So this is my 5th day as a media embed in FOB Sharana (Forward Operation Base). It was what I imagined and it wasn't but nevertheless, it has been interesting for the most part. So what is it like?
Since I was the first media attached to the PRT Paktika (Provincial Reconstruction Team)they have been pretty nice to me, assigned a room to myself (it was kinda their storage space), fixed me up with replacement parts for some of my kit and had managed to get me out on mission, albeit humanitarian ones, almost every other day.
My room is pretty simple but the toilet is outside and the nearest one is 30m away. The shower is even further but manageable. The only consolation is that whenever we go out on missions, the rally point is just next to my barrack. The chow hall is on a smaller scale than that on Bagram AB and the food is 99.9% American - maybe a chow mien and Chinese style veggies once in a while. AND We can eat as much as we want. SO food wise, I'm well taken care of but I must confess that I am missing non-American food terribly!
Going out on missions is pretty straightforward as this is a PRT so most of what they do is humanitarian stuff like helping with constructions, hospitals, schools and sometimes mediate between feuding parties. There has been a couple of attacks in the nearby town of Sharan but nothing on the FOB. When we go outside the wire (outside the base) it's usually in a convoy of MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles. Go read about them in Wikipedia and I've experienced nearly all the problems listed! :D Nearly tipping over and getting stuck in mud is pretty common!
The boys providing security are pretty good guys. Most are very young and even a couple of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are no more than 26 years old which makes me a dinosaur. Even though there were a lot of cynicism among the more experienced troopers most believed in what they were doing. I think there is a huge disparity between what we read in the media, how things are being done here within the political context and what the average ground troops are facing each day they operate in this hostile environment.
So what am I like when I go out on a shoot? Well, usually all decked out in body armor, helmet, photo gear and water. Pretty simple but boy, wearing body armor and a helmet for 4 - 5 hours can wreck your body. Most of the soldiers eventually have to deal with knee, back and neck problems.
So much for a personal insight... I've requested to join a combat patrol should one come up and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Apparently the south of Paktika is experiencing lots of problems with IEDs.
Until the next time!
psst... the rifle I was holding is only for show! I'm NOT armed when I go on shoots. Just to look good here! Honestly!