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.


November 04, 2009

Name: Mike T.
Posting date: 11/4/09
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog: c/o Afghan Lessons Learned

For those of you who will be stationed out in Western Afghanistan for your tour, as I was, I have some advice:

1. Do not listen to the bullshit that people state about the West: It's dangerous like everywhere else.

2. The West is mainly desert near the Hari Rud to about Shindad, which starts to become mountainous. From there to the main city of Herat you will find various builds of infrastructure. Herat is the cultural center of Afghanistan. Read The Great Gamble. This is the only book that mentions so much about Western Afghanistan and how much it played a role in the Afghan-Russo War.

3. The war in the West is as isolated as anywhere else in-country, but we are mainly under ISAF ROE. There are many areas in the West that you can stumble into an ambush. We operated in higher terrain, but my Oakley boots did very well there. The West isn't as built up as back East so be very prepared to live on your own. ISAF dominates the West and they are a bit slow to help out. Marines are flooding the area but they have their own agenda (still good guys though).

4. Our friends to the West of us do not make our jobs easy in the ETT/PMT world, so be prepared for that as well. Bala Marghub to Golestan (Route 1) is a treacherous drive. It sometimes disappears on you out there, so make sure you have plenty of GPS batteries.

5. Back to your ISAF friends: The Spanish and Italians play by different rules so simply understand that they can't do much for you. There is a single main FOB out there and if you're ETT, get used to little support from our own as well. The logistics are strained. Understand CERP and "Afghan funding", which is actually the money you sign for, research about prices in the West compared to the rest of the country when negotiating contracts for work. Out West is less expensive, don't let them fool you.

6. There is a vendor on the main FOB who can get you anything. You will find out his name when you get there. Ten American bucks for 1000 Roshans (cell phone units). Don't let him tell you otherwise!

7. Back to the terrain: You will find it more interesting than most other Corp Areas. Shindad, Farah, and Herat have their own ethnic issues. If you're running into Tajiks out there -- be prepared to fight. They are not your friends. It is mainly Pashtu or Hazaras.

8. Herat Airfield is run by NATO. Even as Americans you have to play by their bullshit rules to get on there. Do it. Great food if you can get in past all the god damn NATO/ISAF forces who lounge on that bad boy.

9. Teeth hurt? Go to the airfield, there's no dentist yet where you are going. The Spanish have hot nurses and will take care of you, but make sure you can bring someone who speaks Spanish!  I didn't, and boy it was a rough go at first.

*ISAF ROE: International Security Assistance Force Rules of Engagement

ETT/PMT: Embedded Training Team / Police Mentoring Team

CERP: Commander's Emergency Response Program


Thankyou for diplaying the milatary terms used.

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