The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

GOODBYE AFGHANISTAN |

May 30, 2008

GOODBYE AFGHANISTAN
Name: SPC Beaird
Posting date: 5/30/08
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog: All Expenses Paid Afghan Vacation 

Framed_beaird_portrait_3 My war is over, pretty much. I still have a little while longer in country before I head to the states, but I am now in the land of the Fobbits wearing my arm out with all the saluting we have to do every five steps we take. My last week on the FOB were pretty uneventful. My squad picked up QRF duties for that last week and we didn’t have to roll out the whole time at all. I was kind of hoping for one last hurrah of a mission, but it never came. It’s hard to believe it’s coming to end. We knew weeks ahead of time an estimated date we would leave, but the days leading up to it just didn’t feel like we were leaving. Even the morning we left it still felt like a surprise, somewhat surreal.

We performed an intense cleaning of the barracks and our rooms, getting ready for the new guys, packed up all our bags, headed to the LZ, boarded the chopper, and said goodbye to my FOB and home in Afghanistan. The day before we left we had a small part of our replacements come in, and I have to say I’ve never been so glad to see a group of strangers as I was at that moment. When the choppers that would take us away came into view I immediately thought back to being on the same bird my first day coming into the FOB with so much being unknown.

I had originally volunteered to stay back with the group of our PRT that would be doing left seat right seat missions, training the new guys once they arrived. There was only a limited number of spots they could keep back, so unfortunately I had to leave with the first group out. I don’t like being here while there’s still some of our guys back at the FOB running missions. There was actually another chance to sign on with the last group because one of our gunners had to head home for personal reasons, but my buddy shot his hand up when asked in nanoseconds (because he’ll take as much time away as possible away from his team leader he hates) before I even had a chance to weigh staying in my head.

I’m at BAF (Bagram AirField) now being extremely bored out of my mind. There are a Subway, Dairyqueen, Burger King, Pizza Hut, a coffee house, and a much better run chow hall here -- so that’s one plus.

Other than the food, I’d rather be back at my FOB. At least there I would have kept busy with missions and passing on words of wisdom to the new guys. Instead, here I keep busy by going on long walks down Disney Drive (not named after Walt but after a fallen soldier), movie night at the USO, half hour spurts of time at the MWR using the only decent internet connection on this whole base for transient non residents like myself, blowing cash on fast food which my stomach is having to readjust to, browsing in  the PX, and getting lost in the KBR-run chow hall with an overwhelming amount of choices for food.

Those are the highlights. Yeah the food is much better here, but I’d rather be eating crappy food back on my FOB, as long as I had my own bed to go back to and the convenience of a decent internet connection coming into my room. Sleeping in a massive airplane hangar tent with over a hundred other guys is getting old. I’d even rather be staying at our COP instead of here if I had a choice.

This being one of the largest, possibly the largest, bases in Afghanistan there are all kinds of high-ranking Fobbits. Being here is pretty much being like on a garrison back on US soil. Attacks on the base are rare, and when they do happen, things are so spread out here nothing ever gets hit. How much threat could there really be if they took away all of my ammo already and handed it over to our replacements?

One of the nice things about being on a smaller FOB like my home for the past year is that things are much more relaxed in terms of the political BS and bureaucracy that abound on a huge base like this. On my FOB we didn’t salute officers. Here we have to, which gets old every few steps we take. On the FOB you can walk around and get away with small stuff, like breaking uniform regulations like unbloused boots or an untucked shirt in the gym. Here that’s a no-go, and we even have to wear a stupid bright yellow reflector belt with our PT uniform 24 hours a day, and with any uniform at night. Uniform nazis who have nothing better to do will give you a hard time if you don’t have it.

One of my buddies who was here getting medical treatment after being hit by an IED was hounded for walking around with no name tag and rank on, and wearing tennis shoes with his uniform. Maybe he didn’t have boots or a uniform because they were cut off him and he was stripped down as he was being medevac’d from our FOB! That is among one of the many reasons why Fobbits are so depised. The word Fobbit comes from mixing hobbit and FOB together. Fobbits are desk jockeys for the most part and never leave the wire, complain about their mocha frappaccino not tasting right, or about not having their favorite type of bread at Subway, and never have any clue about what its like to look for IEDs in the road or even chamber a round in the old-school M-16s they have.

We all know the admin people, the finance people, the postal clerks, the cooks, and gate guards are important, and life would be a lot worse off here if it wasn’t for them. We’d be eating MREs every day, not getting paid, and never get mail from home. So we know they’re important and we value their service. It’s just the Fobbits that complain about how tough their job and life is while deployed that we want to slap around and tell them to shut the hell up.

So now we wait for the rest of our guys to finish training up our replacements and join up with us here so we can all ship out together and call it a day. However, each fallen comrade ceremony that proceeds down the main avenue here with flag-draped caskets is a vivid reminder that though my part in this war is ending for now, it is just beginning for others and will still be dragging on long after my unit and I leave.

* Editor's note: A Sandbox salute to SPC Beaird, with thanks for his many contributions to this site. Here are links to some of his posts:

YOU DESERVE THIS 2-29-08

A COLD DAY 2-20-08

TIMES ARE CHANGING (with video) 2-5-08

JINGLE CULTURE  (with great photos) 1-29-08

TOWER RANTS 12-19-07

100 DAYS (with video), 12-10-07

Comments

SPC Beaird,
Whether we are at the airport or not when you arrive home, we will be welcoming you and your comrades none-the-less -- in spirit if not in person. Thank you for sharing your great posts and photos.
Now enjoy the privileges for which you all dedicated so much of yourselves.

~Thank you for so much that you have done for us you and your fell comrades!!! I am glad that you are comin' home, hopefully for good. I pray for you and your fellow friends!!! Be safe!!! :o)~

I do notice that the WAR isn't serious when they took my ammunition away, they did that for two weeks of school in the rear in Vietnam. I wasn't worthy - or they just didn't trust me. Glad you are coming back and bring them all with you. Take care and be fair.

Welcome back SPC Beaird. I remember sitting in hot tent #5 between Disney Way and the nice two story AF hooches just about 13 months ago, not letting myself believe that I was about to get out of country. The best night I had was the last one after clearing customs and sitting over at the picnic tables by the Tillman Center smoking the end of tour cigars, listening to a teammate play some classic tunes on the guitar from the USO. Welcome back!!

Bouhammer

SPC Beaird,

It has been months since you posted this, and by now I'm sure you are back home. Hopefully it still feels like home.

Other than the news I've watched and dozens of these blogs I've read, I have no experience of war.

What surprised me the most after reading your blog is how unsure you feel about returning home. Most civilians would be beyond thrilled knowing they are days away from leaving a war zone and returning to the open arms of safety and love.

Is it the fact that you're leaving when the job is not finished? Or that you are leaving while many you know are still fighting?

I don't know what I admire more, your sense of duty or your sense of brotherhood. I have a feeling it's all the same.

The war will go on without you. I hope you will go on without the war.

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