Driving Afghan style

Pass 012It started out for what seemed would be a great day for a convoy mission.  The heavy-armored beasts (HMMVW) were loaded with our overnight packs; guns mounted accompanied by a ton of ammunition, radios checked, plenty of water and MREs to feast on.  The convoy commander gave the mission brief and we rolled out of the gate in single file.  The local villagers always gape as we pass by.  But I suppose after years of Soviet occupation and now the temporary presence of coalition forces, they are accustomed to seeing these metal goliaths with their mounted weapons of destruction.  Today our patrol would take us through a local pass.  Pass 002As you can see from the pictures, it’s rather scenic with a river located parallel to the highway snaking down through the canyon.  However, it seemed rather bizarre that traffic would be parked 2 rows wide on the side of the road for over a mile long and throngs of people, children, etc. were sitting on the side.  Perhaps this was a tourist location or something intriguing.  In a few moments we would find out first-hand what the spectacle was.  Pass 007The Afghan National Police armed with AK-47’s halted our convoy and explained that a fully loaded truck tried to pass through the tunnel and got stuck.  It would take about 6 hours to clear up the mess and the traffic.  This presented a small dilemma to our team.  Note:  The road we are traveling on is two- way traffic.  Coalition vehicles normally have the right-of-way and opposing traffic pulls off to leave the convoy through.
Where would we turn around and could we turn around is the thought I was pondering.  Pass 005I was one of the HMMVW drivers and knew this would put my driving skills to the test.  Unlike a normal vehicle, the HMMVW has blind spots and you rely on your teammates to help negotiate turns and guide you while backing up.  Miraculously, we found a small opening between the vehicles and relied on our gunners to guide us.  It wasn’t as hard as I thought and I made a 3-point turn.  Meanwhile, some of my teammates practiced an 8-point turn.  We made a decision to turn around and head back to camp.  The traffic as you can see in the pictures is pretty tight and one of my mirrors barely rubbed against that of a van which protruded out a little far into my driving lane.  I tried to keep 1-2 inches from the stone wall and dodged the opposing traffic with 1-2 inches of clearance.  Pass 008Some of the locals were happy to help direct our vehicles, so we wouldn’t damage theirs.  It was amazing how some of the bystanders sat stoically on the stone wall as our vehicles would pass inches from their noses.  I suppose they had faith in our driving abilities….or….”In Shala”….God willing.  Basically it’s an appropriate response for everything….whatever will happen….will happen…..In Shala.  Oh well, mission scrubbed, we will have to reschedule it for a future date.
Pass 009Note the intrinsic hand-painted designs on the cargo trucks.  These mosaic designs are quite popular here and they are affectionately nicknamed “Jingle Trucks”.  I will have to do additional research to find out more about this common practice.


One Response

  1. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 05/27/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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