The Little Things

I have been in country long enough that I am taking stock of the little things. Sometimes the little things piss you off, they brighten your day, or you just notice them.

When I assumed the duties of the S6 I took over computer and network operations of the PRT. My visions of the position included what I have done in the past managing a network for my previous employer, ExecuTrain of Kansas City. I had full administrator privileges on the network in the Jefferson City office. Here, the unit managing the theater network will not give me an admin level account on the domain! There are work arounds that I have implemented but I shouldn’t have had to do them.

When I take a printer down and replace it, me and my subordinates have to manually map the printer for everyone’s account when they log on, something that could be automated with a script if I had full admin rights. Pretty aggravating. However, when the Exchange server goes down or a switch shoots craps, I just shrug my shoulders and say “not my problem”. Those messes have to be fixed by the civilian contractors because they are managing that stuff, not me. On those days I am glad I do not have full admin rights.

Back home we are accustomed to having an Internet connection that is pretty reliable. You should hear the soldiers here howl and complain when there is a service interruption on the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) system! It is amazing that a non-mission essential system can have such a dramatic impact. When soldiers can’t go online to check their e-mail or do a chat session with a loved one they get pretty cranky. Me and one of my subordinates spent a day and a half trying to get a system to work properly so people can get online. Once we got the bugs worked out, everyone thought we were capable of walking on water. I guess we are water walkers until something else craps out!

We have a PX here. When we don’t open it on time because we are swamped people get antsy. The shelves may be close to empty but they still want to get in even though they may not buy anything. A soldier may be dying for a pack of smokes or a couple of cans of Red Bull and be flat broke. Float the guy some credit until Finance shows up and his world just became much brighter.

We take freedom of movement for granted back home. Traveling fifty miles is an ordeal here. For the local nationals it is worse. They have to worry about shakedowns at temporary checkpoints. The closest we come to a shakedown on a highway back home is a toll road booth.

In rural Missouri you can travel to the nearest Walmart (I bet there isn’t a resident in Missouri that lives more than an hour from a Walmart) and get pretty much anything you want or need. I can purchase a satellite dish from a local vendor and get three hundred channels. However I can’t get something like audio/video cables locally to hook a TV to a DVD player.

Everyone back home complains when power goes out. There may have been a nasty storm but people will still complain. The locals here use generators if they can afford them. Once nightfall hits, you can tell the wealthy people from everyone else because they will have lights.

Most people back home have a land line based phone. Some people use only a cell phone. Here in the hinterlands of Afghanistan there is no such thing as a land line based phone. If the locals are using a cell phone it’s satellite based and very few can afford it.

Practically every car and truck around here is a Toyota. Toyota makes tough vehicles but so do Subaru, Honda, Mazda, Ford, Chrysler/Dodge, and GM. The Afghan National Army uses Ford Rangers. After seeing the abuse the Toyota HiLuxes (Tundra’s in the US) and the Ford Rangers take, I’d buy a Ranger because they are just as good and cheaper.

Army coffee is decent. If you are used to patronizing establishments like the Coffee Zone and Café Via Roma in downtown Jefferson City or the Starbucks at the Barnes and Noble store on the west side your standards are much higher. My bride got me a french coffee press and some gourmet coffees and life is much more tolerable. Right now I will kill for a large Borgia at the Coffee Zone!

I recently had to go to attend a planning conference at Bagram Airfield (BAF). Sure there was a PX, a Dairy Queen, a Green Beans (a pale imitation of the Coffee Zone and Café Via Roma back home), a spa (cute girls from Kyrgyzstan cutting hair and giving massages) and other amenities. However the shower and toilet stalls are minuscule compared to what I have at Tarin Kowt. I visited some of my Missouri Guard compadres and they are stuffed ten to twelve to a wooden hut and their “rooms” are more like closets. Here at the PRT I have my own quarters in a concrete building and my digs are quite palatial compared to theirs. Oddly enough life is much more comfortable here at “Fort Apache” then it is at the BAF, the center of the known universe!

When we go on medical missions the ailments are always the same. The only women we see are either too young or too old to bear children. Seeing as how the women maintain the household, these people will continue to get sick until they allow their women to learn from outsiders how to wash dishes properly.

When we see the little girls at first you think they are pretty cute. Then you factor in the environment they live in and then reality sets in. They will never grow up to be attractive women because they will never get decent health care and their diet will never be as good as the men's.

All the infantrymen except for maybe one or two have earned their Combat Infantryman’s Badge while assigned to the PRT. All but one of the Civil Affairs soldiers has earned their Combat Action Badges. I will earn my Combat Action Badge before I leave; it is only a matter of time. I have given the Taliban plenty of opportunities to take a shot at me. They will.

CPT NightHawk


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