The Last Journey

Article #6  “Pushing Forward”


31 July 2010, Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, 1145 hrs, Saturday…The journey is beginning to take shape.  I left home in  Albuquerque, New Mexico, at 0430 hrs in the morning, Wednesday, July 21, 2010.  Today is ten days later and what seems like a million miles ago.  Bagram is where things for me begin to come into focus.  None of this could have happened without the help of the Army and Marine Public Affairs Offices.  Before I go one step further, it needs to be made known to all my readers that these particular offices in the military have absolutely gone above and beyond their calls of duty to assist me and educate me on everything pertaining to my embed.  It was my experiences in the past in Iraq with the same offices that made everything concerning my journey then a success.  I must commend them again for the hospitality they have shown me once again.  It makes me feel   comfortable within my being the respect and professionalism they constantly extend to me.  They are aware of who I am and what I’ve done and know a little about my personal story.  They also know why I do what it is I do.  I like having them always on the lookout for me.  I feel honored to be handled by them at all times.  They make my life on this journey very good.


In a little over twelve hours from now, I will depart Bagram for camp Salerno, via helicopter.  Salerno is a “no light at night” base.  I have a friend there whom I used to work on the flight line with in Balad, Iraq back in 2004, who told me via email this morning to be sure and bring a red light flash light for night.  What this means is, Salerno is subject to attack at all times and all precautions are taken to minimize any advantage the enemy may obtain.  Salerno is only my second to last stop before I arrive at my first embed location.  From there, I will head further into border region with Pakistan. 


This morning, I found myself getting up early to take a shower at around 0430 hrs.  It’s quiet at that time and it’s not crowded.  It also gives me a good start to the day.  I cleaned up, shaved, got my teeth flossed and generally just got things back into order hygenically speaking.  I also had time to do a final re-arrangement of my things so as to minimize clutter in my belongings.  I also went to the chow hall very early and had a great bowl of oatmeal with nuts and raisins as well as a couple of glasses of cranberry juice.  I then was able to have time to go to the MWR facility and catch up on emails and send a few emails stateside to keep everyone abreast of what’s going on.  Then, I came over to the PAO offices and began to chat with the folks there.  This became my most productive day yet on the journey. 


I met a man there who is from this country and works in the office with the media folks.  His name is called, “Walli” and he is 30-years old.  I began to speak to him within close proximity of a large map of Afghanistan.  He told me where he is from and where he was born.  His English is excellent.  I asked him many questions about his country relating to agriculture and language.  He began to open up rapidly when he realized my sincere interest in his country.  As I sipped on my cup of black coffee, I inquire about the production of pomegrantes in his country and he readily became excited and told me where they are grown.  Then I asked about pistachios and once again he became excited and pointed on the map where these things are grown.  And then I asked about the raging rivers and the mountains and more about growing things.  He got more excited as did I and once again I realized that I had come to this land to see much more than meets the eye.  It looks so much like New Mexico yet the mountains that I can see are much larger.  Much, much bigger.  It is going to be an exciting journey. 


Then, as the PAO folks began to see how I am with people they started showing me what is going on in Afghanistan relating to agriculture.  I was told of the ADT (agribusiness development teams) which is operated by National Guard units and is dedicated to increasing the properity of Afghanistan by agricultural means.  It facinated me right from the get-go.  One of the PAO’s here then showed me some of his own photos and I was once again intrigued.  I’ve been wondering exactly how my third embed will take shape, but I am leaning towards at some point to go see this operation.  But as always, there is much more in the buffet before my eyes than I can fit on my small plate.  However, I defenitely want to see the agricultural side of this country.  Cannot come this far without seeing that.


In short, I’m ready.  I want to see where the fight is and then, what the battle is for.  So far, it is encouraging to see and hear from a local resident that hope has a chance to turn into reality.  I am most blessed to be an observer at this time.  We will see what next days have for me.  I will push forward now and not look back.  But, I will come back at some point in time and then I will push in a different direction.  First, I must go with the infantrymen of the 101st whom I know are working hard to give the folks in Afghanistan a chance to make it.  Then, I will go with the Marines in Helmund province who are battling it out daily for the same reasons.  After those two things are accomplished on my end, I will then go see the fruit of all this labor.  It’s a big task, but, I’m up for it.  If it’s going to be The Last Journey, then it has to be done well. 


Jim Spiri Last Journey