November 13, 2009

Name: Old Blue
Posting date: 11/13/09
Returned to: Afghanistan
Milblog: Afghan Quest

Just returned from another wretched trip to Pogadishu, once again challenging my moral endurance. One of the more blatant signs of disconnection from reality; several Soldiers complaining vociferously about Pizza Hut running out of beef while nearby a Soldier who was passing through Bagram to go on leave had come from a FOB where running out of water for days at a time was relatively common, and where needed supplies were unable to be delivered due to a lack of airlift capacity. The ridiculousness of the concerns of the denizens of Pogadishu is highlighted in the presence of those who pass through their midst on the way to and from the real war.

The Soldiers who pass through are treated to visions of high-rise (three-story) conex condos while they themselves are subjected to the horrors of the “transient tents.” These hovels house nearly two hundred men who share four shower stalls, two urinals and three toilets. Overflow capacity is provided by several porta-johns nearby. I haven’t been to the east side of Bagram in two years, but I hear that conditions over there are even more horrific.How that can be escapes me, but there must be another level of depravity on that side of the runway.

In the north transient tents, one tent, which is not an Army tent but the type of enclosure that might hold diners at an outdoor wedding, holds double-deck bunk beds that house at least 175 men. It is nearly always filled to capacity, a scant foot or foot and a half between bunks. Dimly lit, it is like a holding pen for a level of Hell that is filled to capacity. Bare plywood floors are perpetually dusty, and there is an air of resignation.

The other tent, of the same construction, has standard Army cots separated by the same intervals. This tent easily houses a hundred men. It seems more pleasant because of the ability to see from one end to the other. Not all of the occupants are transients. Many Soldiers and contractors are “housed” there for weeks at a time before getting more “permanent” housing, likely in one of the many B-huts which have small living areas separated by cubicle-like “walls” with lockable “doors.” The “walls” cannot go all the way to the ceiling because there are only two Chigo (heating and air conditioning) units, one at each end of the hut. Often a dozen men will be housed in one B-hut. B-hut living is tolerable, but it is sheer luxury compared to the Spartan living in the transient tents.

In the transient tents, privacy is a matter of mind over matter. The iPod is a savior. If one puts in the iPod, one can almost forget the man snoring 18 inches from his left ear. As I lay there on my cot, the roar of two F-15’s taking off shattered the near-serenity of Pachelbel’s Canon. I restarted the tune, immersed in the quiet dignity of what is likely my favorite piece of classical music. A bit later, another pair of fighters took off, afterburners punctuating Steppenwolf’s invitation to a young woman to join them on a Magic Carpet Ride. Brilliant.

I think that the iPod saved my sanity.

But there is no saving one’s sanity from the utter fobbitry. NFL on Fox made the trip to Afghanistan, only to root themselves in the land of those who serve, forward deployed, but not in any way, shape or form actual participants in the hostilities. As we were conducting training for several days with one of the headquarters elements, we moved through what is to us something out of Alice in Wonderland. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if I were approached at Bagram by a huge, time-management-challenged rabbit. So, eating in one of the dining facilities during lunchtime, we saw Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long as they exited. They had been seated in the large, cramped DFAC and had signed many autographs. Asked by a friend back home if I had said anything to them, I replied, “Nah, this place is full of fobbit jock-sniffers. I don’t want to be one of them.”

I was informed that coffee being shot through the nose is very uncomfortable and stains shirts.

I am reminded that Toby Keith heads out to FOBs and COPs where he has played for very small groups of Soldiers on an acoustic guitar. It was a nice gesture for NFL on Fox to head to Afghanistan, it really was. When I first came to Afghanistan, half of the people I knew weren’t even tracking on this country. It was the forgotten front of the War on Terror. Iraq was where all the money, troops and attention went. So for Fox to come to this land was a great gesture. But the kids at Bagram have everything.

Except beef on their pizza. At least for a few days.

There are Soldiers and Marines all over this country who get squat -- even water -- while Bagram has “Karaoke Nite” and “Salsa Nite.” Then the spoiled wonders there even have the temerity to rant out loud about not getting beef with their pepperoni for their Pizza Hut pizza (delivered, no less). Now, I can’t fault them for making their lives as comfortable as possible, but there is silly and then there is ridiculous. Salsa Nite is silly.

Housing the warriors who normally live in Spartan conditions that the fobbits at Bagram would riot over in those pathetic “transient tents” is ridiculous. You do not see field grade officers spending the night in those wretched holes. If a full Colonel ever got stuck in there for a night, lots would be made of the event shortly thereafter. But it is perfectly fine to “house” a young Sergeant with two Purple Hearts, who has lived for days without clean water and who has no electricity on a regular basis, in the slums of Bagram while the full-time denizens of that massive disconnect from reality are housed in apartment complexes formed of stacked shipping containers, with cable TV and internet service in their rooms.

The word is disparity.

“I can’t believe that they have the nerve to even open their mouths about not having beef on their
pepperoni pizza,” the young Sergeant stated, “but it just reminds me that they are nothing.” He continued, “They come here and then they go home and talk about how they went to Afghanistan, but they aren’t even in this war. This is like an American town in the middle of Afghanistan. This isn’t Afghanistan, and these people ain’t shit. Hearing stuff like that pisses me off, but it reminds me that I’m an Infantryman, and I’m in it for real.”

Bagram really needs to do something about the shameful disease vectors that it calls “transient housing.” There should not be a soul living in pampered condos while the warfighters themselves pass through the scummy misery of those fetid tents. Tons of money is being spent there on construction, and yet a man who lives in crap out on a FOB has to share four shower stalls with over two hundred other men? Bagram is a hub for all who pass in and out of Afghanistan. The notoriously snarled air traffic leaves people hanging for days at a time -- to suffer the indignity of an ill-run “transient housing” situation. It is unconscionable.

They didn’t show the celebrities the “transient tents.” Why? Why not show them where the real warriors get stuck when they pass through on leave, or when rushing home in family emergencies? Because they are not idiots. If you chain your child in a closet, you know better than to show anyone. Certainly not anyone with a camera. Not only is Bagram disconnected from the war, but they treat anyone who actually is connected to the war like some kind of animal. For anyone going on leave, Bagram is just part of the hellish journey that only gains some semblance of normal when you reach Atlanta.

It’s a shame.

I’ve caught yet another upper respiratory infection in the transient hell of Bagram. If you ever really just have a burning desire to get sick, go to the transient housing office at Bagram and tell them you need a place to stay.


Suck it up, Ranger! At least you're headed back out to the front line to do your job--or headed home, to experience disconnect before re-integrating over the course of several alcohol-fueled months. I never spent more than 4 days on Bagram--always the same story. At least you can get you some Green Beans coffee while the getting's good.

They are frakking remf's who couldn't hack it out there anyway. Unfortunately there's always been that disparity. When I was at Eskan in Riyadh b-4 heading North I lived on the "other side of the Wadi". The Air Force lived in "Villas" the Army lived in high rises - no heat but hot showers everynight and a clean flushable toilet. When I went north I had a nice hole to use.

I do like seeing that the real REMFs haven't changed. Even Hollywood caught them in Apocalypse Now - living in air conditioned trailers eating seafood on china with crystal, in starched uniforms. It does help them think, about meatless pizza.

> If a full Colonel ever got stuck in there for a night,

"To dream the impossible dream..."


Have you compared your plight to soldiers from WWI, WWII and Korea?

Something I received from a friend. It's now hanging on my wall.


The soldier stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

'Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you ?
Have you always turned the other cheek ?
To My Church have you been true?'

The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
'No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

You know I have killed, my God,
I believe our cause was right,
only you know why they fought,
and why I survived their might

Maybe I don't deserve a place,
Among the other people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fear.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

'Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell.'

Author Unknown~

It's the Military, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the
It's the Military, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of
It's the Military, not the politicians that ensures our right to
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It's the Military who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and
whose coffin is draped by the flag.

If you care to offer the smallest token of recognition and appreciation for
the military, please pass this on and pray for our men and women who have
served and are currently serving our country and pray for those who have
given the ultimate sacrifice for freedom to live our way of life.

No airlift capacity? No WATER? Fuck the douche who told you to "suck it up" these are BASICS. You and us all got conned by the christian right wingers who are making overflows of MONEY off the mother of all con jobs next to organized religion.Before this war soldiers all had water,maintainance everything provided for BY THEMSELVES. It's these fucking contractors like Haliburton that have left you guys in this hole. I don't even want to think about the women soldiers dealing with no tampons. During the Bush years we got fucked over by the christians, now we got fucked over by the damnocrats and everyone is only pissing about tax payer funded abortion. The true abortion is, in the name of christianity, more of our soldiers have died from food and water poisoning than combat.
With Obama breaking his promise on mandated health care it makes you wonder if he's going to keep his promise to bring you all home.
I'm living with my family and struggling to find work in the state with the soon to be highest rate of unemployment. Right now I have it GOOD.This is why I say thank you to vets and try to vote for someone who looks like he's going to keep his promise. You guys deserve BETTER.

Good evening. I've read two of your posts about Bagram, and I feel that I have to comment. I just got home from Bagram a couple of months ago. I was at Bagram for my entire deployment. So I guess that makes me one of your REMFs. I ask that you please not lump everyone there into the same group. I went there to provide anesthesia... trauma anesthesia. I saw the horrors of war EVERYDAY, sometimes for 24 or more hours straight. Burned kids, gunshot wounds to the head, traumatically amputated extremities, or grossly mangled extremities but still hanging by a thread, gonads blown off.... shall I continue? While I may not be a trigger puller, and therefore outside of your realm of respect, hopefully others who read this comment might come to realize that just because someone stays at Bagram does not mean that they are ignorant to the real war. I saw carnage and wicked shit every day. I will freely admit that I did partake in a Pizza Hut pizza once while at Bagram. I saw it as a treat after 28 hours in the operating room, one life lost, and two extremity amputations from two different Marines. Yes indeed, it is a wretched place, and life goes on.

I don't know if it will help you get beef for your pizza, but I contacted my state representatives about the housing issue. This is beyond ridiculous. Prisoners at Gitmo are being housed better. I've spent my fair share of time in transient quarters, but I would not wish this on anyone. I have another motive as well - my wife is in the National Guard and will end up in Afghanistan sometime. I know she will end up in some hellhole, but it has to be better than that.

"remf","fobbits",...some things never change, even in war

you are an excellent writer, keep it up. sad thing is that i wrote a very similar essay back in 2006 for the sandbox, and it appears nothing has changed in bagram. glad to see the salsa lessons are still kicking off.....NOT!

be safe down range bro....

One of my Senators is looking into the transient housing situation at Bagram. Maybe that will kick the Air Force into gear and give you better pizza options as well.

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