After 2 hours of driving and being bounced around on the Afghan highways like a ping-pong ball, we arrived at our destination. Originally we were planning to drive on to
BAF and then off-load the Humvees. But when we found out about the mountain of paperwork and coordination required to escort our ANA counterparts on the installation, we opted to off-load outside the base and drive them the remainder of the way. Our convoy pulled off the side of the road and established a security cordon while the ANA
and my teammates removed the chains and straps anchoring the vehicle to the trailer. Another teammate drove the Humvees off the ramp and the ANA departed back to camp.
We split into teams and were given different tasks to maximize our productivity and use of time at BAF. We were hoping (and praying) to get everything accomplished in one day, but packed an overnight pack just in case. The last thing we wanted to do was to spend a night at BAF. I went with the Brigade property book holder. He was trying to track down some missing equipment that was previously turned in and the accountability was not removed from the property book. On 3 occasions, the contractor for some strange reason would not reveal his location and instead said to call him when he arrived and only then would he provide his building number.
It was lunch time and a group of my teammates headed to the BAF food court. Before long these fast food outlets will disappear under General McChrystal’s policy. I decided to take my chance with Burger King. I tried not to get my hopes up too high and wondered if they would have burgers today. Surprise! They had burgers but were out
of chicken. The waiting line was rather long, but it was worth the wait. That Whopper tasted so good and the French fries were out of this world! I was tempted to order two but made a conscientious effort to watch my figure … lol. I gave up the chocolate chip cookie diet as it wasn’t working out too well.
While at the food court, a sign caught my attention and I did a double-take. It was a sticker on an electrical panel with the acronym SNABU or Situation Normal All BAF-fed up. This was so original and so fitting! Too bad I couldn’t find the source; otherwise, I might have bought several dozen and posted them throughout the base … lol. Another sign at BAF piqued my
interest too. It displayed Combat Parking Only. Even my Army teammates were scratching their heads trying to decipher the meaning.
My next task was to get a new ID card or Common Access Card (CAC). The magnetic strip on the back has slowly chipped off and will not operate in a CAC card reader. As such, I’m unable to access certain military web sites and needed a new one. I tried to anticipate what could go wrong and prepared myself accordingly. I located their office and followed the signs that said Passport and ID cards. At the customer service door, there were two signs that stood out. The first one is Passports are no longer being processed here. Whew! Thank goodness I didn’t require a passport. The second sign caused me distress. Two forms of picture ID were required and referenced AFI 3026. Being Air Force, I knew that there was no such Air Force Instruction (AFI) because they are sequenced in series and it was missing the series reference. But then panic set in, I wasn’t sure I had 2 forms of picture ID on my person.
What was the logic behind having 2 picture forms of ID to get my military picture ID renewed? Could it be the picture ID on my valid CAC card was that of an impostor? Did I really drive 2 hours to be rejected because I couldn’t provide another picture ID to prove that the person on the government CAC card was really me? Then it donned on me, prior to my deployment I went home to Pennsylvania and opted to get a photograph driver’s license. For 26 years my license has been valid without a photograph. Now the only question that remained, did I remember to put the license in my wallet? I slowly opened my wallet and pulled out my credit cards and other plastic cards filling my wallet. It wasn’t there. A large lump started forming in my throat. Then I started frantically searching all the hidden compartments in my wallet. As I searched the plastic holders I started to become agitated. This wasn’t an Army requirement; this was a inane Air Force requirement. If I couldn’t produce another picture ID, was there an alternative? Perhaps a letter signed by a colonel on letterhead with the proper color ink and precise thickness of paper would be sufficient validation. But what if I couldn’t prove who I really was. I had to prove my existence in a Psychology class, but this was a different set of circumstances. While these thoughts raced through my head, I suddenly recognized the Pennsylvania colors outlining the license. Hooray! This license picture proves the photo on the government CAC is really me! The pictures looked very similar and unless these administrative clerks are forensic experts, they shouldn’t dispute the likeness or authenticity of the pictures.
The office had three technicians in it. Two of them were Air Force and the other was Army. The Army female would process my new ID. Meanwhile I pointed out the error on the sign posted on the door. The female A1C was very receptive and looked up the proper reference and I was correct. The proper reference is AFI 36-3026. I waited until the Army technician processed my card before pointing out the error. I didn’t want to jeopardize my chances of not being issued a new CAC card.
While this transpired, my teammates searched through paperwork and compared serial numbers for a lost antenna belonging to a GPS tracking system. It was on the vehicle and functional when we initially turned it in last year, but the accountability still remained on the property book. So now we had to find the paperwork or the antenna. After combing through pages and pages of paperwork for 900 vehicles, the document could not be located. Half a dozen conexes were searched to no avail. The only resort left was to search 9 acres of land containing Humvees, MRAPs, and other vehicles to find the original vehicle that was turned in. After several hours of looking at every Humvee in this make-shift parking lot, the vehicle was found. But to great dismay the antenna was mysteriously removed and now an Army Financial Liability Investigations of Property Loss (FLIPL) will have to be initiated.
Although it was a bitter disappointment, if we hurried, we could still leave BAF without staying the night. By now the wind and the dust storms really picked up. We were
hoping this was just isolated to the BAF installation, but would soon find out how bad the dust can blow in Afghanistan. We departed BAF and the personnel in my MRAP left out
a cheer. It was back to the potholed road and now we had to deal with limited visibility due to the swirling dust. For several miles we crept along avoiding on-coming traffic. But there were several moments that made our butt cheeks pucker because the dust completely blocked our view. It was like a white-out, but instead of snow, it was small particles of dust and dirt.
We finally made it through the dust clouds and our next destination was Camp Phoenix. We picked up two female Airmen who hitched a ride with our patrol. The sun was quickly setting and the plan was to drop them off and then return to our camp. At the main gate, the guards were asking everyone for ID cards. This was a brand new unannounced policy. Meanwhile the local traffic is backing up outside the gate including our MRAPs. This wasn’t a good feeling because this gate has been attacked by suicide vehicle IED bombers on several occasions. It’s also not very good COIN because the traffic is blocked and the local citizens resent being blocked unnecessarily by military vehicles. The guard’s solution was to drop off the interpreter, fill out some paperwork, track down a contractor to verify my interpreter’s identity and then come back to the gate and initiate a temporary pass. I only wanted to be on the base for 5 minutes and then leave. The verification process could take hours depending on the availability of the contractor. I suggested the guards back me up in reverse and I would wait for my team outside on the highway. But this wasn’t feasible because other military vehicles were behind me and I couldn’t go in reverse. My interpreter provided the best solution. He departed the vehicle and flagged down a taxi to go home.
We finally returned to camp around 7:30 pm and called it a day and a night.