Friday, June 26, 2009

Medevac in Ghazni

I recently got back from a Medevac mission at FOB Ghazni and took a few photos. Ghazni is about a half hour flight to the Southwest of Shank. The medevac aircraft over there needed some repairs so we flew down to cover as the chase aircraft until the other aircraft was back up. The medevac crews live in a nice building that they gutted and rebuilt when they arrived there. The first photo shows the common area that they set up. They built a little bar that has two refrigerators behind it as well as a bunch of food. They are currently using a bed as a couch and setup a projector with a screen that looks like a tv with a bunny ear antenna. They did a great job with the place.

There is also a little marketplace on the FOB. They have a barber shop, coffee shop, a couple of electronics shops and a couple of other little shops with local crafts for sale. They even have a small Indian restaurant on the other side of the barber shop. We went there the first night and the food was pretty good.

The first thing I noticed when I got to Ghazni was this enormous blimp. Every now and then they launch it and it is tethered to a long cable. It was quite surprising to see for the first time as we were coming in for a landing.
After we had been in Ghazni for a couple of days we had aircraft problems of our own. SPC Garvey, one of our crew chiefs was hard at work trying the get the aircraft ready to fly. By that time the medevac aircraft was fixed so they came back and relieved us so that we could continue the mission back at Shank.

The last photo is just a panoramic of the flight line at Ghazni.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Additions

You might remember the photos of the green tents as well as the photo of the tent that was foamed over for insulation. They finally got around to foaming all of the green tents. They even foamed over the roofs of our office building. All of the buildings look like they are covered in a foam-colored snow.

There is also a new barber shop in "town". It is quite large, with about 6-8 barber's chairs. I got a haircut there a few days ago and those guys go all out, they take their time but they want to make sure they do it right, and don't rush just to get more haircuts in so that they can make more money.

There is also a new shop that features some off-brand/fake brand electronics (I have seen names like Della and Braon, with logos almost exactly like Dell and Braun), DVDs of movies still in theatres, DVDs of US TV shows, and even custom-tailored suits. Every time I go there someone is trying to convince me that I need a suit, and not just a suit but that I need it now, in the middle of summer, with 6 more months until I head home. I must admire their entrepreneuring spirit though.

Shank Recreation

Here are some of the things that you can do over at FOB Shank when you have free time.

The softball field is the pride and joy of CSM Lange. There is even a league with regularly scheduled games. It is pretty elaborate, with an announcer's box and even something like astro turf in the infield.

The Pathfinders put together this nice little outdoor gym. It even has a climbing wall as well as a bench and a couple of machines.
This is a photo of the expanded gym along with the MWR tents. The center and left tents are for the gym expansion. There are a couple of smaller dome tents behind these two where the original gym was. The tent on the right is the MWR. It is connected to another tent that houses the computers and phones.

This last photo is of the crew chief offices. 1SG Horn and the crew chiefs and door gunners built this covered deck. The lower deck is for playing corn hole. It was all the rage in Kandahar, almost everyone got into it, including the staff officers. Maybe it will take over again.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


In response to a question, I'll tell you a little about the MWR and the gym. There is an MWR on the far side of Shank East that has about 10 Spawar phones(you need to purchase a Spawar number to use them, I think you get it for 4 cents a minute) and 28 computers. They also have webcams and headsets you can check out as well for the computers. There is a small gym which is housed in two small tents. One has free-weights and a few benches and the other has cardio equipment about 4 of each of bicycles, ellipticals, and treadmills. It looks like they are about to expand the gym, because they recently put up a couple of slightly larger tents next to the gym tents. I have yet to see any new equipment, but it could be coming.

At the aviation side of Shank East, I have seen several brand new computers that are supposed to go into the MWR, but it hasn't been built/setup yet, so I don't really know when that will be ready. There is also an outdoor workout area that was setup with just a couple of pieces of equipment, so that is all that we have on our side so far...

When I get a chance I'll add some photos to this post.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I took some photos a little while ago of some day and night training that we were doing.

Everybody watching as a Blackhawk does a traffic pattern before coming in for a landing. You can see several Blackhawks in the photo because the same one was in most of the photos I used to make this panoramic.

The crew chiefs having fun while waiting for their turn in the aircraft. From left to right: SPC Crotts, SPC Leppink, SPC Garvey, SFC Peden.

I just thought this was a cool photo. The moon was already up as the sun was going down. This Blackhawk is making an approach to the runway as some bystanders watch on.

Training is underway!

We Have Internet!

I won't pretend that it was easy, but it is finally 90% done. Everything is set up and everyone has internet, but I am currently trying to make everything work better, install servers to monitor bandwidth, and possibly add wireless.

Getting the internet all ready was quite the struggle. I was placed in charge of finding a suitable system for our use, collecting all the money (what a headache!), ordering, setting up the dishes (3 of them with quite a bit of help from multiple people), cutting and finishing about 50 ethernet cables, connecting it all with 10 switches, setting up and installing 3 servers (still a work in progress), and troubleshooting (a daily if not hourly job). I still have to finish the servers, and on Monday I have a phone appointment with a Bentley Walker technician who is going to walk me through some fine-tuning adjustments for the dishes.

To the right I have a photo of CW2 Michael Wick and CW3 Joseph Morano. These guys took it upon themselves to get the platforms for the dishes ready, thank goodness! They built the platforms, levelled them out and then attached the pole stands to them and made sure that those were also level. Once other companies saw their handiwork they quickly replicated the design. Now there are dishes all over on stands similar to, yet in my opinion inferior to, these ones.

Here is another that shows all 3 dishes set up. It sure is a beautiful sight.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


FOB Shank is located South of Kabul, about 15 minutes flight by helicopter. As a member of a Blackhawk crew, I am not able to see any part of Afghanistan from the ground, except for being within a FOB, but we do get to see it from a different perspective. I was surprised when flying over Kabul the first time because it is a much bigger city than anything I saw in Southern Afghanistan, even bigger than Kandahar. In the South, most of the population lives in small villages in houses made out of mud. Kabul boasts a population of over one million and looks like a modern city, at least from the air.

As you can see from the photo, the city stretches into the distance. There is a soccer field and maybe even a park in the center of the photo. There was a soccer game going on as we flew by.

The buildings here seem to be built using concrete and brick as opposed to the mud and straw used in the South.

Houses are built using every last inch of land with quite a few homes being built into the hills that surround the city. There were even a few houses on the ridges of the hills themselves. Communications towers are plentiful in this area of the country as well.

There are a couple of large buildings that look like hotels on the south side of Kabul. The roofs of both are partially missing. I don't know if they were bombed or have been damaged by some natural disaster or have just fallen into disrepair. It seems like a shame that such nice buildings are now abandoned and falling apart.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

And the Construction Goes On...

This place changes more and more everyday. I thought that once they had everything we needed for our task force to function, it would all be over. The construction just goes on and on. Everywhere you look there are teams of people building something. Whether it is the taxiway and helicopter parking or the new buildings that keep popping up, things keep changing.
On the right we have an open field with a building of unknown purpose that just sprung up in about three days.
Then a photo showing the GP Medium tents that we lived in, and have subsequently moved out of, including the foamed one on the left.

A group of soldiers hard at work putting together the platform for another structure. A Chinook is flying overhead; helicopters are always coming and going, moving people and equipment back and forth.

Our humble bathroom facilities. One trailer is full of toilets and the other is full of showers. The water is trucked in regularly and kept in the large tan bladder on the right. We have about five sets of these, which are cleaned daily, along with porta-potties that are serviced irregularly.

Building the Rooms

Click on any of the photos to see a larger version.

A photo of what our tents look like. These five all belong to our company as well as the first two that were built just past the far left tent. On the far right are the CPs, our offices, and the A Company CP is on the left side of the ones that are visible.

A photo of the view that we have coming out of the tent. That metal structure on the other side of the barrier is the frame of one of the tents going up.

As I stated before, quite a few people worked on building the individual rooms inside the Alaskan tents, but by and far most of the work was done by the crew chiefs and door gunners. 1SG Horn spearheaded this with his personal crew of SPC Bret Powell and SPC Andrew Bryer. I took a few photos of these guys in action.

SPC Spencer putting door handles on the pocket doors.

SPC Slaton and SPC Johnston taking a break.

SPC Powell with some assistance from SPC Karl Crotts cutting wood for something or other.

SPC Bryer and 1SG putting up the room framing.

Click on this photo to see a panoramic of what the rooms look like with just the framing up.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Photo Update

Due to the difficulty of gaining internet access whilaveling, I was unable to post all of the photos of our journey from Kandahar to Shank, so I am going to take the opportunity now. When we left Kandahar we went to Bagram, which is 30 minute flight North of Shank, first because the living conditions were not adequate. When we first arrived in Bagram, we were in a large transient tent with about 100 cots in it. Everyday soldiers from various nations would come and go in these tents, while we just waited for the word to leave for Shank. Unfortunately, these tents were a 30 minute drive from the helicopters, so after a few days we were moved to other accomodations. The building we were in was a B-hut that is usually sectioned-off into rooms for 8 people per building. We, however shoved 20 people into the building pictured on the right, with cots almost on top of each other. Luckily we were only there for a couple more days before we got the call to leave for Shank.

We then moved into the green GP Mediums pictured on the right. We slept 10 to a tent, each person had their own bunkbed, but there were no walls/rooms, and the electricity had to be shared by a 50 foot extension cord that ran to one of the generators. Unfortunately, these tents become very hot during the day with the sun beating down on them, even with the a/c up full blast. They eventually decided to cover one with spray on foam insulation to keep it cool. As I soon after went onto the night shift, I was lucky enough to move into this tent. The insulation works very well, and we were able to sleep comfortably during the day. The foam tent was an off-white color and the sides of the tent became stiff. Almost like battering and then deep-frying something. There I am posing in front of the foam-insulated tent.

All this while we were waiting for the Alaskan tents to be set up so that we could fit 6 per tent and build rooms into them. The crew chiefs soon began to build under the direction of 1SG Horn.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Moving Day, For Real!!!!

Well, it didn't take a month, and we now have GFCI breakers in the Alaskan tents and we have moved in. We each have a separate room, measuring about 8' X 9' 8", and each person has a bunkbed in their room. It has been interesting to see how the rooms turn out as each person customizes their room. I plan on taking some photos to post and show everyone how they have turned out. 1SG Horn and his crew, (SPC Bryer, SPC Powell, SPC Carroll), and many others, mostly the crew chiefs, spent long hours for over a week to finish the rooms in each tent and they did a great job! There are six rooms in each tent and our whole company fits into seven tents. It is starting to feel like a little community.

Pictures soon to follow.