Before going to sleep, another heater was brought to our tent. The females found refuge in the ANA tent that were burning firewood and their tents were hot in comparison. In turn, we were given their heater stove. I also walked around the tent and sealed off all of the openings I could find to prevent the cold air from circulating through our sleeping quarters.
The next morning, we woke up and felt a difference in temperature. The outside temperature was warmer and the additional heater increased our ambient temperature by 5 degrees inside the tent. Before going to chow we shaved, showered, brushed our teeth, etc. The shower tent is a bit of ingenuity. The
water heater is rigged to the Humvee engine. Posted on the outside hygiene station are the instructions how to use it.
Before we went to the school to set up, we received intelligence of a possible suicide bomber with plans to disrupt our activities. Since the road leading up to the school was
narrow and heavily guarded, I expected the bomber to be a man dressed in a burqa. As a matter of precaution, everyone is searched by the ANA and ANP before entering the facility. Respecting the Afghan culture, female soldiers search the village females in a separate enclosed location.
Today the lines grew rather long and it was a
non-stop flow of people patiently waiting to see the doctor and be given some HA. While outside, I took some pictures of the villagers lining the road. Coincidentally, an elderly man was being transported by a wheelbarrow. The Army soldier told me to return inside due to the suicide
bomber threat and this patient would have to be searched thoroughly. Inside the hallways were lined full of people waiting by the pharmacy for their medicines and another line by the HA room. The Army Captain decided to empty his connex of HA and before long there was no standing room inside the HA center. Every customer was being
issued a wool blanket, clothing, socks, wind-up radio and a limited supply of children’s shoes. The Navy Petty Officer and I continuously pumped air into deflated soccer balls. On several occasions I would hand the soccer balls to the young boys just to see the expressions on their faces. They were too young to differentiate between a Muslim and an infidel. In their eyes, all they saw was a generous man handing
them a soccer ball.
I also noticed some repeat customers too. They were wearing different clothing today. The female medics made this same observation too. They grew suspicious when the women would not reveal their faces to them, even though they were in segregated privacy and no males would be able to see them. The local
ANP officers also visited. They would change out of their uniform and put on civilian clothes to appear like a villager. Some of these people returned 4-5 times. On a few occasions, I would stop them and question them with the aid of my interpreter. Others, I recognized and would take their HA voucher so they wouldn’t be issued anything.
Through our interpreters, we learned many of today’s visitors left early in the morning and walked a long distance to get here. A decision was made to stay open late and try to accommodate as many villagers until the medicines and HA run out. The suicide bomber threat never materialized. In my opinion, the villagers reached an agreement with
the Taliban so they could get free HA and not be attacked in the process. I’m also certain some of the extremists visited our site to gather intelligence along with receiving free HA items. This happens at every site we visit. But today and yesterday was a small victory. The insurgents tried to scare away the villagers by instilling fear and attacking our people and
location, yet that didn’t dissuade them from not visiting. Our best guess is we treated over 1300 patients and probably gave HA to about 1500-1800. Due to repeat visits from the same person, it was hard to keep a valid tally.
It was getting late in the day and the pharmacy ran out of powdered milk, children’s vitamins, and a variety of other
medications. The command was given to shut down the operation and load the remaining supplies on the back of a pick-up truck. My teammates were anxious to return to camp and rest.
After dinner I called for a team meeting to discuss our departure mission brief. But we also had a special surprise for the female AF Lt. Today was
her 27th birthday and we wanted to do something special for her. I managed to get a blue berry muffin from the chow hall and the Captain inserted a match stick to serve as a candle. Then he presented her a gift from the team. It was a traditional blue burqa commonly worn by Afghan women. On the trip down here, the Captain and I joked about doing this and we made it happen. This will be one birthday she will never forget and now she has a unique souvenir to remember it by.
Before we called it a night, the Army lit up the sky with some illumination rounds. I’m uncertain if someone saw movement in the mountains or they were just practicing. I also saw a few shooting stars streak through the sky. A few nights ago, I had hoped to see the Leonid meteor shower, but it was too cold outside and I didn’t. This would be our last night in our refrigerator tent, because tomorrow we would start our trek back to our home camp.
Filed under: Missions | Tagged: Afghan National Army, Afghanistan, ANA, Charkh District Center, Deployment, ETT, HMMVW, humanitarian mission, Logar Province, multimedia, photography, Taliban, U.S. Air Force, VMO, war | 4 Comments »