Nov. 5 & 6 interview aired on WUSF Radio

New MRAP gunners harness and seat.

New MRAP gunner's harness and seat.

Here is a link to a radio interview that aired on WUSF Radio in Tampa during NPR’s “All Things Considered” last night and during “Morning Edition” this morning. Topics discussed included the latest mission to Bagram and the “snafus” in getting new supplies for the troops.

My Last Tour: Baffled in Bagram

BAF-f-l-e-d – Part 2

Our tent accomodations with 65 people.It was pretty obvious we were not going to leave BAF today so we settled into our transitory tents.  The tent was rather large and filled with about 65 big stinky men sleeping on cots.  I suppose the “fragrance” we emitted only combined with the existing stagnant aroma.  Most of the people in our tent were waiting on a space available flight home or a Blackhawk landing at BAF.ride to another location.  So like good soldiers or cattle we carried our ruck sacks and personnel gear to the tent and set up sleeping quarters on the available cots.

Around 1:30 am, the insurgents decided to give us a wake-up call by launching 3 rockets (indirect fire) in hopes of hitting something on BAF, which is spread out over 6,000 acres.  Although I am not completely certain, I think the Moving conexes at BAF.enemy was using 107mm Chinese-made rockets.  These rockets make a very distinct whirl and my auditory senses have been attuned to this sound.  Like a small herd of sheep we took cover in the concrete bunkers until accountability was taken and an “all clear” was given.

The next day we made plans to visit the Army supply buildings in hopes of getting some additional fire retardant uniforms and boots for my teammates and interpreters.  A small group of my teammates decided to we had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  We walked toward the Rapid Field Initiative (RIF) and two burly civilian contractors were standing outside.  It seemed like they were guarding their facility and protecting the goods stored inside, hoping they wouldn’t have to issue out anything.  They directed me to go next door to the Central Issuing Facility (CIF) for assistance.

I was greeted cordially and signed in waiting to be serviced by one of their friendly customer service representatives.  The shelves behind them were stocked completely full of combat boots, winter items and everything that was on my wish list.  It was almost too good to be true.  But just as quickly as I started salivating at the thought of being issued these items, my daydreaming came to an abrupt end.  I did not have a proper Department of Army Form 1687 or an assumption of command letter (whatever that might be) and our supply sergeant was not with us [only because he is living with the ANA 2 provinces South from here].  I thought quickly on my feet and requested a blank DA Form.  I was certain in this base housing 20,000 people, I could find a colonel (O-6) who would feel pity on us and sign the form along with the other letter.  Here is how the conversation went:

Me:  Where can I get a blank DA Form 1687?

Contractor:  Wherever you can find a computer.

Me:  [Looking perplexed and staring at 2 computers in the facility and one directly in front of the contractor] Could you print me one out?

Contractor:  I don’t know how to access them.  You need to find your supply sergeant; they will provide you the proper documentation and then it will be input into our database.  Unless your name is in the database, we aren’t allowed to issue anything to you.

Contractor: [after observing my sense of disgust and frustration]  I feel so sorry for you soldiers, they come in here all the time with holes in their boots and torn uniforms and we cannot help them either without the proper documentation.

I am totally BAF-f-l-e-d!!!  Now I understand how my ANA counterparts feel since they have adopted the antiquated Army system for logistics.  Yet every day we prod them to have faith in the system.  I am so glad they weren’t there to witness this event.  Feeling dejected, my teammates and I left the facility.

After our experience at the CIF, we decided to visit the PX and stock up on some toiletries since we don’t have a camp store or PX at our camp.  Afterward we would eat chicken at Popeye’s or a whopper at Burger King.  I quickly found my items and noticed the checkout lines stretched to the back end of the store, but appeared to be moving rather quickly.  I was 5 people away from the register when the computers went down.  Surely this can’t be happening, but it was.  After waiting 15 minutes I inquired whether it was possible to take cash.  The employee informed me this wasn’t possible and to be patient because the servers were being rebooted.

By now my appetite was growing and I was looking forward to some Popeye’s chicken.  Normally the waiting line is usually long but today it was rather short.  The closer I got, I noticed a small sign informing the patrons they only had spicy chicken.  I figured this was better than nothing despite not being fond of spicy chicken.  I was 2 people away from ordering when the employee informed the line, they were out of chicken.  So off I went in a half-sprint to Burger King.  The line was rather long, but the thought of sinking my teeth into a Whopper helped contain my growing impatience.  As I got closer to the Burger King trailer, I noticed a small piece of paper taped on the window in front of the cashier.  I also listened to the groans of the patrons who were ordering.  What did that little sign say?  I stepped out of line to read it.  Burger King was out of burgers!!! Surely this is a bad dream and I need to wake up.  But it wasn’t and the only thing on the menu was chicken sandwiches and spicy potato wedges.

Exhausted Navy Petty Officer.

Exhausted Navy Petty Officer.

My teammates and I sat down at a picnic table with our chicken sandwiches and spicy potato wedges.  Everyone was rather quiet.  We ate our food and then returned back to our transitory tent.

Later that night we decided to visit the PX again along with the USO and MWR facilities.  I made a decision to get a haircut.  I always feel better after getting a haircut and there wasn’t a waiting line.  I sat down in the barber’s chair and explained how I wanted my hair cut.  Apparently I was speaking in foreign tongues because it took him about 5 minutes to cut or buzz my hair.  Something was missing and I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I didn’t feel any better and it wasn’t until later that I saw see the botched up job the barber did.

"Motivational" toilet sign at BAFWe returned to the tents and were informed the MRAPs would be ready to go in the morning.  Everyone was smiling and looking forward to the sun rising in the morning.  I was still feeling itchy from my haircut and walked 155 paces to the shower houses.  I turned on the water and to the touch it felt luke-warm.  But I’m a patient person, so I waited another minute or two hoping the temperature would increase.  It didn’t and it was only fitting after this hellish day I would take a cold shower before going to bed.  I trekked another 155 paces over freshly laid shale in my flip-flops back to my tent and called it a night.

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