We were really busy in December and January...flying tons, I logged over 40 hours of flying just in December and another 40+ in January. Our little Detachment of 4 guys flew more missions, carried more cargo to the fight and more soldiers to secure the country than the wing of 30+ advisors in Khandahar. Weird.... so the equation goes like this... 'more Air Farce dorks = less accomplished' vs. 'very few Air Farce geeks = tons of REAL work accomplished' ... hhmmmmm. But I guess we didn't produce as many powerpoint slides and have as many meetings about the meetings for that meeting and we don't have more meeting to tell each other what great things we've accomplished...without actually talking with and getting to the Afghans. It's strange what happens when you don't worry about making powerpoint slides, making sure that everyone wears the right patches, and taking credit for work other people do.... things actually GET DONE.
We got to fly a carcass (dead guy) to his village.... being Muslim, they have to be buried with in 48 hours or something or they don't get all the virgins, only a couple and it's fat ones. Anyway, we had this dead guy to fly to Chaqcharan. The base there is Lithuanian... so we took one of our Lithuanian friends. He is a giant like the rest of them. We also took Newjack the ONLY Dutch guy in Herat. Anyway, we flew up this HUGE river valley to the town of Chaqcharan. It's a nice little place, 7500 feet and a tad cold! That's the Lithuanian commando with the gun and Newjack (his real name is Ron or something), me and Mai Tai.
This minaret is really really old... and maybe muslim maybe not. It's in the bottom of this incredibly deep and rugged canyon. It is part of Afghanistan's crazy history... the Minaret of Jam...which has saved it from being blown up by those wonderful purveyors of peace and killers of women and little kids, the Taliban. We kinda don't call them that anymore, we have new name for them. I'll tell you later. Good job Mai Tai takin this picture!
We had a great Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas day and New Years. I will never forget them! Christmas Eve dinner was spaghetti, smoked turkey (which was incredible) and all the lobster you could eat! Our Italians friends and the Marines...it was awesome! These 3 guys in the pictures... are the best!
Christmas day dinner was with civilian contract cargo carriers. Their company is contracted to fly cargo and supplies around Afghanistan. The Italians and Spanish don't have enough helicopters in this area to meet the needs of the troops. So these civilian pilots fly an old Mi-8, all alone and unafraid to the same places we do. The same places we go but escorted by gunships. These guys are from all over... Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and the Ukraine. Our Lithuanian giants hang out and speak Russian with them. They invited us over along with Newjack the only Dutch guy in Herat. It was pretty international...and amazing, former Eastern block commie countries, that weren't able to celebrate not that long ago. And it's pretty neat that this time of year, world over people gather together sharing food and time with each other...it doesn't matter where you come from.
The best part about Christmas day dinner, was the phone call I received...from our squadron commander. All he said was, 'Merry Christmas, do you have a camera?'. I said 'yes' and he said 'give the phone to Mai Tai and take a picture'. It turns out that Mai Tai was step promoted to Master Sergeant on Christmas day! That is a very big deal! Then I had to make a satellite phone call to the United States to a General in Las Vegas, where Mai Tai is stationed...so the General could congratulate him.
The Lithuanians were excited for him too!
We really like the Lithuanians. They shared a documentary movie with us about the Soviet/Communist invasion of their country. If you ever doubted the evil of communist totalitarian governments you've chosen to be ignorant and blind.
New Year's was really cool. We had dinner with the Italians, went to the New Year's countdown with the Spanish, and finished our evening with the Lithuanians. This is a Spanish tent, each squadron or unit has one...and the Americans have or allow, oh yeah, NOTHING LIKE THIS. And yet, it's so weird that the Spanish and Italians have better morale, better esprit de corp, ... and we have tv commercials on the Armed Forces network about getting help for suicide and getting counseling when you get home.
Back to the mission! We flew, and flew and flew some more missions. The majority of the missions were to Bala Morghab. There are lots of bad guys so that means we get to fly with the Italians! That's always a good time!
Thank you my friends, for keeping us safe.
If you remember, I told you about a really awesome US Army loser that shot a dog at Bala Morghab that belonged to an Italian. They adopted a new one, he doesn't mind helicopters.
The one thing our Italian friends couldn't keep us safe from was weather...we did run into some cumulo-granite. We tried to get home but ran into this...
They way home was behind those clouds, covering the mountains...we made a run at it and barely made it back to Qali Now.
The sunset was nice... we ended up losing to weather twice, but the sunsets were scenic, and the Spanish took good care of us! Another funny thing I've noticed, when we get stuck on a Spanish base, they have blankets and sheets for wayward crews....Americans don't take care of their own. GO ARMY! or is it Army of One ...or Army Strong? Maybe Army sucks?...Anyway, the Spanish were good hosts, they have a pretty cool place.
Okay, it might have happened more than once. We also got stuck there when we ran out of daylight and couldn't make it home. The Afghans have never flown in the dark. So me, Mai Tai and a Marine named Screech got stuck again. It was cool though. That sunset was awesome too.
The whole sky was pink, eerily pink. It was smoke from the village and the setting sun. The next morning was hazy too....
This was all fog. This is a Spanish soldier shrouded in the fog , she guards the air field, the runway is actually the main street through town.
The weather cleared and we made it home...both times. These last two months have gone fast because we've been so busy. The three Afghan pilots here have come a long way. I'm proud of them. They are considered part of the Coalition. These guys stand shoulder to shoulder with the other nations fighting the darkness. Darkness is what the Afghan Colonel that I advise calls the Taliban time. My interpreter calls it the same dark times as well. They are completely disgusted with the idiotic US notion that the some Talib leaders should be engaged and brought into the government and made legitimate. They told me they will always know what these Talib leaders have done and the thousands who have lost their heads at the hands of these followers of the religion of peace. It is, in fact undermining US credibility with real Afghans.
The two greatest helicopters ever built!
I will never tire of the scenery. The rugged beauty of the landscape and the people are truly unforgettable.
The hills between Qali Now and Bala Morghab are blanketed in vivid green. I didn't expect that! Later in the spring the hills will be covered in red flowers. These picture are in response to the commonly asked question, is it a hot desert over there? Hope they speak for themselves!
Those are camels grazing above and sheep in the picture below.
My time here is winding down. Oh,yeah the purveyors of peace, the enlightened little girl killers, the Taliban... we call them just plan shitheads... please forgive the language...sorry mom! I miss my home, my family and friends. And I will miss this place and these people, they have touched my life. It will indeed be bittersweet to leave this land and to leave special friends behind, to an uncertain and difficult future.