Friday, August 28, 2009

FOBs, COPs and waiting..

Friday, 28th August, FOB Gardez

BAF = Bagram Air Field (main US base in Afghanistan)
COP = Combat Outpost
FB = Fire Base
FOB = Forward Operations Base
PB = Patrol Base
PX = Post Exchange. A store at a US military base selling food, clothings, etc.

Nothing to do but wait… Sometimes the military is a lot about waiting and for journalists going to different bases in eastern Afghanistan, it’s mostly waiting for clear weather in the mountain passes and sometimes the availability of Apache gunships escort into hot zone. One Italian journalist was apparently stuck at a FOB for 10 days before he got a ride out and he spent most of it watching movies (I heard about 4 movies a day). Now that’s legendary!

Most bases, with the exception of small COPs and FBs, are pretty well set up. There is usually a small PX, barbershop, cafĂ©, a recreational room with Internet and phone facility (aka MWR), and a gym. Of course the further away one gets from the main hub the more ‘primitive’ it gets. As such, waiting is not such big deal but the boredom can be very trying.

Once you get to your assigned base things begin to get much better as you settle in and get to establish some sort of routine. Now you would think that it’s action time but the reality is that on most days, you go on patrols or attend a local tribal meeting and then return to base all tired, dusty and hungry and realized that you have nothing much to write home about. In other words, reporting from the frontline is never a guarantee for action. However, having said that there are bases that get shot at every other day and I guess you would spend half the time keeping your head down. So take yer pick!

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