and the system came up about an hour ago. She looked at me like I was a dense dog and said, ‘No Sir it is not working, they will call me when it is fixed.’ I again told her the main ID facility is working and she said ‘they must be on a different network, because they told me they would call me when it is fixed’…how do you get through to such a stubbornly stupid, thick-skulled moron? I tried a few more times to get her to listen, but she dug in her heels and absolutely refused to even try.
I really didn’t want to lose my cool in front of her Soldiers and again suppressed the urge to order her to do what I wanted. Instead, I left with an incredible amount of rage bottled up inside. I would be stuck at KAF overnight and likely lose a good portion of another one of my days before I needed to move to Al Masaak.
By 2000 I was a little less angry, but sorely disappointed because there were no scheduled military flights back to Apache the next day & getting Space A on the civilian flights out of KAF is a monumental pain in the ass as the HLZ is a million miles away and they want you standing in line by 0400. I decided to check back with the BDE to see if I could get my ID card yet that night, improving my chances of being ready for an early flight.
I figured the WO1 would be gone and a more intelligent, proactive person would be there. My timing could not have been worse, because guess who met me at the door with the same stupid comments? Yes, the WO1 was just on her way out for the night, but was still just as stubbornly stupid. Insisting that the only way their ID card system would be working was if they called her & told her it was. Again she couldn’t be convinced of the folly of that line of reasoning. Instead of trying to reason with the imbecile, I turned around and left, with the plan to come back in an hour or so when she would for sure be gone. It was incredibly difficult for me to not lose my temper while dealing with her.
I went back at 2130 thinking I would finally get my ID card. But guess what? I was greeted by an NCO, an unthinking disciple of the WO1, who had obviously been briefed by the WO1 that I may be coming back and unless the helpdesk called to tell them the system was working she wasn’t to try. I spent a couple minutes to try to get it through her head it might be worthwhile to at least try the system when another young NCO walked out of the backroom. It was obvious she had not heard the discussion I had been having with her boss because as she stepped into the room, took one look at me and said ‘Chief said you might be back, let me check the system to see if it is up.’ NCO 1 told her ‘No, you cannot check the system until we get a call back.’ NCO 2 said, ‘what if they forgot to call us?’ NCO 1 said ‘Chief said they wouldn’t; do not touch that system unless they call us.’ NCO 2 gave her the look like she couldn’t believe anyone could possibly be so dumb, looked at me, shrugged and as she picked up the phone said, ‘well I‘ll just call them then’. NCO 1 started to say something but NCO 2 had already dialed the number and gave her the ‘hand’. The phone call lasted about 15 seconds as the helpdesk assured her the system had been up for several hours.
NCO2 made me an ID card…NCO 1 just sat there with a stupid look on her face. WO1 has obviously taught NCO 1 well in the art of not doing your job while acting smug, smart and important. WO1 & NCO 1 have a bright future at any DMV or government ‘service’ office ahead of them when they leave the Army.
It was nearly 2300 by the time I got back to a bed to sleep in, my anger at the stupidity finally winning out over the satisfaction of having gotten my ID Card. I fell asleep angrier than I have been in a long time. Not surprisingly, I didn’t sleep well.
I decided I would not get up at 0300 to be to the HLZ by 0400 to wait for a Space A. I just couldn’t do it. I did go over there about 0645 to find out there was a flight at 0800 and another at 1330. Initially I was told I could not get on the 0800 flight, but after talking to the guy for a few minutes he agreed to see what he could do. After about 15 minutes he came to me and told me he would get me on the flight.
As 0800 approached I discovered the flight would be about an hour late. We finally got in the air around 0930 & I was back on the ground at Apache before 1100.
So in the end, it actually worked out pretty well. Sure I didn’t get back to Apache the evening before like I had wanted, but I was only gone a bit over 24 hours. Not bad considering everything. That afternoon, thinking about it from that perspective, I was pretty disappointed in myself that I allowed myself to expend so much energy the day before on anger…I should have never even let the situation make me so angry. I gave myself a headache for nothing. But I am glad that I didn’t blow my top and say and do things I would end up regretting.
So, back to the beginning. It had been nine days without a post. I missed posting on the 17th because it was the day I traveled to KAF, the USO computers were shut down and by the time I got to a MWR computer that evening I was in no mood. I missed on the 18th because it was the day I traveled back to Apache and was exhausted from dealing with the travel hassle & the imbeciles the day before and just needed a break. The 19th left me focused on trying to get things done at Apache to prepare myself for the move to Al Masaak and after that I just didn’t feel like dealing with it at all.
But here I am, the 26th of July and I have decided to try to do a regular installment (every 2-3 days) of something, at least until I leave Afghanistan. Once I get home, I will reassess…
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