CAMP PHOENIX: RSOI AND BEEPING GATORS |
October 24, 2012
Deploying to: Afghanistan
I’ve arrived at Camp Phoenix for the last part of my RSOI. It’s taken a week to get here but we’ve made the best of it. For the most part that’s what troopers do; they find bright spots in nearly every situation. The ability to smile or laugh can make all the difference in how your day ends.
We dragged our bags of the helicopter and found billeting. It’s a tent with plywood rooms and crude doors with hasp locks on them. We claim bunks, breaking into familiar groups and staying with those we’re most comfortable with. Weeks of living in confined spaces can test the nerves of even the most reasonable people. On our way out to chow I stop to put a lock on the door and when I jiggle it to make sure that it’s secure the wall falls down and I find myself staring back into the room where all of our bags are. I prop the plywood wall back up and kick the nails in with my boot. I chuckle a bit and we head to chow.
Later that afternoon I venture out across Camp Phoenix with a buddy and try to find the “WiFi office” so we can sign up and get online. We wander across camp and ask no less than three people for directions before finding a connex that’s been converted into an office and get our accounts set up. As we meander back across camp we cut through the motor pool where squads of soldiers are working on their MRAPs. We pass a pair of reflective-belt-clad troopers on a six-wheeled Gator who are wearing ballistic helmets in the unlikely event that they’re ejected from their low-speed vehicle. They’re oblivious to our presence, and as we walk by the Gator lurches into reverse. The passenger looks over his should to guide the vehicle back and begins to say loudly: “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP…..” just like a garbage truck. My buddy and I laugh. “Soldiers will be soldiers” he says.
Camp Phoenix is no Bagram and I’m glad for that. It’s much smaller and there is a large international presence which makes for great people watching. Folks here generally seem to be busier, largely because this is not a transient hub like Bagram is. The chow is decent, the water’s hot, and while the mattress I got would most likely be rejected by any respectable homeless man for a piece of cardboard there is little to complain about.
I haven’t been able to read much but I have been talking to a lot of folks about their time here in Afghanistan and what they think. It’s a mixed bag for the most part. Some are optimistic, others skeptical of a positive outcome and many are just keeping their heads down, doing their jobs and not really thinking about what this place will look like two years from now. That’s certainly understandable.
I’m going to pick up a Stars and Stripes tonight and see what they’re talking about. I hope to get more up on the blog in the days ahead, but until I actually start working at my job I’ll focus more general observations and some of the atmospherics here at the camp.