Arrival into theater
Friday, December 7, 2012 @ 0951
KAIA Kabul Airfield, Kabul, Afghanistan
Continued from pt 1
In order for a civilian to get into KAIA, he or she must have an escort; this includes those who have Invitational Travel Orders authorizing entrance into U.S. and NATO bases. I stood patiently outside Abby Gate, trying to engage in small talk with a group of Hungarian Soldiers manning the Entry Control Point (ECP) who, from what I eventually gathered, didn't speak a lick of english. My PAO, SSG Tejada, arrived at the gate minutes later. Greetings were exchanged, my orders were scanned, then we proceeded past the ECP and into the base for further screening. Tejada took me to a security control point manned by, once again, more Hungarian Soldiers. I went through the entire gamut: retina scan, baggage scan, passport and orders check, etc. Things got wierd for a moment when I was told to empty my ruck sack. Apparently, when looking at the scanner, it appeared as if I was smuggling eggs. I wish I was making this stuff up. One of the sentries kept pointing to by bag saying, "eggs, eggs" and gesturing for me to empty its contents. After pulling everything out, we figured out the misunderstanding. Oval shaped pads line the inside of my helmet. My helmet was stored inside of my ruck sack. Those pads looked like eggs. We laughed, and then we moved on. I kept thinking to myself, "Never mind my sharp ass pencils or the kneaded eraser that could have easily been mistaken for plastic explosives."
Once I was no longer deemed a security threat, Tejada took me around the base in his truck, showing me where my living quarters were, the chow hall, and the airfield that I'll be flying out of. I was then given a rack space in the transient barracks. The barracks were predominantly occupied by, you guessed it, Hungarian Soldiers.
It's the next day and now I sit in the lobby of the transient barracks waiting for my noon flight into Camp Bastian/Camp Leatherneck. From there I'll push out to 3rd Battalion 9th Marines, the unit that I'll be embedding with.
Saturday, December 8, 2012 @ 0350
Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Prov., Afghanistan
So, my 1200 flight out of Kabul was postponed to 2030 yesterday evening. I ended up stowing my gear on one of the storage shelves next to the airfield, and then I walked over to the Morale, Welfare, Recreation (MWR) center to kill some time. I made every effort to sleep, but time still seemed to drag. In the military, one usually has platoon-mates to keep him/her company. In my case, it was simply just a man and his thoughts. I made my way to the airfield about an hour early where I bumped into Alex and Gene, whom I met earlier while waiting for our flight. Both gentlemen are prior service and are instructors for the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA). We became friends fast. The two of them were hoping to Space-A to Camp Bastion. There were extra seats available on the bird and we were all able to make our flight south aboard a British C-130J.
The flight was brief, and we ended up landing in Bastion right after midnight. We made our way off the flight line and to baggage retrieval where I was met by my PAO, 1st Lt. Lindsay Pirek, who was responsible for piecing together my embed. She was happy that I packed light (one rucksack, one small tactical pack) and told me to stuff my gear in the back of her white government van. While in the vehicle, Lt. Pirek informed me that 3/9 had plans for me and had taken into consideration my previous combat experience as an 0311. I was going to get moved around often with the possibility of getting in on joint patrols with our Afghan partners. Aware that the unofficial fighting season was over with, the chances of me getting to see much combat was minimal. Minutes later, I was dropped off in front of the media tent where I would sleep for the evening.
I push out later this evening at 1930 to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Geronimo. Lt. Pirek will meet me outside of my tent, with all of my gear, at 1600. In the meantime, I'm free to do whatever. Right now, I'm sharing this tent with a reporter from the British Broadcasting Channel (BBC), who I've yet to meet.