A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

The details of my life are quite inconsequential, really. Summers in Rangoon...luge lessons...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Leaving the Hotbox

And now, a quick recap of my final days in Jalalabad Airfield before bouncing from there to Bagram to my previous station, FOB Salerno in Khost. What's old is new again for the AfghaniDan...

For one last photo with Marine compadres in J-bad, I grabbed two jarheads who did an outstanding job of providing public affairs support to Task Force Lava...Sgt Kaus (on left) and LCpl Kwietniak (on right). Both are pros at their respective jobs, Kaus on video and Kwiet on still photography. Here we are posing on the JAF camp's main loose-rock-covered thoroughfare.

Here is a leftover photo from the transfer ceremony...Tony the FAC and the two battalion doctors register their excitement at completing the handover and leaving country. Or maybe it's the excitement of standing the shade, where it was only about 100...that's also possible.

A Marine passes by the flag of Afghanistan, on his happy way to one last official function before leaving. Lucky bastard!

There's my tent sweet tent, my last day there before flying out. It was pretty weird after the Marine battalion left and that half of JAF just became a ghost town. The base remains manned however, with the 10th Mountain battalions who stepped in...

A dust storm sweeps into the airfield camp, the day before I left. The assaulting heat, dirt and dust were all there, even spinning dirt devils that coasted through...all we needed were some tumbleweeds to complete the picture.

A soldier from 1-32 ties protective covering on his vehicle's machine gun as the dust storm hits. The windstorms are sudden, violent occurrences that pelt everyone and everything with dirt and rock. I hear that Naomi Campbell's outbursts are the only natural phenomena that compare.

One more J-bad sunset before leaving the base...for now, anyway. Sunset also happens to be the cue for yelping mongrels to begin their nightly call to each other. There were packs of them roaming around the airfield, looking hungrier and hungrier as I'd pass them on my running route.

Waiting for the C-130 the next day...this would be my first fixed-wing aircraft (I believe that's called an "airplane" in civilian speak) flight since arriving in country, and boy, was it a doozy. A short runway, steep banks, and some turbulent weather made for a knuckle-whitening half-hour or so after we lifted.

There's the big bird, as soldiers file on. I turned out to be thankful I hadn't scarfed down a lunch before the flight, as many who did lost theirs, including both guys next to me...not that I noticed at the time, since I just poured sweat and wondered if the cabin's heat or the g-forces were draining me of fluids. I looked like Ted Stryker of Airplane! after the good drenching my flak jacket received.

This was my sixth and final attempt to get a decent photo of the cabin, after we'd landed. As you can see, we were packed in there like sardines, which didn't help. But I'll post the kind of blurry photo I don't usually display, since it pretty accurately conveys how we all felt!

My next C-130 flight however, two days later, was the complete opposite. It was cool, spacious and mercifully free of turbulence. That flight was smooth as silk...I slept the whole way and barely felt us land. Bravo, good pilots...bravo.


Anonymous KarlMaxwellSanker said...

Damn, yo! Delta Airlines is gonna feel like Trump's private jet by the time you is through over there! Love the Naomi Campbell reference ... but you know I ain't lookin' for no Vanessa Williams ...

May 22, 2006 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger JeffreyLebowski said...

Cpt. Dan has to concentrate, concentrate, concentrate.....hello? hello? hello?.....Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbon... Manny Mota... Mota... Mota....

May 22, 2006 at 5:41 PM  
Anonymous chad hunt said...

welcome back .... so did i tell you that my embed was approved? sept 4th-14th

May 22, 2006 at 6:37 PM  
Anonymous Agnieszka O. said...

I'm glad you back safe and they give you paper bags for the flights :-) I hope so...If somebody's lunch was "flying" around me, it would be not nice...
Have you ever had a pleasure of flying on the Russian made wings? Now we're talking about blurry :-)
I grew up on the Polish Air Base...

May 23, 2006 at 12:09 AM  
Blogger Major John said...

And the approach to Bagram is usually sweet and smooth too - well, a little sharp on the sprial-like banking in, but not as bad as flying to Salerno usually is.
You may like rotary wing, but I'll stick to the C-103s, thankyouverymuch.
I can't wait to see what's up down in Khost-Salernoland.

May 23, 2006 at 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Jan said...

It is not only for the strikes against the enemy for which we thank-you and others like you. It is for the sad looking little tent with all the comforts of nowhere I can imagine and the sick trip on the plane and a thousand other discomforts you all suffer through out a tour, cold, heat, bugs, wet, and the enemy. Have I said thank-you? God bless and hope your current digs are somewhat better!

May 24, 2006 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger kbug said...

Great pictures!!! I've heard alot about those C-130 flights...and most of it wasn't pleasant... :)

May 24, 2006 at 10:30 PM  

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