Getting to COP Herrera was a real pain in the arse! Literally, I swear!
So I finally left Sharana after a 5 days wait for a helicopter ride to FOB Gardez. Many of the non-military helicopters were flown by civilians and managed by private companies. It was a 20 mins flight through some amazing country, and I keep telling myself that if one day Afghanistan were to become safe and peaceful again, I would come back as a tourist!
Gardez is a much smaller base built around two traditional Afghan courtyard houses with a local cemetery within its compound. "The Talibans don't hit the base because of the cemetery", I was told by my liaison officer. Now that's reassuring but means that I don't going wandering around too much at night! I had hardly settled into my little earthen room when I was told that I would be put on a convoy the next day to COP Herrera since I've requested to be assigned to a more 'action-packed' base.
So after a grueling 7 hours ride in the most uncomfortable model of the MRAP ever produced, I finally arrived in COP Herrera right close to the Pakistani border. Heck, I can even see the mountains of Pakistan from the base! Herrera is TINY although I've been told that there are smaller bases that this. A little over 100 US troops manned this outpost and we are nearly 3000m up in the mountain. There are no PX, no barber, no coffee shop, and no post office here. Just the troops, a chow hall, gym and internet facility. Yes, my friends, I'm truly out in the sticks. At least we still have hot showers so that's a consolation.
Day 2 - I'm assigned to one of the recon patrol and we will be visiting a village in the hope of talking to or picking up some suspected insurgents. Since this is the unit first visit everyone was told to be as non-aggressive as possible. "We don't want to make unnecessary enemies", said the LT to me.
The village council rep was there but seems reluctant to take us to see the people on our list so we have to come back another day. Remember 'non-aggressive'! Then off we went to the Afghan-Pakistan border and what a sight! The landscape is really beautiful but remote. How strange that three years ago, I looked into Afghanistan from the Pakistani border and now I looked into Pakistan from the Afghan side. Someday, I really have to come back and backpack through this country!
After a couple of hours talking, drinking chai and inspecting the border crossing and another border outpost we left feeling tired but in good spirits.