All photo’s and Website © 2012 JimSpiri.com, All Rights Reserved
March 29, 2012…Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan…Edi
is now in the rear view mirror. I am gone but the
mission goes on. In fact, as I sat in the helicopter that
would take me to Camp Dwyer, I saw the other
helicopters get a mission and the crews run out to the
aircrafts. That was a hard site to watch. I did not like
being in the one helicopter while the others were
leaving on mission. That is the pain I don't like to
encounter. The only solace I find is that all the others
who are actually doing the missions have to go
through it as well. Just don't look back.
On Sunday the 25th, there were a couple of missions.
I went on them. There was a Marine who was out on
patrol and ended up inhaling some toxic fumes while
searching the bad guys place. He was having much
difficulty breathing and we picked him up in the field
as the other Marines pulled security for the medevac.
Later, there was an ANA soldier that had broken his
leg and had an eye injury from an IED blast. He was
lucky. Usually a human does not win against an IED
with all his limbs intact. Those would be the last
missions I would do at Edi.
On Monday the 26th, some helicopters came on the supply route and
brought some new faces to the FOB. There was lots of juggling of old
items out and new items in. It took much longer than expected. I was
undetermined whether or not to catch the helicopters back to Dwyer.
From Dwyer, helicopters had been scheduled to go to Kandahar which
is where I needed to be. I was manifested on that run. However, by
the time things got finished at Edi, and we departed, the Kandahar run
left Dwyer without me on board. So, I would be in Dwyer and would
figure out a fix wing flight to Kandahar.
I arrived around the early afternoon to Dwyer and hooked up with
some of the guys I knew from Edi that had been sent to Dwyer for
assistance. My flight was scheduled for me to show up around 1900
hrs (7:00 PM). It ended up getting pushed back and eventually,
amidst a dust storm and rain storm, the flight finally came in around
0300 hrs and took me to Kandahar. I got settled into my quarters at
Kandahar by about 0500 hrs. By this time, I was pretty tired, dirty and
already missing FOB Edinburgh.
The part of these journeys that is always hardest on me is the getting
around from point A to point B. It is just not simple. It would not
matter so much except for the fact that I am tied to a non refundable
airline ticket. It is the reason I have to give myself some cushion on
either side of traveling in the event of such things as dust storms, rain
storms and all the other kind of unexpected things that I always
expect. As I have said before, if the Air Force would stop being so
difficult with me, I would be able to fly mil-air into and out of country
like everyone else. Remember the mainstream media all get to fly that
way. Little unimportant folks like myself are left to fend for
themselves. It's a silly system.
By the morning of the 27th, I was in familiar territory and I began re-
organizing my things. I needed to get rid of some extra weight and
shipped a few things back including one malfunctioning camera and
lens. Equipment failure is always a problem. I am also having some
trouble with one of the two cameras I have left with me. I went to the
post office which is very close by where I stay. I obtained a box and
then packed it and brought it back for mailing. After standing in line
for 90-minutes while the civilian contractors that run the post office
took their sweet time, I was finally brought forward to the inspection.
The lady working there who had one of those, "I don't give a damn"
attitudes, told me that because I did not have a CAC card, I could not
mail my things. I explained to her that I indeed can mail my things
and we had a small discussion about it. Eventually, the supervisor
who had a very good attitude, came and explained to the lady that a
US citizen who happens to be a photographer is not the Taliban. She
then was told to take care of me. Eventually, I got my box mailed. It
was such a hassle.
Being back on a gigantic base such as the one here at Kandahar, is
really not fun after having been at Edi for an extended length of time.
There is just a mentality of what I call, "the Wal Mart parking lot
syndrome" on such a big base. Those that have been here understand
what I am saying. Those that have never been here will just have to
compare it to Wal Mart and get the picture I am trying to paint. Just
for the record, I hate Wal Mart.
On the evening of the 27th, I was contacted by the public affairs
officer who works for Col. Frank Tate, the brigade commander for the
helicopter missions that the medevacs fall under. I had mentioned to
the PAO guy that I would like to chat with Col. Tate if time permitted
on his end. Turns out, they had set aside a time in the evening for me
to sit down and talk shop. The public affairs officer, Captain Barker,
came and got me and we walked over to the facility where they have
their operation. I was taken up to a room in this big wooden structure
and introduced to Col. Frank Tate. Immediately after I got there, they
had some things to give me and I noticed the PAO guy had his camera
at the ready.
Turns out, they had been reading all my stuff from the get-go and
noticed that I had a "tragic" event in the loss of my favorite hat, the
yellow one with the New Mexico state Zia sun symbol on it. They
somehow had gotten a hold of a new one and had it shipped to them
to give to me. It was hilarious and I was all smiles. It was the best
gift I had ever received doing this type of thing. Then, to top it all off,
they presented me with a certificate of appreciation for the work I had
completed at forward operating base Edinburgh. I was very humbled
Someone was indeed reading my stuff.
After a while I did an audio on Col. Tate and then talked at length with
him about the medevac mission. Much was discussed about Dustoff.
I was treated with much respect and learned much more than I had
anticipated. I believe Col. Tate listened deeply to the things I brought
out about my experience. As the conversation ended, Col. Tate
informed me that he would be going to Dwyer the next morning and
invited me to tag along to attend a promotion and award ceremony for
members of the New Mexico National Guard.
So, here I was. Twenty four hours earlier, I was struggling to get from
Edi to Dwyer to Kandahar. Now, I am invited to go right back to
Dwyer for the day and then return to Kandahar later that afternoon.
"Yes sir!" I said with a big grin. "I would be quite honored to attend
and take photos". Deal done.
The next morning, the 28th, I was taken to the helicopter ramp where
we had a briefing and soon thereafter loaded up and headed to
Dwyer. It was about a one hour journey via helicopter. Upon arrival, I
got out and met up with lots of the guys who said to me, "what's up?
We thought you had left.". I quickly explained that I was invited to
return for the day and when invited by a Col., it's a good thing to go.
Plus, I loved being back while I had the time before moving on to
The ceremony got under way and many received awards for their
service. The big event was the promotion of Major Holland, who
commanded the C-171 guys for the past year, to Lt. Col. I was able to
take many photographs and conduct several interviews. The new Lt.
Col. Holland, was unable to give me an interview. He was just a little
uncomfortable with all the fan fare going on and was a bit pressed for
time. I had tried to interview him on several occasions while he was at
Edi for a brief time, however each time I brought the audio recorder
out, he would vanish. He and I both went to Eastern New Mexico
University in Portales, New Mexico, and I had wanted to do a kind of
alumni interview on him while he was here in Afghanistan on mission.
Perhaps another time probably in New Mexico. I hope I don't have to
wait until his next promotion to full bird.
As the afternoon came around, we all loaded back up in the helicopter
and departed for Kandahar, another hour long trip across the desert.
We would come back and land around 3:00 PM and I caught a ride
back with a Chaplain who had gone along for the ride. He and I had
some good fellowship in the car on the ride back and I was glad to
have gotten to chat with him. Always a surprise around every corner.
That afternoon, once back in my quarters, I gathered up my dirty
clothes and walked over to the self laundry. It took me two hours to
do one small load of clothes. Had I known it was going to take that
long, I would have just washed them in the sink here. I washed
clothes under much more difficult circumstance on these kind of
journeys. It did however give a chance to just sit still and rest after
such a long couple days of traveling. Eventually, my clothes were
done and dried. I returned to my quarters, had dinner at the chow hall
across the street and began downloading all my audio recordings and
sending them out to my web guy in order to post right away.
I've spent a little time talking to some of the TCN's here at Kandahar
when I come among them in the chow hall. I met two Sri Lankan guys
close to my age who were in the Sri Lankan Air Force for most of their
lives. Now, they are working for KBR on the flight line here. They
make $1200 a month, for seven days a week, 12-hours a day. They do
all the work. They are supervised by a whole host of American KBR
workers who pretty much sit around and tell the "servants" what to do.
These KBR workers, make no less than $140,000 per year each. It is a
strange system this war has created.
I have also come to know some Kenyans who are nearly my age and
work at the Post Exchange. They make about $800 per month. They
too are supervised by someone making much more than that. What I
have noticed here on KAF this time is that there are many more TCN's
from Kenya and Sri Lanka than I noticed before. There are still a lot of
folks from the Philippines doing the same kind of work. I have also
noticed that there are all kinds of civilians running around with new
companies all looking for something to do. It is evident that the end
of all this gravy train is in sight and there is much scrambling for jobs.
It is just a part of how things get done when there is a war that lasts a
long time, like for ten years.
It is now the afternoon of the 29th. I will be leaving in a couple of
hours to head to Kabul. I will be stuck there for a few days with not
too much on my plate. I am sure I will find something interesting to
write about. In the mean time, I will think about how to wind up this
journey with all that has come across my path.
That will all have to wait for now.
Ten Years Later
#20 Having Left Edinburgh