“Letter From a South Park Jail” (and some other bullshit)

(And with apology to MLK for appropriating a great title)

His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is some of the best contemporary writing ever… Google it.

Went trolling for JOBs in Afghanistan today: Found a few, so I thought I’d repost this to rein in my reins… Not!

Truth is, I cannot work in the United ‘Stats’. I miss my former life.

I need to be ‘institutionalized’ somewhere far far away. A place where life is tenuous at worst and exciting at best and the pay is good and booze is scarce and the women are… well, usually not to be found, except on the Internet (That is a JOKE, by the way…)

I must redouble my efforts to get ‘back to the Sandbox’, and I shall.

“Here hold this while I do that!” said the Texan to his credulous girlfriend/cheerleader as he handed her his half-pint of Jim Beam and hit the accelerator on his pickup truck and flew headlong into oblivion… “Roads? We don’t need no roads!”

Then they probably both died, as so many did tryin’ to fly, back in the Seventies….

***

This was originally posted 02 FEB entitled Letter from a Southpark Jail. I decided to re-post it as a series of ‘Chapters’ in the hope of making it a more manageable read.

Chapter One: PAX Terminal, Camp Dwyer

Dwyer_Marine_LZ

The following is a transcribed letter I wrote to a Significant Other while cooling my heels in Kandahar, trying to get my CAC renewed (Common Access Card: An ID card for Civilians working with the U.S. Military). ‘Southpark’ is, for lack of a better term, A Holding Facility ‘soullessly owned and operated’ by DynCorp International for transients, itinerants, sycophants, miscreants, and other sad and lonely temporarily homeless people just trying to travel through, hoping to land somewhere else and the sooner the better…  Southpark is understaffed, under-financed, under-achieving, and sometimes underwater. It is also overpopulated, misconceiving, deceiving and just plain infuriating. Southpark will depress you, repress you, digress you, digest you, and shit you out (if you allow it). Writing saved me from insanity there.

(Whew! That was some long-ass’d diatribe!

Read on: it gets grows worse.)

 

Dwyer Map

Saturday 28 July 2012, Camp Dwyer PAX Terminal, Afghanistan 1218hrs

Dear Lady,

I’m sitting in the PAX terminal. We boarded the plane, (Sixties-Era, prop job) a couple of hours ago, but they were just kidding. After sitting on the tarmac for about forty five minutes they brought us back here. Seems someone forgot to feed the hamsters which are actually responsible for propelling the plane and hence, they died. We were told not to worry; they are flying in some fresh, well-fed hamsters from KAF (Kandahar Air Field) and once they get those settled into the plane’s power plant, we will be good to go: wheels up around 1430hrs.

So here I sit, thinking of you, Dubai, and Hamster Avionics.

This PAX terminal isn’t too bad, as these places go. (I have seen worse—and better). Like every other facility on Dwyer, it is a tent, but it is a rather enormous tent and they have provided the weary travelers with bottled water and MRE’s. So I am sated, as far as it goes. You see, I really am low maintenance.

Not being inclined to ignore any opportunity to ‘talk’ to you, I am using the tools (pen and paper) I thoughtfully provided myself in the event such opportunity did manifest itself. So here I sit, happily communicating to you using Nineteenth Century Technology. I do hope you are properly impressed.

IMG2

Page From Original Document

“And what lovely penmanship!” She exclaimed.

“Thank you,” he said.

Looking about the terminal, I have pronounced us a motley crew: About a dozen or so Indians & Sri Lankans, some Filipinos, a smattering of American Expats, couple of Brits, and a few bored Marines behind the counter, whose job it is to search the TCN’s. The counter has a sign which reads: “TCN Search Area.” TCN: ‘Third Country Nationals.’ in case you didn’t know.

“What did you do in The War, Daddy?”

“Son, I put my hands all over aromatic TCN’s.”

“What’s a TCN Daddy?’

“Uh…That’s a very sophisticated weapons system Son.”

“Wow! Cool!”

1310hrs: PAX Terminal, Dwyer

Ok, for amusement, I took an inventory of the MRE’s stacked on pallets here in the terminal:

15 pallets

56 cases of MRE’s per pallet

12 MRE’s per case

Total MRE’s: 10,080 (assuming my arithmetic is correct; a rather liberal assumption)

Posted on each pallet are four signs which read:

DO NOT EAT!

Pending Inspection

MRE stands for “Meal, Ready to Eat,” in case you didn’t know, or in this case, Meal, Not Ready to Eat. (“We done been eatin’ ‘em anyways. Hope we don’t die of ptomaine before the hamsters do, causing our Turbo Prop to morph into a glider…”)

1441hrs:  Still in PAX terminal

Announcement: “Listen up! We couldn’t get the hamsters here, but we’ve drafted a couple of gerbils and they’re fit for duty.” (‘Now there’s some happy news,’ I mused.) He continued, “For all those going to KAF, this means now you’re flying non-stop,” (Guess gerbils are not certified for multi-destination air duty.) and your luggage is already back on the plane. As soon as we warm up the gerbils, you fly. Those of you who are going to FOB Shindan, you will follow me now.”

Someone pipes up, “Are we walking?”

There’s one in every crowd…

Having a few minutes to kill while the gerbils are doing their warm up exercises, I return to the MRE pile and rat-fuck a couple of the boxes. ‘Rat Fuck’ is a technical term which simply means, “To open several bags of MRE’s and take only the premium items, leaving the not premium items for the next schmuck attempting to do same.” An example of this would be taking all the Reece’s Pieces and chocolate chip cookies, leaving only the cardboard crackers and synthetic peanut butter.

GryphonAir

1600hrs: Airborne

Wheels up and airborne and the gerbils gerbilling their little asses off. Time to destination: thirty minutes.

1613hrs: Flying High (I wish)

I am seated in a window seat. Normally I would take the aisle, but I wanted to describe the spectacular view and with all the beautiful details of this rarified vista below:

BROWN

Perusing the in-flight movie list (from the one inside my head), I select Lawrence of Arabia (with subtitles in Pashtun). I estimate getting about half-way through the opening credits before we touch down. I listen to the wonderful Academy Award winning musical score. The scenes of the burning desert are so real inside my head that I actually break a sweat. This Special Effect is helped along quite nicely by the fact that the air-conditioning on this aircraft in non-functional. I suppose one of the collateral duties of the deceased hamsters was operating the A/C unit.

1638hrs: Wheels Down

KAF

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Beautiful Kandahar.” (I do not doubt his sincerity, but I did detect a bit of sarcasm in his voice.) “For safety, you are required”, he continued, “to wear your full body armor with your helmet when exiting the aircraft. There really is no danger, but we want you to sweat just that much more. Thank you for flying Gryphon Airlines today and once again, we apologize for the teeny tiny delay we had in leaving Camp Dwyer and we do hope you will… uh, be flying with us again soon.” (As if we will have a choice)

Parts  Two  Three  Four 

And Hey! I paid fer it:

Watch it!

Vid Credit:

Woody.

Throw-Back: Three Days in the Life of a South Park Survivor Chapter One

This was originally posted 02 FEB entitled Letter from a Southpark Jail. I decided to re-post it as a series of ‘Chapters’ in the hope of making it a more manageable read.

Chapter One: PAX Terminal, Camp Dwyer

Dwyer_Marine_LZ

The following is a transcribed letter I wrote to a Significant Other while cooling my heels in Kandahar, trying to get my CAC renewed (Common Access Card: An ID card for Civilians working with the U.S. Military). ‘Southpark’ is, for lack of a better term, A Holding Facility ‘soullessly owned and operated’ by DynCorp International for transients, itinerants, sycophants, miscreants, and other sad and lonely temporarily homeless people just trying to travel through, hoping to land somewhere else and the sooner the better…  Southpark is understaffed, under-financed, under-achieving, and sometimes underwater. It is also overpopulated, misconceiving, deceiving and just plain infuriating. Southpark will depress you, repress you, digress you, digest you, and shit you out (if you allow it). Writing saved me from insanity there.

Dwyer Map

Saturday 28 July 2012, Camp Dwyer PAX Terminal, Afghanistan 1218hrs

Dear Lady,

I’m sitting in the PAX terminal. We boarded the plane, (Sixties-Era, prop job) a couple of hours ago, but they were just kidding. After sitting on the tarmac for about forty five minutes they brought us back here. Seems someone forgot to feed the hamsters which are actually responsible for propelling the plane and hence, they died. We were told not to worry; they are flying in some fresh, well-fed hamsters from KAF (Kandahar Air Field) and once they get those settled into the plane’s power plant, we will be good to go: wheels up around 1430hrs.

So here I sit, thinking of you, Dubai, and Hamster Avionics.

This PAX terminal isn’t too bad, as these places go. (I have seen worse—and better). Like every other facility on Dwyer, it is a tent, but it is a rather enormous tent and they have provided the weary travelers with bottled water and MRE’s. So I am sated, as far as it goes. You see, I really am low maintenance.

Not being inclined to ignore any opportunity to ‘talk’ to you, I am using the tools (pen and paper) I thoughtfully provided myself in the event such opportunity did manifest itself. So here I sit, happily communicating to you using Nineteenth Century Technology. I do hope you are properly impressed.

IMG2

Page From Original Document

“And what lovely penmanship!” She exclaimed.

“Thank you,” he said.

Looking about the terminal, I have pronounced us a motley crew: About a dozen or so Indians & Sri Lankans, some Filipinos, a smattering of American Expats, couple of Brits, and a few bored Marines behind the counter, whose job it is to search the TCN’s. The counter has a sign which reads: “TCN Search Area.” TCN: ‘Third Country Nationals.’ in case you didn’t know.

“What did you do in The War, Daddy?”

“Son, I put my hands all over aromatic TCN’s.”

“What’s a TCN Daddy?’

“Uh…That’s a very sophisticated weapons system Son.”

“Wow! Cool!”

1310hrs: PAX Terminal, Dwyer

Ok, for amusement, I took an inventory of the MRE’s stacked on pallets here in the terminal:

15 pallets

56 cases of MRE’s per pallet

12 MRE’s per case

Total MRE’s: 10,080 (assuming my arithmetic is correct; a rather liberal assumption)

Posted on each pallet are four signs which read:

DO NOT EAT!

Pending Inspection

MRE stands for “Meal, Ready to Eat,” in case you didn’t know, or in this case, Meal, Not Ready to Eat. (“We done been eatin’ ‘em anyways. Hope we don’t die of ptomaine before the hamsters do, causing our Turbo Prop to morph into a glider…”)

1441hrs:  Still in PAX terminal

Announcement: “Listen up! We couldn’t get the hamsters here, but we’ve drafted a couple of gerbils and they’re fit for duty.” (‘Now there’s some happy news,’ I mused.) He continued, “For all those going to KAF, this means now you’re flying non-stop,” (Guess gerbils are not certified for multi-destination air duty.) and your luggage is already back on the plane. As soon as we warm up the gerbils, you fly. Those of you who are going to FOB Shindan, you will follow me now.”

Someone pipes up, “Are we walking?”

There’s one in every crowd…

Having a few minutes to kill while the gerbils are doing their warm up exercises, I return to the MRE pile and rat-fuck a couple of the boxes. ‘Rat Fuck’ is a technical term which simply means, “To open several bags of MRE’s and take only the premium items, leaving the not premium items for the next schmuck attempting to do same.” An example of this would be taking all the Reece’s Pieces and chocolate chip cookies, leaving only the cardboard crackers and synthetic peanut butter.

GryphonAir

1600hrs: Airborne

Wheels up and airborne and the gerbils gerbilling their little asses off. Time to destination: thirty minutes.

1613hrs: Flying High (I wish)

I am seated in a window seat. Normally I would take the aisle, but I wanted to describe the spectacular view and with all the beautiful details of this rarified vista below:

BROWN

Perusing the in-flight movie list (from the one inside my head), I select Lawrence of Arabia (with subtitles in Pashtun). I estimate getting about half-way through the opening credits before we touch down. I listen to the wonderful Academy Award winning musical score. The scenes of the burning desert are so real inside my head that I actually break a sweat. This Special Effect is helped along quite nicely by the fact that the air-conditioning on this aircraft is non-functional. I suppose one of the collateral duties of the deceased hamsters was operating the A/C unit.

1638hrs: Wheels Down

KAF

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Beautiful Kandahar.” (I do not doubt his sincerity, but I did detect a bit of sarcasm in his voice.) “For safety, you are required”, he continued, “to wear your full body armor with your helmet when exiting the aircraft. There really is no danger, but we want you to sweat just that much more. Thank you for flying Gryphon Airlines today and once again, we apologize for the teeny tiny delay we had in leaving Camp Dwyer and we do hope you will… uh, be flying with us again soon.” (As if we will have a choice)

**********************

Chapter Two Here

Throwback Thursday: Please Don’t Shit in my Showers

Dispatches From Afghanistan: Mouses, Goats, and Snakes Oh My!

The Jordanians are coming: Specifically the JAF. (Jordanian Armed Forces) They will be living here in my LSA 2. Wonderful. Each of my tents have a capacity of 120 U.S. Marines. They ain’t comphy, but they cozy and U.S. Marines do not complain. They are Marines. The JAF contingent will top off at one hundred. They have been promised three of my tents. The math doesn’t work for me. I need every tent I have (twenty-four) to serve the Marines who transit through Dwyer on their way to the war.

After some lobbying (and predictions of pissed off Marines who won’t have a tent to sleep in), I got the JAF allocation down to two tents. Why after all these years the Jordanian government has decided to send troops to southern Afghanistan, I am not sure. But I have a theory:  U.S. Department of State. Yep. Not military necessity. Not a request from the coalition of governments already represented here. Not the U.S. Military. Nope. Politics.

I have nothing against Jordan or the Jordanian people. In fact, I love them. I lived and worked in Amman Jordan for six months back in ‘07 while working to close out the paperwork on the USAID Rural Water Project we had completed in Iraq. (Bechtel, the prime contractor, had decided there was no point to continually put our lives at risk in Iraq doing paperwork we could just as easily finish in their Jordan offices).

I had a meeting with the Mayor’s Cell here on Dwyer. (The ‘Mayor’s Cell’ is the term used for the administrative branch of the Marines who actually own Camp Dwyer.) All decisions of the Mayor are final. Except, I found out, when it comes to the JAF and their accommodations.  Apprehensive over the impending arrival of the Jordanians, I asked the Mayor, “Does the Mayor’s Cell have any special directive for treatment of the JAF?”

wpid-IMG_0685-2011-06-26-11-39

“Not at all Son. Treat ‘em like Marines.”

“Yessir!” (This was the response I had been hoping for)

With the help of the Labor Department and a few of my staff, I readied the two tents for the Jordanians. We were told to expect roughly one hundred men, so we set up fifty-five military cots in each tent. These tents in LSA 2 are best described as ‘Spartan.’ There are four ‘doors’ which are simply canvas flaps about four feet wide. When the wind is up the flaps flap open allowing Afghanistan to blow inside. The occupants are not allowed to tie the flaps shut, as this creates a safety hazard in the event of a fire—no quick egress. Each of the tents has two HVAC units. They are inadequate for the weather extremes here. The tents are in disrepair. They leak, they sag, they have mold. I cannot get approval from the Mayor’s Cell through DynCorp to provide anything more than patchy maintenance. “A lick and a promise.” That’s all. They tell me, “No more funding is available for LSA 2. Deal with it.”

Continue reading

For you film scholars out there:

I understand the point behind the Musical “South Pacific.”

Yes, I do.

It was about the idiocy that is racism.

I used the video clip (see below)  for humor and to point out a point.

Sailors were innocent (for the most part). Times were heady. Facing death, which I know, can make feminists of us all:

“Mommy! Please don’t let me die here!”

Nuff said.

End of rant.

P.S. If we ban the word, ‘Bossy’ what follows when we can seriously consider banning any word?

Or Book?

Hunger Games?

As much as I admire Jennifer Lawrence, I do not wish to go there.

*******

“You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JjiaRJqKIU)

(sometimes “You’ve Got to Be Taught” or “Carefully Taught”) is a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.

South Pacific received scrutiny for its commentary regarding relationships between different races and ethnic groups. In particular, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” was subject to widespread criticism, judged by some to be too controversial or downright inappropriate for the musical stage.[1] Sung by the character Lieutenant Cable, the song is preceded by a lyric saying racism is “not born in you! It happens after you’re born…”

Rodgers and Hammerstein risked the entire South Pacific venture in light of legislative challenges to its decency or supposed Communist agenda. While the show was on a tour of the Southern United States, lawmakers in Georgia introduced a bill outlawing entertainment containing “an underlying philosophy inspired by Moscow.”[2] One legislator said that “a song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the American way of life.”[2] Rodgers and Hammerstein defended their work strongly. James Michener, upon whose stories South Pacific was based, recalled, “The authors replied stubbornly that this number represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in.”[2]

–From Wikipedia

Southpark Survivor Chapter Three: Under The Boardwalk

Continuation of the Southpark Survivor Series: Chapter Three

Previously: Part One Part Two Original Complete Version

30 July 0426hrs: Rally Point

Waiting on the bus and the Gomer to take us to the Badging Office. This time of day Afghanistan is pleasant—not hot—cool in fact. I tossed and turned all night and did not sleep well at all. I kept thinking about Dubai, well specifically about us in Dubai. There were no Rockets’ Red Glare last night. So that cannot be used as excuse today for red eyes and sleepy Lance, not that I will be required to provide any, as no one gives two shits about anyone else here.

0452hrs: Briefing

The Briefing was Brief: “This here’s the van gonna take you. Leaves at zero five hunert, and it’ll leave without yew, so don’t wander off.”

0523hrs: CAC Badging Office

We’re told to expect to be here all day. Perfect! (At Dwyer last time I had to get a new CAC, I was in and out in thirty minutes max. Shit!)

0630hrs: CAC Badging Office

No sooner than four hours from now…grrrr. Didn’t bring my sunglasses; didn’t bring any snack, “No phone, no pool, no pets; I ain’t got no cigarettes…” This day is gonna suck.

0758hrs: Boardwalk, KAF

Yes, you read that right: BOARDWALK. I’m sitting at a table drinking a Mocha Frappe purchased from Green Beans Coffee (Think Starbucks) Come to find out, the world famous KAF Boardwalk lies less than one hundred meters from the CAC office. Praise The Great White Cat of the River Nile! (Again)

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

The boardwalk embraces a soccer field but and there appears to also be a hockey court of some kind as well. On the Boardwalk itself are myriad food joints: KFC, Fridays (no booze), Pizza, Juice Bar, Kebab Joint, Convenience Store (called Downtime), Trinket Shops, ATT Phone Center, Souvenir Joint, Afgh Bank, Nathan’s Frankfurters, and God knows what else. Amazing! I’d heard of this place, but didn’t know it was of this magnitude. Having a lot of time to kill, I think this will be the place to do it. Damn! That mocha thingy was good. I now have a brain freeze. This is only the third time I have ever had a Frappe. Me! The World Traveler! Ha! Now I’m spoiled. ‘Ruint’ as we say in Texas.

Green Beans Coffee

To top that off (my discovery of Le Boardwalk), I ran into my old Filipino Electrician from Iraq days on my way over here. File that in ‘it’s a small world after all’ department. His name is Hernani and he was, without doubt, my best employee and also a very good friend. I have missed him and it was wonderful to see him again after almost three and a half years. He has been here at KAF for three years now he tells me. Poor guy has been working all over the Middle East for at least twelve years, sending all his money back to the Philippines to support his wife and family. Now here is an honorable man. I truly admire and respect him.

0907hrs: Boardwalk, KAF

I snuck a couple of photos—not sure on KAF about photography—best to be cautious. I suppose I could just ask, but where would be the fun in that? As I was starving to death, I purchased a toasted bagel with cream cheese from a joint called YO Time. The ‘O’ is a clock. Clever. The bagel was mediocre, the cream cheese probably made from powder, but it hit my spot and I feel much better. The airfield lies in the direction I’m facing and I’ve been observing various aircraft come and go. So far about half a dozen helos, a couple of Predator Drones, couple of cargo planes, and I swear, I think I saw Air France landing.

Bored Walker

Bored Walker

There is a large white blimp suspended overhead. We had these in Iraq. They serve as the Eye in the Sky. ‘Gomer, watch yer ass.’

I forgot to mention that the soccer/hockey field has a jogging track circling it. I may have to try it out for a walk-about, but it is already getting hot and I really don’t want to look like I just ran in front of a fire hose… (I tend to perspire…uh, no… Sweat. A lot, when I’m working out. But that’s OK. People who don’t sweat in the desert die of heat stroke) before I get my ID photo taken.

0959hrs: CAC Badging Office

Decided better return here to see how far I’ve moved up the list: Twelve in front of me now. Looks like they have been knocking out about four per hour. “Warp Speed Mister Zulu!”

1025hrs: Boardwalk

Needed more caffeine—wanted another one of those orgasmic frappes, but my self-discipline kicked in—Diet Coke—Ah! Tasty. Before I left the badging office, I inquired to the Soldierette behind the counter, “If I have ten in front of me do I have at least an hour?”
She laughed. “Yes Sir. At Least.”

*heavy sigh*

The Boardwalk has really come to life in the past hour. Quite a cosmopolitan crowd here: U.S. Mil, civilians of every stripe, NATO forces, Afghani shop keepers, TCN’s and… Lance. (I deserve my own category—I have worked hard to be certifiable.) It’s disappointing that there are no hockey or football (See, I didn’t say ‘soccer’ this time in deference to my audience) matches going on. Probably that sort of activity happens only at night. In November. In The Rain. When it’s cool.  Anyway folks are walkin’ around the B’Walk stopping here, stoppin’ there, buyin’ food, eatin’ same, shootin’ the shit, cokin’ an’ smokin’ and if I didn’t know better, I’d think I was in Atlantic City. But I know better.

KFC

We do have lots of beach here, just no water. And they do sell beer. Non-alcoholic beer. Why even bother? Might as well drink camel piss. Probably could get that too (for medicinal purposes) now that I think on it.

1112hrs: CAC Badging Office

Only three in front of me. I can see the light. Read an article in Stars & Stripes about the casualties of contractors during the rebuilding efforts in Iraq. Finally someone is giving credit to those who died doing this work! Personally, I lost two friends there in 2007. Not best friends, but friends—killed by a roadside bomb. We were in Anbar Province at the time. The story cited 719 killed, but the number is probably over one thousand: the USG folks estimate… according to the story. I know the number is much higher even than that.

1151hrs: CAC Badging Office: NEXT

Once saw a buxom brunette wearing a T-Shirt which read, “You can’t be the first, but you can be Next.” (Okay. I stole that line from Larry McMurtry… Please don’t tell him.) Well, I’m next in line for the CAC’ing Experience. Feels like Christmas Eve. Sorta.

1242hrs: TGI Fridays

Yep. I’m sitting in a Fridays in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Believe this shit? Iraq was never like this. This is almost the Real Deal.

Just need a frosty pint of my favorite Irish Stout to make it so much more Real… *sigh* Needless to say I am now the proud owner of a brand new Common Access Card, or CAC. This one is good until 31 July 2013. I am sure you are dying to know what I ordered at Fridays. Chicken Sandwich. Gawd! I must be boring. Well, I am, after all, in training and must treat my body as a temple. I was staring around at the décor here and I must have looked like an idiot because a Gomer wait-person came over and asked if I needed any help. “No thank you,” I said. “Just never been to the Big City before.” He left, probably certain now that I am an idiot.

After I eat, I must try to find my way back to Southpark. This should prove interesting.

Comments Most Welcome.

Chapter Four Here

Three Days in the Life of a Southpark Survivor

This was originally posted 02 FEB entitled Letter from a Southpark Jail. I decided to re-post it as a series of ‘Chapters’ in the hope of making it a more manageable read.

Chapter One: PAX Terminal, Camp Dwyer

Dwyer_Marine_LZ

The following is a transcribed letter I wrote to a Significant Other while cooling my heels in Kandahar, trying to get my CAC renewed (Common Access Card: An ID card for Civilians working with the U.S. Military). ‘Southpark’ is, for lack of a better term, A Holding Facility ‘soullessly owned and operated’ by DynCorp International for transients, itinerants, sycophants, miscreants, and other sad and lonely temporarily homeless people just trying to travel through, hoping to land somewhere else and the sooner the better…  Southpark is understaffed, under-financed, under-achieving, and sometimes underwater. It is also overpopulated, misconceiving, deceiving and just plain infuriating. Southpark will depress you, repress you, digress you, digest you, and shit you out (if you allow it). Writing saved me from insanity there.

Continue reading

Please Don’t Shit in My Shower

Dispatches From Afghanistan: Mouses, Goats, and Snakes Oh My!

The Jordanians are coming: Specifically the JAF. (Jordanian Armed Forces) They will be living here in my LSA 2. Wonderful. Each of my tents have a capacity of 120 U.S. Marines. They ain’t comphy, but they cozy and U.S. Marines do not complain. They are Marines. The JAF contingent will top off at one hundred. They have been promised three of my tents. The math doesn’t work for me. I need every tent I have (twenty-four) to serve the Marines who transit through Dwyer on their way to the war.

After some lobbying (and predictions of pissed off Marines who won’t have a tent to sleep in), I got the JAF allocation down to two tents. Why after all these years the Jordanian government has decided to send troops to southern Afghanistan, I am not sure. But I have a theory:  U.S. Department of State. Yep. Not military necessity. Not a request from the coalition of governments already represented here. Not the U.S. Military. Nope. Politics.

I have nothing against Jordan or the Jordanian people. In fact, I love them. I lived and worked in Amman Jordan for six months back in ‘07 while working to close out the paperwork on the USAID Rural Water Project we had completed in Iraq. (Bechtel, the prime contractor, had decided there was no point to continually put our lives at risk in Iraq doing paperwork we could just as easily finish in their Jordan offices).

I had a meeting with the Mayor’s Cell here on Dwyer. (The ‘Mayor’s Cell’ is the term used for the administrative branch of the Marines who actually own Camp Dwyer.) All decisions of the Mayor are final. Except, I found out, when it comes to the JAF and their accommodations.  Apprehensive over the impending arrival of the Jordanians, I asked the Mayor, “Does the Mayor’s Cell have any special directive for treatment of the JAF?”

wpid-IMG_0685-2011-06-26-11-39

“Not at all Son. Treat ‘em like Marines.”

“Yessir!” (This was the response I had been hoping for)

With the help of the Labor Department and a few of my staff, I readied the two tents for the Jordanians. We were told to expect roughly one hundred men, so we set up fifty-five military cots in each tent. These tents in LSA 2 are best described as ‘Spartan.’ There are four ‘doors’ which are simply canvas flaps about four feet wide. When the wind is up the flaps flap open allowing Afghanistan to blow inside. The occupants are not allowed to tie the flaps shut, as this creates a safety hazard in the event of a fire—no quick egress. Each of the tents has two HVAC units. They are inadequate for the weather extremes here. The tents are in disrepair. They leak, they sag, they have mold. I cannot get approval from the Mayor’s Cell through DynCorp to provide anything more than patchy maintenance. “A lick and a promise.” That’s all. They tell me, “No more funding is available for LSA 2. Deal with it.”

Continue reading