Our team leader received the call and was directed to stop everything and prepare for a new mission. Our new mission was a contentious subject and revolved around re-certification on the crew serve weapons. We were in disbelief. Apparently our previous instruction by an Army weapons specialist was insufficient. This time we were going to get it right by attending a class taught by Air Force instructors. So we canceled our planned missions, packed our bags and headed towards Camp Phoenix. The picture of the stoplight counting down the seconds is the only stop light I know of in the entire city of Kabul. The city was already bustling with traffic and people were shopping in the crowded markets.
We arrived at Camp Phoenix and checked into our new accommodations. The building was a hardened shelter and the roof resembled a cylinder cut in half. These facilities have been nicknamed the “domes”. The domes were partitioned with about 80 metal bunk beds in each part. It’s always a joy to sleep in a room with 50 grown
smelly snoring men. Not! But it beats sleeping on a cot. At night it sounded like a bad chorus of out of tune crooners caused by excessive snoring and squeaky beds.
The first day of class was academic instruction for the M-240 machine gun. We learned about the lethality and how far a bullet travels from this weapon. Then we discussed the functions
of every knob, lever, bolt, and pin on the weapon. Then the real fun begin. We had to disassemble the weapon and reassemble the weapon and name the parts as we went along. After everyone was proficient, we discussed the various types of ammunition and loading, reloading, clearing, and immediate action for malfunctions and stoppages. Tomorrow we would be evaluated and timed.
After class, the AF Capt and I walked through the small bazaar established on Camp Phoenix. These shops give soldiers an opportunity to buy rugs, jewelry, CDs, holsters, silk scarves and other memorabilia to take up more space on the shelves and coffee tables in their homes in the States. The
Captain and I found a rug store and the owner educated us on the different type of Persian rugs, Chinese made rugs, and how to differentiate the quality by looking at the back side and ascertaining the number of knots and the diameter of them. My Captain was being impulsive and really wanted a buy a rug for his wife. So after looking
at a dozen rugs, he picked out two he felt would match his home décor and meets his wife’s approval. I’m a little bit more patient and Mrs. Temple likes to see photographs before giving me the nod. I personally like big tiger and lion patterns, but my better half insists on those being displayed in a den or guest bedroom. I suppose she’s right…lol.
Day two: The instructor had a digital stop watch and we were allowed 4 minutes to disassemble and 4 minutes to reassemble including the spare barrels. We also had to demonstrate our proficiency in loading, clearing, and correcting malfunctions. In the past 4 ½ months my ETT team has become proficient in these skills since we are constantly cleaning the weapons and
training on them. So it was no surprise that everyone passed. I struggled with some of the spring loaded pins and had the slowest time. Our young Airman surprised everyone by assembling the weapon in one minute flat.
Later that night, I was interviewed by WFLA 970 AM in Tampa concerning the school supply project. My wife
informed me that we have additional drop-off points and more participation. My teammate’s wife just sent 25 boxes of school supplies. She is just as energetic as her AF (S)MSgt husband. I am still amazed at the continuing responses we are receiving for this project.
Day Three: Today we would be instructed
on the M2 or more commonly known as the .50 caliber machine gun. This weapon has a maximum range of 6800 meters. The instruction was very similar to the M-240 machine gun, except we didn’t have to repeat the academic portion of respect to weapon, respect to target, flanking, oblique, sweeping or traversing. Although we did focus on
head spacing and timing so the weapon would fire properly.
Since we didn’t have to repeat the long academic portion, this worked in our favor and allowed us to take a long lunch break and visit the bazaar area. Unlike the small bazaar on the post, every Friday the local merchants are allowed to come here and set up their kiosks and
hawk their wares. I estimated at least 50 kiosk booths. The vendors were selling rugs, jewelry, fur coats, knives, knock-off watches and counterfeit name-brand sunglasses. There were also silk scarves and copyrighted CDs. All of the merchants spoke broken English and their favorite phrase was “How are you my friend, special price
for you”. One merchant caught my attention with his display of wood burning art and wood carvings. These artists were able to duplicate a photograph by transforming it onto a piece of wood.
I tagged along with my AF Capt and we must have looked at a thousand watches before he decided not to
purchase any of them. The vendors had fake Rolexes, Tags, Omegas and Gucci on display for the low price of $25-$80. Of course the second hand on the Rolexes didn’t sweep and some of the brand names were misspelled. I guess this is why they call them fake..lol.
Tomorrow we will return to camp and I can’t wait to get back to my 7’ X 8’
cubicle. We still have to schedule a range day and qualify on shooting targets too. Cross off 4 more days on the calendar. In 2 months I will take my vacation time and I can’t wait to see my lovely wife.