“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

Southpark Survivor Chapter Four: Homeward Bound

Final Chapter.

Previously: Part OnePart TwoPart Three

Ed. Note: Again, Most of the photos are ‘clickable”

1423hrs: Southpark DFAC

It was a long and winding road which led me home. As I was trudging along, sweating my ass off, I kept reminding myself of the New Yorker’s directions given to someone looking to get to Texas from NYC: “Head west until you smell shit. That’s Oklahoma. Go south until you step in it. That’s Texas.”

Bosnia Lovers

Bosnia Lovers

I found my way back to Southpark in similar fashion: Followed my nose to the ‘Poo Pond’; took a left—ran right into Southpark. Easy as pie. Poo Pie. As soon as I got back and kicked yet another Gomer outta my rack (What’s wrong with these people?), I went to Flight Ops to see if I could fly the hell outta here tomorrow. I’ll tell you what they told me: “We’ll have to get back to you on that.”

1738hrs: Sitting on my Rack

Shoo’d the Gomes off… again. I sent you an email few minutes ago, telling you my show-time is 0100hrs for my flight back to Dwyer. It believe it’s a Helo this time. They are slower, but it’s a short trip. Saturday, I could have walked here and gotten to the CAC office same day before they closed. The computers here have been acting stupid today, so I don’t know if you got my recent posts. Only thing left for me to do is update my time sheet at 1900hrs and eat supper. I stole a sleeping bag from the Billeting laundry box last night so I wouldn’t freeze (The A/C works really good in this tent starting around midnight). Problem is, not getting to really sleep much. I must confess something: I really like a routine. I do much better when I have a routine. You probably would never have guessed that about me. Hopefully Mike will not still be there tomorrow, but I had no email from Shannon, so I suspect he remains. Shannon surely would have told me if he finally did leave. I would hope so anyway.

 

1915hrs: Sitting on my rack

Supper was yummy. Roast pork and a chicken breast. Southpark’s population seems to have doubled today. Trying to find a spot to sit in the smoking arena is an exercise in futility. Time for me to leave obviously

What a Dump

What a Dump

I am really exhausted now. Tomorrow will be another Long Day, but at least at the end of it I’ll be back in my own bed and in my own hooch. “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” I’m sad right now a little bit ‘cause I have not heard from you. Hopefully a bit later before I depart for the flight line and most likely another long wait to get on yet another bird… I hope they fed the hamsters this time: “Helicopter Hamsters.” Sounds like a song: ‘Muskrat Love…’ (Lance, you need sleep Son)

2020hrs: DFAC

Tried to sleep. Failed. Ideas of what to show you and do with you and to you in Dubai race around in my head and look for a place to rest.

31 July Tuesday 0021hrs: DFAC – Strong coffee

Taster’s Choice instant. ‘twill serve. Just got off the computer a few minutes ago and had several emails from you. Happy Now. Some dude was very vociferous about some folks taking more than their allotted ten minutes (I’m not guilty of that. Not Much). Anyway, I had to go. Got a couple hours of death-like sleep until a Billeting Gome woke me up (very politely) tapping me on the shoulder, making sure I knew I was scheduled to fly. I assured him that “Yeah Baby! I’m flying outta here.” My alarm was about to go off, but I’m glad he woke me up just in case it didn’t. They have the Olympics on TV now here in the DFAC. I had forgotten about them and I suppose they are well underway by now. I do hope Texas brings home a lot of gold this time! Gotta go and grab my ‘kit’. See? I can speak Brit. Heading to the rally point. Rally Ho!

0315hrs: PAX Terminal KAF

Been successfully herded from Southpark.

0348hrs: Taxi Runway

Didn’t even have time to finish my coffee. Gryphon Airlines exhibited uncharacteristic efficiency today. I did manage to wolf down part of an MRE I had rat-fucked on the 28th. Not on a helo—thought I would be. A/C on this bird no better than the last one. Waiting to take off… Plane is full and we have two stops before Dwyer. Hopefully I’ll be home in time for DFAC breakfast, but not likely. Oh, plane holds about forty-six in case you’re wondering.

0404hrs: Airborne! Escape Velocity Breached! “Once more unto the Breach!”

On our way! Yippee Ki Aye! Captain is female, Michelle. I love her already.

0519hrs: FOB Shindan

Sitting here in Beautiful Shindan. Well, just sittin’ on the plane which is sittin’ on the tarmac in Beautiful Shindan. I have never been to Shindan, so I have no emotions one way or another about Shindan, but apparently I like writing the word ‘Shindan.’ It is just before sunrise here and this time tomorrow I should be back in MY Gym on MY FOB. But for now, next stop FOB Ferah. Shindan Gomes are boarding now… While they are settling in, I’d like to tell you more about this airplane. As I said, she seats around forty-six. I am semi-comfortably ensconced in a window seat, seated near-the-rear of this DHC-8-300, aka: ‘Dash Eight’ and we just dashed from KAF to here at twenty-thousand feet and I must assume at about 250 mph, but I’d have to verify that with Michelle, or her hamsters. This is a Four-Hamster plane: two hamsters per propeller which is in accordance with FAA, ‘Fuckin Afghan Aviation’ regulations. Our Flight Attendant, Gail, is going through her spiel again (poorly) and has informed us that “No one would like to hear the smoke alarm going off (ya think?), so please don’t smoke Schmuck.” I added the “Schmuck” because I am in charge of this letter and it made me happy to do so. Well, the hamsters are warming up their little legs, so I reckon, we’ll be departing presently. And in fact we ARE! I love my Life!

Airborne now and I see the sun just peeking over a mountain—very romantic. Why does Shindan get to have mountains and Dwyer does not? Shindan looks like Aspen on a bad day, and Dwyer looks like Lubbock on any day.

0613hrs: FOB Farah

Gotta get off here briefly. The hamsters will be taking on Hamster Fuel, probably corn, or corn nuts, or whatever it is that fuels hamsters.

0629hrs: FOB Farah

I love this FOB! Well, what little I have seen of it anyway. It is tiny and nestled in some really cool-looking mountains. As we were landing I was watching for the asphalt runway to appear. It didn’t. We landed on a dirt strip. How cool is that? Not my first dirt strip landing but it caught me off guard.

AMLOs in the fight

FOB Farah

When I first got to Afghanistan, I was hoping to be sent to a small remote FOB such as this, alas, I’ve been stuck at Dwyer for a year. Now that the hamsters have refueled and I’ve had a taste of my ‘Dream FOB’ nothing left to do but head back to Dwyer, which should begin in a minute or two.

0655hrs: Airborne Again

Gail told us we have thirty-five minutes to Dwyer and I believe her. Shouldn’t get over twelve thousand feet altitude, “And once again, this is a non-smoking flight.”

“Thank you Gail. It’s been at least thirty minutes since I heard that.”

0730hrs: Home

This concludes our Special Broadcast and we now return you to your regularly scheduled emails, already in progress. It’s good to be home.

Dwyer_billet1

Shannon & Lance

Shannon & Lance

My Lucy

My Lucy

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 Day Southpark Survivor Chapter Two

Southpark: Day The First

For those who may not have read Chapter One or Letter From a Southpark Jail,  This is a transcribed letter/email sent to my Girlfriend from Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Ed Note: Most of the photos are ‘clickable’

1820hrs: Southpark

Checked into Southpark and got me a bottom rack—With a Lockable Locker!

My Rack

My Bottom Rack (with I-Pad)

First time that has ever happened! Bad news is now it is too late to get to the CAC badging office and they are closed on Sundays. Therefore, I waste a day here. But at least I have you now (don’t I?) and can occupy my time with thoughts of us in Dubai in a few short weeks. And just in case I take a pause from that lovely daydream, I have fetched along Ishmael, Captain Ahab, and Moby Dick to keep me company: just a little light reading.

Sunday 29 July 0830hrs: Southpark Smoking Area

Sitting outside in the smoking area surrounded by Bosnians all on one table, Indians on another, Filipinos at yet another, a few Americans strategically placed, and on and on. Oh, and some Brits, also strategically placed. The Gomers have a ‘work detail’ list. They are dreaming if they broach this subject to me. I am Forced to Be Here; that is all they will receive from me: My illustrious presence and my promise not to kill anyone while here. Every morning at muster, we are forced to sign in on the Sign in Sheet. Lest we forget, there are signs everywhere to remind us:

“If You Do Not Make Muster and Sign In You Will Not Be Paid. And Furthermore: Not Making Muster Will Result In Disciplinary Action Up To And Including Termination (And An Ass Rendering Administered By Conan Our Resident Barbarian) Thank You for Complying and have a nice day…yada yada yada.

Don't Lose Your Head over SP

Don’t Lose Your Head over SP

I found DynCorp to be a little too subtle for my taste. I always like to know exactly where I stand with a company I am helping to fleece the Government on the backs of low-paid TCN’s. (OK, I promised I would not ‘dis’ DynCorp. Overmuch.)

0859hrs: Southpark DFAC (Dining Facility) Tent

Sitting in the Southpark DFAC, such as it is, having some coffee, such as that is. AFN (Armed Forces Network) is on the TV. Yes, there is a television (another first). This is all we ever see over here (was the same in most parts of Iraq, but when I was in Basra, I could watch Al Jazeera—in English–but that probably wasn’t looked upon too kindly) and actually, it ain’t bad. They pretty much broadcast the same shit one gets back in The States: CNN, Fox, ESPN, lousy movies, Andy Griffith, etc. The only way to know you are watching AFN, in fact, is by the ‘Commercials’: All PSA’s detailing how U.S. Service Personnel are expected to comport themselves and various other things mil-centric. Some of these “Made in the U.S. DOD commercials” are quite professional and slick as Baby Shit, while others are so bad as to be hysterical. I love watching the bad ones–the ones that look like High School Plays.

1015hrs: DFAC

More coffee. Regarding last night’s rocket attack: (Guess I neglected to mention that) My Dear, this is just routine for KAF. As far as I know, it has been at least two months since the Taliban Assholes have actually hit anything or injured anyone. In other words, they usually can’t hit shit.

Point being, please do not worry about THAT. (I just caught myself looking for the “Save” button on this steno pad. I must be losing my mind.)

1127hrs: DFAC

DFAC

DFAC

Just returned from PX Mission: Mission accomplished. No apparent casualties.

1134hrs: Picnic Area

Got kicked out of the DFAC so ‘they’ could clean it before lunch time (1230hrs). Purchased an alarm clock at the PX since I have to get up at 0345hrs tomorrow to go to the CAC badging office and I forgot to bring my Dwyer alarm clock with me. “Hell Lance! It’s only money.” I now have three alarm clocks plus my watch. “As God as my witness, I’ll never be late again!”

Picnic Area

‘Picnic’ Area

Ran into an acquaintance from Dwyer. His name escapes me, but he told me Dwyer was slated for closure in December. Hmmmm…. I may be out of a job soon. Maybe they did cancel Christmas after all.

1255hrs: Sitting on my rack…

…After I came ‘home’ and discovered two Gomers with their butts parked on same. They removed/relocated their butts as soon as I pointed out to them that I was not (in this case) a very nice person. In case you missed it, I am never a very nice person while I am stuck in Southpark. But then, I am not alone in this. Lunch, or as we call it in the Texas, ‘Dinner’, was eat-able. I had the chicken, as the other meat offerings were unrecognizable to me. Wasn’t bad actually, the chicken (yard-bird?) was burned to perfection.

OK, Not My Rack

OK, Not My Rack

While I was on my PX mission, I was also searching for the Gym that someone at Dwyer had assured me was ‘Close to the PX’ – didn’t find it and now it is too bloody hot to go on another reconnaissance mission.  If you’re wondering how I am able to move freely about, sans escort, it is because ‘they’ changed the rules once again. This time for the better: A First in all my previous Southpark experiences. Now, those in possession of a valid CAC card are no longer restricted in their movements, bowel or otherwise. Praise Be to The Great White Cat of the River Nile.

1313hrs: Sirens Again! Then the BIG VOICE:

*ROCKET ATTACK! ROCKET ATTACK! TAKE COVER! TAKE COVER!*

(Don’t these people ever give up?) Be right back.

1315hrs: Still sitting on my rack

ALL CLEAR! ALL CLEAR! Glad I didn’t get up. Probably a false alarm. How do they expect me to get distressed when the BIG VOICE is female with a soothing British accent?

1405hrs: Sitting on my rack

Waiting on the Gomers to finish cleaning the DFAC Tent so I can get another coffee. I seem to drink heavily when I am on-board (bored) Southpark.

Oh, I forgot to tell you… After I kicked the two Gomes off’n my rack, I asked one of them to take my photo (action shot of me writing to you) Look for it amongst the attachments. It will be the one what says, “Bad Mutha-Fuckah.”

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1435hrs: DFAC

I suppose it is time to explain why I use the term ‘Gomer’ when referring to TCN’s (and everyone else On Staff, for that matter). During my Iraq days, I had a good friend (Rick) who referred to the Iraqis as ‘Gomers’. Not sure how he arrived at that, but it seemed to fit at the time. Gomer, Gomer Pyle or Get Out of My Emergency Room (Really. Google it.) Anyway, the moniker took hold–took hold so well that all in our clique began using it to refer to all ‘others’. And let me further say it actually became, over time, somewhat of a term of endearment.

Gomer 1 and Gomette 2 Amman Jordan '07

Gomer 1 and Gomette 2 Amman Jordan ’07

We started calling each other ‘Gomer’. Since there were several of us, now all Gomers, things could get confusing. To prevent miscommunication, we labeled each other ‘Gomer 1’, ‘Gomer 2’, ‘Gomer 3’, and so on. I was, of course, ‘Gomer 1’ (and I can prove that, as I have documentation—and it was a high honor.) There were never more than four Original Gomers, or ‘Gomes’ for short, but we did have one ‘Alternate Gomer’, just in case one of the Founding Gomers got taken out by an Iraqi Gomer with a lucky mortar shot.

2002hrs: My Rack

Was wonderful to discover several emails from you earlier. Unfortunately it took forever to load Gmail and by the time I had finished reading them I had no time left to respond, as it was time for everyone to start entering their hours on the electronic time sheets. We must do this every day and management has no sense of humor if we don’t. (Up to and including termination…)  Supper tonight was turkey, which tasted very much like the chicken I had for lunch. Available also was some roast beast, but I had to take a pass on that. (My sense of self-preservation is quite refined).  I went on Walk-About for about an hour this afternoon, but of course it wasn’t the same as I don’t have my ankle weights with me. I’m proud of me for making the effort, at least.

2029hrs DFAC

Coffee. Hell, why not coffee? I probably won’t sleep much tonight anyway and I have to get up at 0345hrs anyhow. Ran into the aforementioned buddy again (still cannot recall his name), not that it matters. Well, he told me where the gym was and it is NOT where some other buddy back at Dwyer had told me. If fact, it is about as far removed from THAT location as is possible. If I am not too whacked out tomorrow after the CAC Badging office, I will check it out and report my findings to you. If all goes well tomorrow, then tomorrow will be my last full day here until I come through on my way to Dubai. I had an email from Shannon today, saying that Mike was still hanging on. Christ! Firing that jerk is proving more involved than impeaching Clinton (or Nixon). I was hoping he’d be gone when I got back, but now I’m not so sure. This DFAC tent is actually pretty squared away, now that I am really studying it. It is small, yes, but the Gomes keep it clean and tidy. Not really an easy task, given the scores of people who use it at all hours. I never leave a mess when I depart. I am good that way and am famous for cleaning my own hotel rooms before checking out. Does that make me weird? Don’t worry though; I’m not anal about it. One thing that strikes me funny about this DFAC tent is that there are three smoke detectors (that I can see from where I am sitting) that are all clumped together in relatively the same area—about six feet apart. Logic would seem to dictate that they be spread out a bit, but what the hell, right?

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Chapter Three Here

Comments, as always, much appreciated.

 

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.

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Letter From A South Park Jail

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 sooner than later…  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.

southpark-afghanistan

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Saturday 28 July 2012, Camp Dwyer, 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 consequently, 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.

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