The Working Vacation:

So apparently these updates have moved to being a monthly occurrence now. But I have a good reason for being this absent. And that is a mission. We moved away from our home base to another air field and worked with another unit as a security detail for them. It was by far the best base we have been to yet.

Unlike our base, which is still recovering from the suicide vest attack last November, this place was a paradise for us. Better food, better laundry facilities, and a bazaar (kind of like an afghan farmer’s market) that was next door to everything. It made the mile walk to that side worth the trip.

Not going to lie here, but I actually had a boring time there. They wanted a full time tech support guy, so that’s what I did. Now that sounds good, but when nothing was malfunctioning (a rare occurrence for me) things got slow. Besides climbing on ladders and rooftops setting up antennas, the rest of the time was spent relaxing… and getting my favorite item: food.

My job has lots of unwritten responsibilities. The best way to describe it is that I’m kinda like the underpaid intern. I have a job, but I also do whatever the boss has me available to do. So I got the midnight food. The downside was that I was working nights. The upside? I got an amped up golf cart to drive to go help get the food. So it all worked out in the end, and I had more than one buddy pretend to be a helicopter door gunner as we cruised around the airfield. (Side note: I’m pretty sure that the airfield set a record for the umber of speed bumps you can put in a mile. Super annoying to drive and have to slow down every 15 seconds.)

We finished the mission and packed up to leave. The group we were working for loved having us, and we enjoyed the time we had there. Unfortunately, we had to spend an extra night due to “bad weather conditions.” So we stayed the night… and of course it started pouring in the morning. So we left in a rainstorm, after staying outside on the flight line in makeshift shelters for three hours, wet and cold. Couldn’t fly through clouds, but bad rain is a go. We landed in about half a foot of snow… in a snowstorm. Yup. Couldn’t fly when it was clear, but totally can in terrible conditions. I’m not complaining, just marveling at the logic of it all.

So yea. I haven’t seen this much snow since I left Washington two years ago. And I’m reminded of why I am moving to the south when I get out of the army in about a year. I hate the late winter/early spring look and feel of snow. Ice covered by a little snow just waiting to try and assassinate you. And the mud. Everywhere.

Well, as soon as things start to speed up I’ll try and post more. but before I sign off, I would like to thank all of you who have supported me in this adventure. Between care packages and notes of encouragement, I appreciate them all. I sleep better knowing that I have people behind me cheering me on. So thank you all.

36Romeo out, and God bless!

Welcome to 2017…

I know it has been a while since my last update, but there has not been much to report on. Christmas came and went. For those of you who sent care packages, thank you so much. I spent most of Christmas with a Santa tie and elf hat on. Definitely a good pick from the friend who sent that package.

The highlight of Christmas was being able to FaceTime my family as they opened gifts, including the ones I had shipped to their house. Sure the call was dropped about five times, but it was still a fun time. Unfortunately, I had to open my present early, but they were ok with that. Christmas meals were a very festive time. Lunch was local food, paid for by higher leadership. Afghans get two things right when it comes to food: rice and beef. The bread tastes amazing, if you can finish chewing it. It is a very hearty meal, however. Dinner was a different story. We ate at the local dining facility, where they had the place decorated to the rafters, and a live band playing. The food was good, but the biggest bummer was the music. Sitting through “Baby Got Back” as a Christmas rap was terrible, and I’m pretty sure I lost brain cells because of it. Needless to say, it was still a good time.

The days are spent working out, preparing classes to teach to my peers, and lots of coffee. A normal day will see me go through at least 2 cups in the morning, and another two cups after dinner. Thank God I bought way too many coffee filters. (If any of you guys need a care package idea, I’m always down to try new types of coffee.)

New Year’s Eve was a relaxing day. We completed our tasks and then started to relax for the evening. I decided to stay up late and welcome in the new year. I was about to go to bed, when Ahmed decided to welcome us to 2017 as well…with fireworks. Not the pretty kind either. So back to the bunkers we go, not even one hour into the new year. I sang Auld Lang Syne quietly to myself, chuckling about the irony of the situation. Needless to say I went straight to bed when the all clear was given.

The winter has also brought rain to our part of Afghanistan. However, the mountains that surround us are getting loads of snow dumped on them, and the view is breathtaking. The wind is still biting cold, but the views of the mountains it gives make it almost tolerable. The sunsets are stunning, if you are brave enough to face the cold and watch.

Well. Got some things on the horizon, so if you don’t hear from me, just know I’m probably doing nothing important and don’t have wifi. (Or it sucks. Not all that uncommon here.) The last thing i’m going to tuck into the end of this here is a new promotion. I’m excited I was chosen to be promoted early, but my career here is not defined by my rank. So for those of you wondering, I am now a specialist. Basically, I now have more responsibilities. Yay.

May the Father of all watch over you

Brandon

The Bigger Question

I was recently asked to answer the “why” question of why I do what I do. And they are right. I have spent a lot of time on the how and the what questions of life here in Afghanistan, but I never have answered the most important question, which is why. Why are we here? Why am I in this desolate wasteland of a country for nine months and missing holidays and other special events?

If you don’t have an answer for the why question for any action you do, the result is pointless. There has to be a purpose behind an action for it to matter. Brad Pitt in the movie Troy puts it this way. “I’ve told you how to fight, dear cousin. But I have not told you why you should fight.” The goal of this installment is to answer that question.

Imagine a sheep herder. He has a lot of sheep to look after. He loves his sheep and does everything he can to protect them. But he cannot do it all. For every time he turns his back to help some of the sheep, wolves with a ferocious appetite strike at the sheep he cannot pay attention to. The farmer, fed up with having his sheep killed for sport and terrorized by the wolves, goes and buys a sheepdog. Let’s make it a German shepherd. He trains the dog to protect the sheep, and to protect them to the end, even if that means laying down his life for those sheep. Protecting the sheep is the pride and joy of the dog. He has no quarrel with the sheep, and thinks of them all as his family. He looks out for them and protects them, and the sheep in turn enjoy no longer having to worry about the wolf coming in the night and terrorizing them. They sleep soundly at night while the dog keeps watch, listening, smelling, and watching for the wolf to come. And when the wolf does come, the dog steps up and challenges the wolf. They battle back and forth, until one of them is the winner and the other is dead.

That is why I am here. The American people are sheep. They are used to living their lives and do not care to be bothered with anything but their lives. I am speaking generally here. There are some who care about the well-being of others, and use their gifts to help their fellow sheep. The sheep need protecting. As a whole, they are defenseless against the wolves that linger at the door, waiting for night to come so that they can come and take what they want.

The wolf is obviously the enemy. The United States has always had enemies throughout our history. We have the most freedoms of any country in history, and some people do not like that and want to see us fall. The wolf right now is the radical Islamic terrorists who would rather see the whole world either converted to the Muslim tradition or dead for their infidelity. When asked why I put myself through the stress of the army and why I spend all this time training, it is because my job is peace. And sometimes, peace cannot be achieved without a sacrifice of men and a tidal wave of hero’s blood. That is why I am a sheepdog. I protect the sheep and chase the wolves. I keep watch in the night so you can sleep soundly and wake up free. But to provide this level of protection to you all, I must sacrifice. My desires, my goals, my body, and my time. It hurts me to not be able to drive home and spend the holidays with my family. To miss a birthday. To not be there to support my family as they live their lives. But I would do it all again because I love them. For those I love, I will sacrifice. And that is why I am here.

Holidays… On A Ping-Pong Table

Winter has fallen here in Afghanistan. The mountains that surround us from far off have received a nice layer of snow at their summits, making it seem more like the mountains of Colorado or Washington than the desert of the Middle East. The Sun is the only heat around here, and when tyhe clouds roll in or it sets behind these mighty mountains, the cold invades and changes the entire atmosphere.

Thanksgiving was a festive occasion for us. While we were on high alert, we did find time to enjoy ourselves and feast together. All of us sat around the table we put together, got out the folding chairs, and had the biggest meal of this deployment so far. The rest of the day was spent opening care packages from supporters back home and relaxing. It was a good day.

The next couple days were spent making sure our building was water proof, or at least water resistant. That meant sandbags. Lots of sandbags. For almost two days that was our only chore. Sure we had a lot of fun, but at the end of the day our building wasn’t going to be flooding anymore from the rain.

The next major event I can never live down. Mom, if you are reading this, I suggest you skip until the next paragraph. We cleaned out all the trash from where we stay. And we had a lot of trash. Like about five or six pickup trucks worth of trash. and it all had to fit in one dumpster. (Mom. I warned you. STOP READING!!) Anyhoo. Let’s just say that someone needed to push the debris around in there….and I kinda volunteered myself. Yea. I went dumpster diving in Afghanistan. Not exactly how I imagined my Thanksgiving weekend going down, but still. It happened.

(Mom, you can go ahead and start reading again here…) We train almost every day on various aspects of what it means to be an Infantryman. For me, I get to train the group of guys about my radios. (I call them my kids. They are mostly stuck up assholes but generally like me.) My official motto that I’ve given my position is “Always up. Never down.” (The unofficial one is “They’re up, they hear me, I’m down.” We sometimes have lots of technical issues.) But the point is that I can talk no matter what I have to do to fix it. That’s why I’m here.

With the holidays fast approaching, I ask that you take time to remember me and my fellow soldiers over here. I’m not asking for your sympathy or your pity. All I ask is that you take time to remember us and say thanks. And most of all, enjoy the time with your loved ones. Hold them close. Make very moment count. And sleep soundly at night, for me and my brothers stand guard, ready to do bad things to even worse people. Not for our sakes, (OK…maybe for just a little glory) but for yours. For we are sheepdogs, waiting for the wolf to come, and sniffing around for the things that go prowl in the dark.

That is all for now. Peace to you all!

36R out.

Pork Roast. In A Bunker

Well. Where to begin? Things have calmed down a lot over here since the last update. We’ve settled down the tempo for now, but we are always on our toes. One of the only constants are the mortar attacks. Usually around once a day, the sirens will go off, and we all sprint to a bunker until the all clear sounds and we can go back to our normal lives. It’s not the scariest thing in the world, but it still makes your heart beat faster every time it goes off.

However, just like everything in life, I somehow manage to find the humor in it all. The second most memorable rocket attack so far (The first will always be my buddy coming out with nothing but a towel on.) has got to be the night I ate dinner in a bunker. I was on my way back from getting food, carrying a full plate of food. I was about halfway back to my room and there was no bunker in sight. Let’s just say that when the siren went off, I kinda shuffled to get to the bunker, but was always mindful of the food. I was not gonna lose my dinner over a rocket. So I got to the bunker, and decided to eat, not wanting my pot roast to get cold. It honestly made the time go by quicker. By the time the all clear sounded, I was full, and the plate was gone. Quite a memorable experience.

The next night was a bit better. I had just finished eating, and was enjoying some dessert when the alarm sounded. I got up and moved toward the door. As I turned back for the dessert, the anti-rocket device next to our building went off with a loud “brrrrrtttttt”. That meant that the rocket was really close. There was no turning back. I forgot about the dessert and ran to the bunker. Thankfully no one was hurt, so that was a plus. But still. Ice cream isnt the same when it has the same consistency of a milkshake. Just saying.

Morale is very good here. We have three constants to our days aside from the rockets. First is chow. Three very excellent meals a day, and it’s practically next door. Not a bad set up if you ask me. The next is the gym. Since we haven’t heard of any missions in the near future, we have more than enough time to work out at least twice a day. I like it, and have come to enjoy hitting the gym. The last constant is the bonding time we have. Lots of movie nights with the guys of my squad, or just sitting around and talking about whatever comes to mind.

The chow hall has already gotten their thanksgiving decorations up. It is hard to believe that I will not be stateside for thanksgiving or Christmas for the first time in my entire life. But while I will be apart from my family over these holidays, I have my brothers here to spend these times with, and they have become as close to me as my family has.

Peace to you all!
36Romeo out

One Long Blur

My apologies for not being active for this last week or so. This have been so retardedly busy that I haven’t had time to collect my thoughts much. We hit the ground running. Well, more like sprinting trying to keep up with Usain Bolt at the 100m dash…

Five days being on one hour standby in a tent, trucks online, bags packed, and armor ready to be thrown on in minutes. The first two days were soley drills of how fast we could move, with the nights ending at around one in the morning. Five days of someone on a radio, ready to yell out the drill and watch as the entire platoon of us scrambled to get ready with them.

Attacks on this base are not the normal. However, the word must have gotten out that we had arrived, because in the first five days, we had to drop everything and run to bunkers at least twice. One was at night, and one of my friends was still showering. We all pile in and then we see him sprint to the bunker, holding his towel up and waddling in his shower shoes, hair still wet. Hands down the funniest moment of this deployment so far. (The next time it happened he was fully clothed.)

Then, the unthinkable happened. An insider threat on our base exploded, literally, killing quite a few and injuring many others. We sppnt a good part of that day waiting to go help, but never ended up moving. The base is still processing what happened, so things are very tense and security is tight here. Things will not be back to where they were at before this unspeakable act of terror happened.

We moved out of the “always ready to go” phase and got prepared for our first assigned mission. This time, it was for real, and we would be a long ways from our home base. The mission went fine, and no one was hurt or shot at, so overall I would call it a success. We now wait for more missions to follow. I’ll try to stay in touch, but do not be alarmed if you don’t hear from me for a few days.

Peace to you all!

36Romeo out.

Where’s The Oxygen Around Here?!?

Well. Finally in Afghanistan. This place is unlike any I have ever seen. The mountains that are easily visible from where we are at are the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. risingly majestically into the sky and showing the true beauty of this war torn country.

The living situation here is surprisingly nice. Enough space to feel comfy, but small enough where it feels like a small college dorm room. We moved in and slept for the night.

This morning here (like 10 or so hours ahead of the states) we ran a memorial 5k for some fallen soldiers we lost in 2005. So, not even having been in Afghanistan for 12 hours, we went on a run. There were prizes for the top finishers, so I decided to push myself. Not the best idea I’ve had…

Within the first half mile I felt the lack of oxygen in the air hit my lungs like a brick wall. Needless to say, the remainder of the time I was running, I felt like someone was slightly choking me. By the end of the race, I had finished first in my company again, and chalked up a third place finish in the battalion. So you can say that it was worth the pain. Then, the cold hit my lungs. It is November after all, and the weather here functions closer to my home state of Washington than Kentucky or Tennessee. I have never had a coughing attack after running, but the feeling is the absolute worst. Only time I have ever felt like that before was when I had a cold or some other respitory ailment. Not fun, but a reminder that things are going to be different here.

We got back and went to chow. As I have said multiple times, the food here is amazing, and I ate more than I probably should have. The only good part of this deployment so far has been the chow.

The desert here is crazy. the mornings are frigid cold, but by noon, it is as hot as any summer day. And as the sun sets behind the imposing mountains, the cold slowly seeps back in, like an unrelenting tide.

Well. Shit is going to get real here in the next few weeks. Do not be alarmed if you don’t hear from me. I am alive, just not in a position to talk. I promise I will return as soon as I am able.

Peace to you all!