This would be our 2nd trip escorting our ANA brothers to pick up lumber. We started our morning by conducting one last inspection on our MRAPs, checked radios, and mounted our crew serve weapons. Today the convoy would be composed of 8 ANA 7-ton trucks in conjunction with our MRAPs. It was a little bit brisk out so we donned a
few extra layers to combat the cold. The pollution from burning firewood at night hadn’t settled yet, so we had good visibility. It was a great day for a convoy.
Our convoy commander gave us our mission briefing and then we jumped in the trucks and drove off to meet our ANA counterparts. Surprisingly they were lined up and ready to roll out. Timeliness and being punctual is not a great attribute for the ANA. Normally they operate off of “Afghan time” which is 15-30 minutes late. Even though they might arrive late, we still set the example and ensure we are always on time. In time, we hope they replicate our habit because in combat, being late can be deadly.
We cruised through the capital city with ease and when traffic started to slow the convoy, the ANA soldiers would dismount and direct traffic by making a hole large enough for the MRAPs and 7-ton trucks to squeeze through. These guys don’t mess around and sometimes they get a bit aggressive by hitting vehicles with their weapons. These types of actions don’t do much for improving their image. This is where the challenging job of being a mentor plays a role.
We arrived at Camp Phoenix and drove to the lumber yard. The 4×4 lumber was already palletized and made it easy to load. Our interpreter was kept busy with instructing the ANA truck drivers on where to position their vehicles and how to secure the wood once it was loaded. It only took a few hours to load the trucks. While there, I took a
picture of a Chinook helicopter coming in for a landing. These choppers really create a dust storm and it felt as though it was raining dirt when it was coming in on its approach.
The ANA ate lunch with us at the BBQ Hut. The only problem is they didn’t have much of a variety to choose from. The main meal was some tasty Polish and
Italian sausages. Since they are Muslim, they can’t eat pork products, so they had to settle for some grilled cheeseburgers. But I haven’t met an Afghan yet who doesn’t like a cheeseburger.
Before we departed the camp, I visited the PX and purchased a new laptop computer. Last night I gave my old laptop its last rites and put it back into the case. The layers of duct tape holding it together was only a temporary solution and it was time for an upgrade. I was accustomed to Hewlett Packard products, but the choices in the PX were very slim and I settled for a Toshiba brand name. In comparison, the hard drive was double capacity along with the memory space. The 17.2 inch screen really appealed to me too.
We lined up our convoy and departed Camp Phoenix with new laptop in hand. It was still early enough that we could get through the city before rush hour started. We just entered the outskirts of the city when the radio broke its silence. One of our MRAPs was having mechanical problems and pulled off to the side of the road. My truck was about 25 meters from one of the busiest roundabouts in the city and the convoy commander gave the command to stop the convoy. Meanwhile, the trail MRAP would be responsible for attaching the tow bar to the disabled vehicle and then tow the vehicle back to camp. This is no easy feat with traffic buzzing by and the tow bar is extremely heavy. It usually takes 3 people to lift this heavy piece of steel and attach it to the front end of the broken vehicle.
It took about 15 minutes to complete this tasking and the convoy was rolling again. By now, the traffic was starting to grow. It felt strange to get passed by two push carts too. But I have grown accustomed to seeing and dodging these carts as they are everywhere in the city as they are one of the primary means of transporting supplies, food, and heavy items.
We made it back to camp without incident and dropped off the disabled MRAP at the Motor Pool. We are hoping the mechanics will do their magic and fix it in a timely manner. I also had an opportunity to see the new MATV up close. For security reasons, I am only posting a picture of the exterior. The MATV is the latest MRAP model and is an improvement over the older models like the one I drive. But neither of them is really designed for big people. However, they are designed to go off-road and access places the larger MRAPs can’t go. So the miscreant insurgents better be wary because of this enhanced tool we have added to our arsenal.