Today was a bit exciting, a bit tense, and very tiring as I rode for the first time with my team outside the wire. (Meaning that I left the relative safety and comfort of Bagram to travel into the local community in Kapisa Province.)
We drove through the streets in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPS) stopping along the way to check on the status of projects our team is helping the community build. We visited a clinic, a school, a road, and a television station, all of which were under construction using local Afghans and our technical assistance.
I had never ridden in an MRAP before … they had them at Camp Atterbury, but we were trained using Hummers. MRAPs are much better at protecting us from IEDs, so we travel everywhere with them. The seats on an MRAP are hard as heck, so I was mad that I didn’t bring my pillow along for the ride.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous my first time out. After hearing about recent incidents, I think I’d be foolish to not be cautious. But after the first few stops, and after interacting with the children in the area, my nervousness subsided (although I always kept both eyes open and my hand on my weapons,) and I was able to try to take in the scenery. The country really is beautiful, despite its problems.
I saw interesting things, like the decoration of “jingle trucks.” (These are trucks that are painted with extravagant markings to draw attention to them and ward off bad luck.) I saw sad things, like poor families begging us for water or food. I saw scary things, like the crater left from an IED explosion that killed US servicemembers a few weeks ago. And I saw wondrous things, like the mountains of the ‘stan, reaching into the sky reflecting all four seasons in one view. Some mountains had snow, others were barren and desolate, while others had lush green foilage and water streaming all over. It was sad to think about the bad guys using this environment to plot their activities.
To see some pics from my journey today, visit the Afghanistan pics link in the photos page. I also took lots of video (with my V.I.O. shoulder-mounted camera, in the pic above.) As soon as I figure out how to post it on this site, I’ll share some with you.
Regardless of the adventure, the day was long and tiring. I had woken up early to prepare, spent lots of time on my feet wearing “full battle rattle.” (That means all body armor, weaponry and ammunition … VERY heavy.) Not to mention, two cameras. My feet hurt after a while, so sometimes I would just sit in the safety (and air conditioning) of the MRAP while other members of my team visited a site. Once I returned, I went straight to the the chow hall, wolfed down some food, and then went straight to bed.
I commend previous PRTs … doing this for an entire deployment can certainly take a lot out of you.