Fobland
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Sunday, 14 February 2010 11:50

Kandahar | Day 6 – Fobbit or poge, either way is a term for those who never leave the wire. There are a great many here in Kandahar.

It’s actually quite painful for me to write those terms, because I know how many are grimacing right now reading them. The fact of the matter is it’s a part of military life and there are thousands of service members across this country who never get to experience half of what Ken and I have experienced in the last six days.

But the key to military operations is support. Although they never get to leave the wire, their work is critical. Without them, there is no operation. Examples are many, including me. I’ve been on five deployments, but this deployment is the first time I’ve ever left the wire. Other examples could be

finance or even a select few Joint Terminal Attack Controllers. Air Force JTACs are the guys fighting throughout Afghanistan who call in the air strikes. But sometimes, they too get stuck in the wire.

The one thing I’ve learned is it’s the position, not the job title that turns someone into a poge. I’ve seen almost every sort of job going out there and fighting the good fight, I’ve even heard of finance troops being out there.

Life on large FOBs is pretty comfortable. Here at Kandahar, they have everything from a hockey rink, to a massive base exchange, to Pizza Hut, Burger King and even a TGI Fridays. Some people live four to a room, and one guy I talked too has a large plasma screen television he plays Play Station 3 on every night. He has roommates, but they all have televisions and do the same thing. Granted, the lifespan of the these types of services is short, command will be closing much of it to make room for more essentials, reference Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall's commentary.

At every FOB I’ve been too, people work seven days a week and 12 hour shifts. They work, work, work, go to the gym, grab some food then go watch a movie. Life is different here because of the sand, showers and the massive dining facility they eat at, but they’re afforded similar opportunities here as they have at home. I’ve even seen college classrooms up at Bagram Air Field and a lot of times there will be karaoke nights and salsa dance classes. Since 1998 I’ve been trying to get myself to go to one, but I still haven’t.

I remember when I was way out in a little combat outpost, or COP, which was no more than a building outside of a village with some barbed wire, walls and towers protecting it. Soldiers slept about 12 to a room on these really scary and rocky bunk beds they built themselves. Soldiers are great soldiers, but they have some work to do on being good carpenters. I asked them about FOBS. During the discussion, they were all about teasing and harassing the poges stuck in the wire. Later, when I was heading to the FOB to catch a flight, all the soldiers going were really excited to go back to take hot showers, check their mail and go to the store to restock on snacks and essentials.

It occurred to me then, that although these massive FOBs take a lot of heat for the amount of niceties they have within their fence line, it’s not only for the fobbits or the poges, but it gives the guys out sleeping in holes a place to come back to. They act as mini-rest and relaxation centers for troops across Afghanistan.

As I was walking around looking for people to talk too, I came across one soldier with an unexpected job. His name is U.S. Army Specialist James Dutton, he’s from Checotah, Oklahoma and he fixes fire trucks. There’s more. He’s the only fire truck fixer in Southern Afghanistan, if that’s not enough, he even goes to some places in Western Afghanistan to fix them. I’m continually amazed by the number of different job types available in all of the militaries. Who would have ever thought about fire truck fixers in Afghanistan? Color me weird, but I was pretty excited to have met the only one in Southern Afghanistan.

Speaking of people, I went to the store today to pick up some supplies and the lady behind the teller machine was from Ethiopia. Then, as Ken and I were walking, we met a soldier from Jordan, but we weren’t able to talk to him due to the language barrier. I swear I need to keep a list of all the countries I meet people from. One of my favorite aspects of being in ISAF is the chance to meet all of these people.

While today wasn’t excitement and adventure, it gave Ken and me a chance to share a rather large part of military life, Fobland.

Tomorrow we have another day of exploring and talking; I’ll take some more pictures and try to talk with some of the other countries we didn’t get to today. I want to ask a lot of the questions that have been building up in the forums and ask some of the people, who never leave the base, about counter insurgency and this war means to them. I imagine it will be an interesting perspective, but that’s life in the wire.

	Day 5	Home 	Day 7
Comments (12)add comment
 1 2 > 

of no concern said:

...
to whoever said that people on kaf live in 20 to a person tents, or tents at all really must be referring to harvest falcon and south park as well as the rsoi tents by the px. those tents are for transitents, which means theyre only staying at kaf for a short time. i know because i lived in one of those 20 man tents, but for a short time. and yes the flood messed up alot of that area. but its being rebuilt. life on kaf is easy, plain and simple.

everytime ive been there, which i hate and is usally just so we can pick stuff up or fix something, its like the people on kaf forget about the war. its like a singles retreat there. the SGM said amusement park and he was spot on.
hard to beleive that they get the same extra pay for "hardship" when were outside the wire living in flea infested compounds, using holes we dug in the ground to do our buisness, eating mre/ugr's, and getting into firefights. whose life is a true "hardship?"
 
May 23, 2010
Votes: -1

Jordan said:

KAF Fobbit
I had the unfortunate experience of being a fobbit at KAF for about a month and a half before moving to a smaller FOB..... The best part was the Four Season's restaraunt set up by the Europeans! If you're ever going through there, get the bacon cheeseburger with the overeasy egg on it!!!!
 
February 24, 2010
Votes: +0

Rob said:

Sad but True
After living on a series of COPs and JSSs (Joint Security Stations) in NE Baghdad I understand how Fobbits and their family and friends might find this entry offensive. However, even though I KNOW the Soldiers and Airmen who served on these bases didn't chose to be there (in Iraq I am thinking about Taji, VBC, or the BIAP super-complex), the reality is that in comparison to those of us who lived in obscure bases in the middle of Baghdad they had it very easy! Through no fault of their own they had the choice of Pizza Hut, Subway, Popeye's The Green Bean, Taco Bell, and three KBR run DFACs while we had the choice between MRE meals and on some days pre-packaged turkey-like substance. They had hot showers every day - we had a cold shower once a week if we were lucky. They had salsa lessons and kareoke - we had cards. I don't think I am better than the soldiers who actually gained weight on their deployments, but to deny that some soldiers don't have the luxery to escape the war with far more comforts of home than others does not make sense.
 
February 24, 2010
Votes: +0

Nick said:

POGUE
Wow, I guess it takes a pogue to know a pogue. Get your story straight. Pogue.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogue

 
February 18, 2010
Votes: -1

Mom of Two Marines said:

POG ?
Isn't it "POG" ... for Position-Other-(than)-Grunt? I didn't realize it had to do with inside or outside the wire. My older son is infantry, and my youngest has an MOS in Motor T. My youngest son (allegedly a POG) actually turned out to be a machine gunner on a convoy, but his older brother still teases that he is a POG (even though he is outside the wire behind a 50-cal right now)

On a separate note, I agree with much of what Shaun has said. When my son is inside the wire, he is at a FOB that does NOT have fast foods, televisions or internet. I think that is very rare and limited to the very large bases, isn't it? He has had 3 "days off" (but not really) in 5 months. Regardless, I think this particular blog almost glamorizes what these guys have to endure out there. Thank you for at least awknowledging how important their jobs are and how hard they work. But I was also bothered by the tone of Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall's commentary, particularly when he said "This is a warzone – not an amusement park." I can understand the need to cut back on amenities to accommodate the troop increase, but the tone of his commentary made it sound as if these guys have it way too easy, and as if they asked for and/or demanded all of these small comforts of home.

Stay safe out there .... I look forward to your blogs / vlogs every day
 
February 17, 2010
Votes: +1

Shaun said:

Fobbiit / FOBland clarification
I take exception with your characterization of FOBland, particularly Kandahar AirField (KAF) and the idea that, "they’re afforded similar opportunities here as they have at home."
In no way are things in KAF as challenging as things are at a FOB or a COP (and I've been on each), but this particular phrase and sentiment does all of those serving at a large installation in a warzone a huge disservice. It is a gross mischaracterization. I can't begin to list the number of opportunities I, my Soldiers, and all of those serving here for a year or more (like the U.S. Soldiers) are missing. I am not, and no one I know is, asking for sympathy for these sacrifices, but mischaracterizing our service and sacrifice - and having that mischaracterization come from another service member - feels like a betrayal.
As for daily life . . . If I am not mistaken, KAF had a death from a rocket attack within the last 10 days. In the last 30 days, several people were injured by rocket attacks. And living conditions? Far from the characterization of the person you spoke to with the flatscreen TV and the PS3, more than 1500 servicemembers were recently displaced from the full tents - 20 people to a tent - they were living in due to a flood. And the only people I know who are living four to a room are field-grade officers - with a standard of 6 people to a 4-person room in hard structures and the majority of servicemembers living in tents. These are environmentally-controlled tents, but tents nonetheless.
I don't know who you talked to, but you painting a picture of Afghanistan or KAF 'in the large' through this pinhole perception is counterproductive in telling the story of the American service member. If that is not one of the aims of this endeavor - supporting the U.S. Servicemember - then how does misrepresenting the daily life of service members in KAF achieve your objectives?
I only hope in your haste with the rest of this blog that you take the time to represent the greater truths you see, so people can get a true idea of what things are like for the vast majority here, as opposed to the highlighting of outliers you have done with this post.
Good Luck with the rest of your journey and I hope you will actually attempt to see and convey the greater truths you are exposed to with this project so others can get a "real" idea of what life is like in Afghanistan.
 
February 16, 2010
Votes: +1

Clydene Blocker said:

...
Day 7 and you guys are doing great. I am so impressed with what you have been able to accomplsh, the peoples from other countries you have met, the soldiers you have spoken with. Impressed with the soldiers, what they are doing, what they have made do with and what they have done without. Versatility and strength in the ranks. Kandahar sounds like a completely different experience than up north. You made a small reference to the sand but not much more. Are you talking sand storms then? How about a little more info on the weather in these places? Is it extremely hot right now over there? Are there special forms of headdress worn for these sand storms? I know these seem like pretty basic questions, questions that may seem silly to all of you over there but from here, never having experienced a sand storm, I am a little curious about the measures taken to survive them. I also wonder about the internet capability. For the most part, would you say that morale is better since the men are able to contact their loved ones through the internet on a daily basis? Having had a father who fought World War II, and brothers who fought Vietnam, where letters were the ONLY form of communication and flaky at best, I can only begin to imagine the massive difference the internet has made to our soldiers overseas. Having been in situations where you have experienced the loss of contact with your loved ones and know the loss, can you see a difference in the men you interview who have access and the ones who do not?
 
February 15, 2010
Votes: +0

Carmen Read said:

...
I'm definitely jealous that you guys are getting outside the wire in such a significant way. This is my second time behind the wire and it can be hard some days to believe you are contributing in the same way, even though we all do. I am living vicariously through you until it is my turn!
 
February 15, 2010
Votes: +0

Jonathan Brou said:

What a coincidence
That's the second person from my home state, Oklahoma, that I've read about in Afghanistan. I am so unused to hearing about Oklahomans that it is always a pleasant surprise to see someone who is from here making a difference in the world.
 
February 15, 2010
Votes: +0

Jay said:

POGue
Its POGue...pogues.
 
February 14, 2010
Votes: +0
 1 2 > 

Write comment
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy