Thursday, January 29, 2009

Finally a Photo without a "Chandler" Smile

You may have noticed that I don't really have any photos posted of myself. The reason is that all the photos I have taken while deployed have featured my "I'm trying too hard" fake smile. It is very similar to Chandler's smile from Friends.
I finally have a photo that while not great, doesn't look downright goofy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The first photo is an example of some of the homes in the region. I have not set foot in one, since I only leave the various bases by air. However, this seems fairly typical, homes made out of mud with mud walls surrounding it. Some of the home have a domed roof that looks pretty cool. I haven't had my camera out while we have passed over one yet.

This photo may be a little hard to see, but if you click on it it should enlarge a bit. As you can see, southern Afghanistan is a land of black and white, no in between. What I mean is that there is a desert surrounded by mountains covered in snow. Very little is able to grow, and only where it is cultivated by farmers, and still even then there is little that is green.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Qualat Living

Here are a couple of photos of where we are staying. The first is my living space, it is tiny but adequate. There are three other similar areas in this half of the tent. The second is of the living room. You can see all except for the refrigerator/microwave area which has its own cubby on the far right.

We have launched a couple of times so far, once for a cut finger and another time for a Jordanian soldier who was having chest pain. Nothing too serious, thank goodness!

I have begun a daily schedule to keep myself busy. Being a veteran of the medevac chase mission(I am the only person who has done this far) I know that not keeping busy can be boring and depressing. So, here it is:

8:00 Wake Up, Shave, etc and get dressed
8:30 Study for my annual flight test
9:30 Go out to do a daily check of the aircraft and do a run-up
11:00 Study, misc
12:00 Lunch
12:30 Study some more
2:00 Workout at the gym, weights and cardio
3:15 Shower and turn in laundry
4:00 Socialize
6:00 Dinner
6:30 Socialize/Study
9:00 Bed/Reading
Exciting isn't it!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Medevac Chase Part II

I am back on another medevac chase mission for the next two weeks. This time I'm in Qalat, about a 45 minute flight to the North East of Kandahar. The living conditions are slightly better here, at least we have more space. I will post pictures soon. Unfortunately we have to go to a separate building to use the toilet/shower, and it is really cold here since it is winter and we are at a higher elevation, near the mountains.

We live in a tent that has been built up inside with wooden walls and ceiling. About half the tent is devoted to our "rooms" which are small, and made out of wall lockers and a sheet, but adequate. The other half is a living room with a couch, chair, home made couch, refrigerator, microwave, TV and DVD player. It is nice and certainly a step up from Farah.

That's it for now, but I will be adding pictures/stories soon!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Holding Back the Dam

One of the best things about being a pilot is some of the scenery I get to see. Today we were flying a ring route, which is basically just picking up cargo and/or passengers and dropping them off in another location, all day long. We went to our first stop to drop off a General and his entourage, then we had another stop near by. We were flying behind a Chinook and had to fly over a ridgeline. As you can see from the photos, there was a lot of cloud cover on the other side. We were able to eventually break through further away from the mountains, but it was a sight to see.

I flew for almost 8 hours, and it was fun! I am finally starting to feel like a real pilot, rather than just someone who plays dress up to play pilot. I am supposed to fly tomorrow and maybe the day after as well. We will have to see how the weather holds out. On our way home today we were barely able to beat the bad weather into Kandahar. We ran into a rain storm about two miles away from the airfield and we were entering the traffic pattern to land when one of our door gunners saw lightning about two miles off our right side. We got down as fast as we could, and put the aircraft away before all of the worst of the rain came in. It was a full day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Red Desert

I flew around for 7 hours today! Ouch! My tooshie! The hardest part is no potty breaks for hours on end. Anyway, I was able to take some good photos of the red desert. It is bordered by the yellow desert. It is strange because it just starts all of a sudden with no mixing of different colored sand. Take a look at the photos to see what I mean.

My First "Real" Mission

The other day I finally went on my first real mission! I can't really say much about it, but it involved taking some troops out to secure an area, it was pretty cool. The worst part was finding out at 11:30PM that we had to show up at 4:00AM. Other than that it was fun and got my adrenaline flowing. I've included a couple of photos.


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I made this panoramic out of 28 photos that I put together using autostitch software. I think it turned out pretty well.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

15 Days, 5.0 Flight Hours later, back where I started

Well, I finally got back to my room in Kandahar. It is nice to be back and to start to setup up my things. We didn't go on any medevac missions, which is good because that means no one got hurt, but that also means we didn't get to fly for two weeks. The only flying we did was to fly there and to fly back. It is a pretty boring flight, it is just a desert the whole way with a few mud houses every now and then. We did see a castle that was built by Alexander the Great I was told, one of our crew chiefs took a picture of it, as soon as I get it I will post it. The other cool thing is where the Yellow Desert meets the Red Desert, I don't have any pictures of it yet but when I can I will take some. Where they meet it is like a line where one side is yellow sand and on the other is red sand, pretty cool!

I am going to be on standby tomorrow, so maybe I will be able to fly! Until next time, I'll keep you updated.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Christmas in Farah

We celebrated Christmas here in Farah while on our medevac chase mission. The dining facility is small but they sometimes have some pretty good food. For Christmas they decorated it and we had roast turkey, lobster tail, and shrimp cocktail. Very good!

They also had a video game tournament and a few other activities. One of the sergeants was playing Christmas music outside of the dining facility. They did a good job of making it feel like a special day.

Medevac Chase

Shortly after arriving in Kandahar I was put on my first mission; medevac chase. Medevac Blackhawks need another aircraft to go with them on their missions. My crew and I were flying the escort or chase aircraft. We have our crew chief/gunners manning their M-240s as a deterrant to anyone wanting to shoot at the medevac aircraft. We are on a 12 day rotation in a small Forward Operating Base (FOB) a couple of hours flight time from Kandahar. We are on standby 24/7 during a ten day period.

All four of us in our crew (two pilots, two crew chiefs) live in one small room. Luckily, previous crews built a pretty nice bunk bed system as you can see above. We don't have any official duties besides being ready to fly and keeping our aircraft ready to fly, so we have a lot of down time. I have been spending my time on the internet, studying, watching movies, playing video games, and exercising. The exercise has been great and I have gotten into a good daily routine. We have a few more days here, but it will be good to get back to all of my stuff and my room in Kandahar, that I haven't been able to setup completely yet.