Into the Sunset - Story #11 JIM SPIRI
TEN YEARS LATER #11  Into The Sunset
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March 7, 2012…Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, Helmand province,  Afghanistan…One mission today to pick up two working dogs.  It came  late in the afternoon.  First mission in almost three days.  There is  definitely a lull now.  What it is attributed to is anyone's guess.   Whatever the case is, quiet is good in these parts.  Everyone wants to  be doing their jobs however, all accept that if there are no missions  there are no American casualties to pick up either.  That is a good  thing.  The call did not come until late this afternoon.  It had been sunny all  day and the wind has subsided.  Seeing the mountains is always a nice  sight.  There are times it looks like many parts of New Mexico only  much drier and the mountains have literally zero vegetation on them in  this area.  In the far off distance snow capped mountains that must  reach well over 15,000 feet high can be seen.  As soon as the sun  begins to fade, the temperature drops rapidly.  Now, at night, it is cold.    Flying over the terrain today I had a vantage point that was different.  I  sat in a seat that is in the middle behind the two pilots and between the  medic on one side and the crew chief on the other side.  An additional  medic came along today which placed me in a seat that I had not been  in before.  I was just getting used to "my" routine seat but the change  was good.  It could present a better angle for the camera.    Peering out the window I noticed that the ground where farms are is  greening up a bit.  It seems to have happened quickly.  One must  realize though that a hint of green here is like a stark contrast to the  overwhelming brown that pervades the landscape.  I was sitting next to  the windows on either side of me and they were open for a while during  the flight.  I looked out the window without the obscuring of the old,  scratched plastic windows I have been used to looking though.  I could  see more clearly the habitable areas that litter both sides of a river that  looks more like a huge arroyo back home.  There is lots of population  in these areas but all of it is rural in nature and agriculturally oriented. I  observed lots of irrigated fields from water ponds scattered among the  tracts of land below.  It looked like desert areas similar to Palm Springs,  California but also had a similarity of the area along the Rio Grande  River in New Mexico in the central to southern part of the state.  All the  architecture is rectangles of mud making perimeters. The dot the  landscape wherever water is available.  It is no secret that almost everything I am looking at today below, will  be poppy fields in full bloom soon.  By May the harvest will be on and  opium will be processed and the flow of drugs will thrive once again in  this land.  It is also the time when more casualties will occur.  The war  on terror has much to do with opium production.  For now, from above,  the ground below looks calm and cultivated.  It is spring in Afghanistan  and signs of life seen by the pale shades of green sprouting forth bring  to heart the farmer in  the observer.  There  are times I actually  think it would be cool  to just go and see  what the planting time  is like in this land.   However, not at this  time on this journey.  We picked up the dogs  at a FOB I have been  to a couple times  already.  Once the  dogs were loaded, we  headed to the main  medical facility in  Helmand province  where other "patients" are  taken.  Once again the flight over I kept looking out the window as the  two dogs made themselves comfortable among the medics and crew  chief on board.  This was the second time I have been on a medevac  mission to retrieve dogs.  I find that interesting.   We dropped the dogs off and immediately headed back to FOB  Edinburgh.  On the way back the sun was setting.  I enjoyed the flight  once again and handed my camera to the medic next to me who opened  the window and snapped some photos for me at my direction of the sun  setting over the Afghan landscape.  It may have seemed like this day  was non productive.  However, looking out the window at the chase  helicopter in the setting sun silhouette, I realized that once again I am  in a place that few get to see.  And, not just that, but I am with friends  who fly me around Afghanistan documenting this particular time in  history.  It was not a boring day after all.    Earlier in the day, I had a photo taken with me and the flight crew.  I  was paired today with two pilots, W2 Brandon Seay from Las Cruces,  New Mexico with the NM Guard; Lt. Holly Vance who is with the Arizona  National Guard; SSGT Felicia Espinosa also with the Arizona National  Guard; Sgt Zachary Menzie of Albuquerque, New Mexico with the NM  Guard; and Sgt Brian Bowling with the NM Guard but who actually lives  in Arizona currently.  It is important to note that March is Women's  History Month which is advertised all over the AFN television network  here.  Today, for the record, I noted that one of the pilots flying me  around is a woman and the crew chief on this flight is also a woman.   Both of them are much younger than my own children.  Both are  excellent at their jobs.    Times have indeed changed. I like being here.  In the morning I wake up and walk over to the tent  where Marines have made coffee and breakfast.  The coffee is hot and it  is good.  I don't eat much breakfast though.  I walk the flight line a bit  and see a variety of helicopters parked in such a way ready for the day.   I get a bottle of water and walk across the way and brush my teeth  while standing outside in the cold, brisk air of the Afghan morning.  I  then coordinate up my cameras and things and take my vitamins with a  can of fruit juice.  Then I watch as the rest of the place wakes up one at  a time.  I look in the distance and see mountains and snow even farther  away.  Then one by one each of the folks here says hello and the day  begins.  By the end of the day, I've had lots of conversations and learned more  about my neighbors who have been half a world away for nearly a year  shuttling the wounded off the battlefields of Afghanistan.  Each minute  of daylight I wait for the call for medevac.  Eventually, the sun sets as it  did today out my window in the helicopter coming back to the FOB.  I  have seen a lot of sunsets all over the world in my days.  But today, the  sunset was like a movie out my window. I thought back to being a kid  on my horse in the desert of New Mexico riding home as the sun was  going down.  Some days never seem to get started until right about the time they are  almost over.  Such was the case today as I rode into the sunset in a  helicopter over Afghanistan with some friends and neighbors of mine  here at the FOB "Edi".    Jim Spiri                
All photo’s and Website © 2012, All Rights Reserved
The vantage point for March 6, 2012 on a walk around the block.  SPIRI FREELANCE Another vantage point looking east.  March 5, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE
The vantage point for March 6, 2012 on a walk around the block.  SPIRI FREELANCE
Another vantage point looking east.  March 5, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE
What it looks like here in the low spot.  It still has not drained since last week.  March 6, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE
This is a photo of me, Jim Spiri, on March 6, 2012, taking a photo inside the helicopter.  Photo is by Sgt. Brian Bowling and used by permission for SPIRI FREELANCE
#11 Sunset #12 Forest #13 The Expense #14 Crew Duties #15 Busy #16 The Hat #17 Family #18 Change #19 Go...! #20 Left Edinburgh One can see looking north a little greening up going on.  March 6, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE
One can see looking north a little greening up going on.  March 6, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE
The parking lot I see every morning...March 6, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE
The parking lot I see every morning...March 6, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE.
The traffic I see in the morning...March 6, 2012  SPIR FREELANCE
The traffic I see in the morning...March 6, 2012  SPIR FREELANCE
This is a photo of me, Jim Spiri, on March 6, 2012, taking a photo inside the helicopter.  Photo is by Sgt. Brian Bowling and used by permission for SPIRI FREELANCE Around the make shift campground in the waiting area.  March 6, 2012..SPIRI FREELANCE
Around the make shift campground in the waiting area.  March 6, 2012..SPIRI FREELANCE
INTO THE SUNSET! The Crew on March 6, 2012
The crew on March 6, 2012, photo by Jim Spiri, SPIRI FREELANCE
Lanscape in Helmand Province Afghanistan, March 6,2012 The military dog inside helicopter with Sgt. Zachary Menzie, March 6, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE
The landscape in Helmand province Afghanistan on March 6, 2012 out my window
The military dog inside helicopter with Sgt. Zachary Menzie, March 6, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE
The Crew on March 6, 2012 In Memory of Don Viray Freelance AUDIO (A) 2/28 - 3/4 AUDIO (B) 3/5 - 3/19 AUDIO (C) 3/20 to 3/28 AUDIO (D) 3/29 to ... HOME #11 Sunset