Southbound
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Friday, 12 February 2010 22:36

Kandahar | Day 5 –The best thing about flying somewhere is sitting in the terminal.

I’m not a very shy person and I have the ability to walk up to complete strangers and start talking to them. While I do enjoy being a hermit, when I’m in a terminal, all I see are stories surrounding me and all I have to do is find them.

Today, I had such an opportunity when Ken and I were sitting in the terminal at the Kabul International Airport. We were catching a flight to Kandahar. The terminal at Kabul is actually very nice, they even have a little coffee shop were I can load myself up on the most powerfull energy drink.

Off I went, who could I talk to this time? There were all types of people sitting around

from all types of different places. I could have chosen a Marine, a Sailor, Soldier, Airmen or civilians. I could have picked someone from Germany, Netherlands, the United States or even Australia.

I ended up talking with an F-16 pilot from the Netherlands, who talked about his experiences training against F-15E aircraft from my home base, RAF Lakenheath, England. The E-model F-15s are the U.S. Air Force air-to-ground bad boys you see weapons system video of on the nightly news. The video’s showing smart bombs being sent through a specific window. The Netherlands pilot was saying he kicked my pilots butt because his smaller aircraft made a smaller radar signiture so he could get in close… I’ll ask some of the pilots at home whether this is true or not.

Then I met a retired Army Special Forces soldier. His name was Erl Wemple. He told Ken and me all types of great stories. It really astonishes me to meet people like this, he retired from the Army after serving in Vietnam and a bunch of other countries I can’t tell you about because I’m afraid he’ll hunt me down, and now he has spent more than 4.5 years in Afghanistan mentoring the Afghans on intelligence. It’s incredible how much of a person’s life they can dedicate to their country and the freedom of others.

We told him all about the mission we were on to tell of you the Afghan story, and we mentioned how we’re still learning about the bredth of what counter insurgency means, and he said something very interesting. He said “We’ll never win this if we don’t get out from behind our T-Walls.” T-walls are these massive concrete walls they make to line everything from tents to bathrooms here.

It’s such a simple concept really, I know how easy it could be in places like Kabul, but would it be p ossible in Southern Afghanistan? I don’t know, but Ken and I will try and find out.

I’ll side track here a bit to explain something really personal, which I promise will tie in. Before I came to Afghanistan, I really didn’t know much about it. When I watched television, all I saw was Iraq and when I read the papers Afghanistan was a small box at the bottom of the page with a running counter of how many have died here. As I look back on those times, and really think about what I did see, I remember hearing all the time about how Afghanistan was the U.S.’s next Vietnam. So I asked Mr. Wemple.

He explained simpley, that Afghanistan is like no other conflict. It can’t be compared. There are so many different variables involved that’s it’s too complex to wrap up in comparisons. I thought about it and I really don’t see any substantial reason to compare wars, conflicts or counter insurgencies with one another. If too many people start comparing and contrasting this war and that war, it might twist their view of the current situation.

Soon after our conversation ended, the call came to board. Ken and I flew down here on an Australian C-130. These aircraft are the transportation backbone for much of the country. They can land almost anywhere and carry a great deal of supplies and equipment, and Ken and me on occasion.

People’s safety is important in Afghanistan, sometimes it seems like the various Air Forces here don’t care about that when they “land” it’s more like your on a roller coaster. Landing can be a pretty scary business here.  These mamoth aircraft S-turning, swaying, going up and down. If NASA ever wants to save some money on zero gravity training for their astronauts, send them over here and fly them on a C-130. The amount of aerial acrobatics these massive machines can do at relatively low speeds is incredible. But alas, the Air Forces aren’t trying to kill you, they’re doing this to make the aircraft that much harder to hit with rocket propelled grenades.

So here we are, sitting in Kandahar. I’m not sure if we’ve explained how a lot of this project is working, but we’re basically coordinating with the regional commands and then showing up. We don’t really have any specific schedule other than the fact we want to tell the Afghanistan story. It’s a very different concept than what the military is used to. This is the first time I’ve covered experiences versus an event of some sort. So the short answer is we have no idea what will happen tomorrow. When we wake up, we’re going for a walk and we’re going to talk with people. So if you have anything you want us to find out, please don’t hesitate to ask. I still have a lot of pages in my notebook to fill up with your questions.

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Comments (11)add comment
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Bryan Bouchard said:

Deputy PAO, Kadena AB, Okinawa, JP
Hey guys, just wanted to pass on my thanks... you're doing a helluva job and I'm enjoying every post. This is the most innovative, proactive endeavor I've seen from our career field in 15 years. Keep up the good work and keep your heads down.
 
February 14, 2010
Votes: +0

Carmen Read said:

Scheduling
Hi Ken,
Thanks for addressing the scheduling issue; I suspected as much. If you could continue to ask the sort of questions I included on day two throughout the country I would really appreciate it. You are doing great work!
 
February 14, 2010
Votes: +0

Bill Moore said:

Disabled Veteran Air Force
Thanks for your service -
Chairman of the Board-Operation Homefront New England-provides emergency assistance and morale for our troops, the families they leave behind, and for the wounded warriors when they return home. http://www.operationhomefront....fault.aspx
 
February 14, 2010
Votes: +0

Haole Wahine said:

...
As you make your way around Afghanistan and the regional commands, ask and look for any pictures of Afghanistan from before the Soviet Union. Afghanistan has been so ravaged, and the pictures everyone see are so bleak, I believe no one believes anything can be made of it. The area around the damaged canals are said to have been lush and produced fruits and vegetables prized through out the middle east -- as far as Delhi. Kabul is said to have had beautiful parks, gardens, trees, and home gardens. Just a suggestion. Take care, and enjoy the experience.
 
February 14, 2010
Votes: +1

Barbara said:

...
Be sure and let the troops know you all can sign up for care packages at www.give2thetroops.org We represent donors and volunteers from all across America who want to show you our appreciation for your bravery and sacrifices, and surround you with support. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of the citizens of that country, and showing the bad guys they will not win!
 
February 13, 2010
Votes: +0

Julie said:

KAF
Go find the Canadians! The CHFA just returned from Bastion, talk to them about their experiences with the start of that mission.

You are doing a great job!
 
February 13, 2010
Votes: +0

Brian Hannon said:

...
Nice to be able to share some of the mission with the creation of this web site. Isn't technology amazing. May all the soldiers who are their in Afghanistan trying to make a better life for others, be safe from harm and return to their families who love them and are proud of the sacrifices they are experiencing.
 
February 13, 2010
Votes: -1

NANCY HERZER 2 said:

poisoning the people
Taliban says we are using depleted uranium in our weapons. Not true. They are selling uranium, mining it without protection, letting the run-off pollute the waters, and blaming the illness and birth defects on NATO.
Russians also mined w/o safety measures, birth defects go back to the 70's, but we didn't have www. then. Look deeper.smilies/cool.gif
 
February 13, 2010
Votes: +0

NANCY HERZER 2 said:

...
Afghanistan
General
Illegal uranium mining in Afghanistan unabated
Smugglers and unscrupulous elements are busy illegally excavating mines to plunder Afghanistan's uranium and gold reserves in Kohistan district of the northern Faryab province.
Officials and residents charged on Sep. 7, 2005, the uranium brought huge windfalls to the unauthorized excavators.
Officials at the Ministry of Mines and Industries admitted "irresponsible elements" were digging the site for precious metals. They said they were trying to prevent as soon as possible the brazen plunder of the assets belonging to the Afghan government and people.
A Kohistan-based mineral expert told Pajhwok Afghan News rapacious men, with no expertise and equipment, dug out large quantities of prized metals including uranium, gold, copper, lead and azure.
The glowing stones, often mishandled by the callow men, were smuggled to an unknown location, alleged Eng. Khan Mirza, who deplored the massive reserves were being exploited in a non-professional way.
The brazen practice was rampant during previous governments as well, he said while stressing an early end to what he called a loss of impoverished Afghanistan's abundant mineral resources.
Tucked away in the jagged Hindukush mountain range, Siku mines are situated 148 kilometres southeast of the provincial capital city of Maimana. (Pajhwok Afghan News/Asia Pulse, Sept 9, 2005)
 
February 13, 2010
Votes: +0

NANCY HERZER said:

...
be careful in Kandahar. The minds of the Afghans have been polluted, and so many of the population are actually Pakistani, Iraqi, Irani.
be careful.smilies/cry.gif
 
February 13, 2010
Votes: +0
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