After we inspected the serving line and dining tables, I wanted to focus more on sanitary conditions. I inquired whether bleach was used and if we could see a sample. The ANA Captain showed me the bottle of bleach they used. The decorative label had some catchy American name, but after closer examination I determined it was manufactured in Karachi, Pakistan. My wife will tell you that I am really sensitive to a strong bleach smell and it bothers me. But today my sensory receptacles just weren’t working or something was wrong. Note: Please don’t do this at home. I unscrewed the lid off the bottle and couldn’t detect any odor. This seemed very peculiar so I placed the bottle closer to my nostrils and still nothing. By now I have a curious audience and they watched as I placed the opening of the bottle next to my nose and inhaled. I detected a slight aroma of chlorine. The ANA Captain inquired through the interpreter so I handed him the bottle and he mimicked my actions. Where was the bleach? The AF SSgt smelled it and concluded until it was tested with litmus strips, we couldn’t be certain.
Our last stop was the dish and tray washing station. The Portuguese sergeant mentioned they would not follow his advice about washing the dishes. So I had to see the station with my own eyes. It wasn’t anything fancy. Inside a small room were two giant metal tubs and a water hose. According to the ANA captain the problem was lack of hot water. The Portuguese mentor insisted it was a process and the soldiers were not washing dishes during times of hot water. Well this curiosity led me to the boiler room. I was informed a hot water heater was installed specifically for the dishwater station. Upon further examination it was determined the piping connected to the entire DFAC. As a result, the hot water was consumed in a small amount of time. Perhaps this was the root cause of the food poisoning.
Although these past entries might read like a good mystery suspense novel, I’m not certain we will ever pinpoint the root cause of the sickness. The water source and unpasteurized items could also be the source. It didn’t take long for the word to disseminate and the Taliban exploited it on the Afghan Freedom Radio. The insurgents took credit for sabotaging the food. Although I haven’t ruled this out as a cause, I don’t give much weight to the enemy’s propaganda. Any one of the potential unsanitary conditions I depicted could have caused the sickness. Fortunately it wasn’t as serious as it could have been. The soldiers will just have to stay in the proximity of a restroom for the next day or so. The food samples were sent off to a lab for testing. For OPSEC reasons, I may not be able to divulge the findings.
On a positive note and as a result of our tour, our AF SSgt is going to be assigned to the Bakery and DFAC on a semi-permanent basis. I’m confident in his abilities and expect to see some great improvements in the near future. Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor will the ANA change their mindset or processes. Mentoring and adopting change is a slow methodical process.
It’s been a whole week since I’ve been out on a convoy mission. It feels rather strange to stay within the confines of the barbed wire. Today my team is out on a mission delivering a pallet of Meals-Ready-To-Eat (MRE) to the soldiers at a FOB. This will be a good opportunity for the newest members to familiarize themselves with part of our Area of Responsibility (AOR). I am currently working on some goodwill stories and hope to update my readers in the near future.