Monthly Archives: April 2009

How to House Those New 17,000 Troops

As we know, President Obama has committed to expanding the US troop presence here in Afghanistan. Where to put them all? The Army and Air Force have been pondering this situation for some time now and they have developed some ready-deployment packages in kit form.

Force Provider (FP) is the Army program. Harvest Falcon is the Air Force program.

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And NATO Begat …

The local wiring diagram may be of interest to some readers, so I’ll try to explain, and provide some links for further reading.

In the beginning was NATO. And NATO begat …
Joint Forces Command (North) at Brunssun, Netherlands begat …
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) at Kabul, Afghanistan begat …
Regional Command (South) (RC(S)) in Kandahar begat …
Kandahar Air Field (KAF) which is the Base Commander function.

Meanwhile, NATO also needed logistics support, so begat …
NAMSA in Capellen begat …
NAMSA field office in Kandahar, who have contracted for our support.

Speaking of Coco

So now that you know what the entire rest of our local troops are wearing, you may be curious, Dear Reader, as to what I’m wearing myself.

First of all, of course, are the desert combat boots. The roads are are very rough, deeply rutted, and a very large gravel (golf ball or hens egg sized) is used, so having a very stiff sole is terribly helpful. Finding them in my size was a real challenge, and I truly wish they were easier to put on and take off. Notwithstanding, they are lightweight and quite comfortable.

The company has provided two polo shirts in company colors, embroidered with the company crest. So I wear these when I am on “official business” type tasks, such as conducting audits. I also brought a couple Travelsmith tropical shirts, which are proving very comfortable in the heat. Alas, these are no longer being carried by Travelsmith.

I brought two sorts of trousers: a sturdy tactical pant which is on the warm side but which can stand the industrial laundry, and a much lighter weight Tilley pant which is very comfortable in the heat but which requires I make a trip to the laundromat. The Tilley pants are so light and comfortable in the heat that I’ve ordered shorts as well.

I have  a Tilley hat, of course. The wide brim is essential in this land of no shade.

And sunglasses. And 80-weight sunscreen (yes! I found that in Seattle! Can you imagine??).

Sunday Service at KAF

There is a small wooden chapel here, built in the distinctive board-and-batten pattern I’ve seen on other buildings constructed by the Navy SeaBees (Construction Battalions). It has hand-stained glass, a small steeple, and seats probably 120. There is a small flower garden (the only garden on post) out front, with Dutch iris and roses.

A number of services are on offer of a Sunday: Slovak Catholic, Roman Catholic, “Generation NeXT” (which the chapel NCO described as mostly Southern Baptist), Canadian (which the NCO described as much the same except bilingual in English and French), and UK. So I went to the UK service.

An RAF Lieutenant-Colonel equivalent (Methodist) officiated with triumphalist verve, and the sermon was delivered on the only text that was read, Psalm 40, by a Chaplain (Captain) from one of the large Scottish units currently onboard. At least the 25 attending all circled up in standard Grace fashion to receive communion.

To Market, To Market

Saturday is Market Day here at KAF, threat conditions permitting. So I went to see. This is an enclave at one of the corner gates, with perhaps 50 vendors, each in a stall maybe 10 foot by 12 foot. All sorts of merchandise was on offer: copies of CDs and DVDs, knockoffs of name brand watches and handbags, antique bronze items, unset gemstones, and an assortment of textiles.

Of course there were rugs. But the pashmina scarves really caught my eye. These were either rayon or a silk blend, very lightweight and finely woven, with elegant paisley prints and a knotted fringe. These are available in an rainbow of colors. This is a very different scarf from what we see in the States as a pashmina, which is a heavier wool blend fabric in a solid color. The going price is $2 each. I’m taking orders now! Please let me know whether you want jewel or tropical tones, and bright/pastel/subdued tints. I’ll see what I can gather up next Saturday.

There were other things that caught my eye. Lapis is apparently native in these parts, as I saw large chunks (larger than softballs) polished up (bookends? doorstops?) in addition to jewelry similar to what you see in the American Southwest.

There was a type of metalworking on offer too. I’m not sure exactly how these were created, but my guess is they are a brass hollowware, made in a relatively thin sheet (items were lightweight), enamelled in black, and then intricate designs (hand?) engraved through the enamelling so that the yellow brass design shows through the black ground. These items included vases and figurines in animal motifs.

I was just scouting, so I’ll be back next Saturday (water bottle in hand this time) for some more serious shopping.

Coco Chanel, Where Are You Now?

Since this is a NATO base, there are many nations with forces here, and so there is a panapoly of costume seen at meals. There’s the US Army, of course, in their all-season digital sage green fatigues. The US Air Force wears a slightly different pattern, a digital tiger-stripe with some bluish cast. The US Navy wears the older three-color desert pattern; this is also worn by the Dutch and the Hungarians. The US Marines are in their desert digital cammies. All the British forces are in the same pattern, a two-color dust-and-caramel brushstroke affair. The French have distinctive big brown stripes on an overall green pattern. The Germans have a brown-and-green digital speckle on a dust background, and the Danes use that same uniform too. The Canadian digital pattern is very similar to the USMC, except a shade lighter; of course their big red maple leaf is easy to spot. The Aussies are in spots. The belgians are in a lovely two-tone gold tiger stripe; a very subtle pattern. We also have Slovacks, Bulgarians, and UAE. I’m sure I’ve missed someone, but I think you get the picture.

That’s if they’re even in uniform; there’s quite a lot of going-about in PT uniform (service T-shirt and shorts). It’s common to see the PT uniform-plus-sidearm configuration as well. Only the US Army and US Air Force use this ensemble; the American sailors and Marines, not to mention the Brits and rest of the Euros, don’t.

Ring Around the DFAC

There are four Dining Facilities (DFac) here, all contractor operated. The American one is closest, European next, British third and Far East furthest. We can eat one breakfast a day at any location, one lunch, and one dinner — there is an electronic ration card we swipe, and the system keeps track. Much better than the transient-signin process!

Each DFac includes two (sometimes 3) complete serving lines (consisting of hot line, salad bar, hot and cold beverage bar, and dessert bar) as well as two short-order lines. Each DFac has a different menu, following their national theme, that changes daily. For example, the American short order line had hamburgers, hot dogs, and frech fries yesterday at lunch. The British facility offers baked beans and broiled tomates for breakfast. They also have a curry bar at lunch and dinner. The European facility had roast pork and potatoes for dinner, and the Far East short order line offers stir fry.

I’m very impressed with the tastiness and variety of the food offered, compared to Navy shipboard cooking, even for the officers. Granted, the food is served on paper plates with plastic utensils (saves water for washing dishes, and water use is critical here). But it beats was we had in the wardroom onboard ship.

I try to rotate around, eating at a different DFac for each meal; and I tend to favor the further ones, so that I can stretch my legs with the walk.