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...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bagram (and Gomorrah)

Welcome to Bagram, the big ol' base that brings Hotel California to life: you can check out anytime you like, but it sometimes feels like you'll never leave. It's an odd, sprawling place, with amenities you won't find anywhere else, like numerous dining facilities, fast food joints and a bunch of shops. Arriving there after a long stretch at a small FOB is like being a country bumpkin visiting the big city...hence the reputation. I like what one of my brethren did on this wall of unit stickers - why get lost in the pack when you can plant the Marine Corps emblem on top of them all, where it belongs!

And this is the little baby I flew in on. OK, not really, but I was told to put my camera away for taking pictures of aircraft on the flight line. My occasion for visiting the big base was to take advantage of an R&R pass to sunny Qatar, and all travel from, to, and usually within Afghanistan comes through here. Situated north of Kabul at a much higher elevation than toasty Khost, it provides a cooler climate and a breath of fresh (though often dust-choked) air.

A tree-lined path runs along the main drag of a couple miles' length, which would make for a peaceful walk if not for all the damn saluting. Either you're saluting someone, returning a salute, or both every few seconds. Everyone in uniform might as well walk all day with their hands stapled to their brims...

They have such an odd little world in this Epcot Center that they build pagodas when they get bored! Honestly in one day alone I identified Poles, Germans, French, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Egyptians, Turks, Koreans and Norwegians. Oh, and Afghans, they were in there somewhere too.

Bagram is beset on all sides by mountains, like oh, anywhere in Afghanistan. But the plateau it sits on is actually flat for many miles around. Feeling intoxicated by the daytime weather of only 85 degrees or so, I resumed my recent tradition of running the 8-mile loop around it when passing through there...I didn't carry my camera on the run, which is unfortunate because there are much better views around the perimeter, along with the feeling of circling a gigantic prison yard...guard towers, Jersey & Texas barriers as far as the eye can see, shelled buildings just beyond the barbed wire, etc.

My temporary lodgings this time were in the Lt. Laura Walker media center, named for a young Army engineer officer and PAO who was killed in action last year. The great thing about staying there was not just avoiding a dreaded transit tent, packed with rows of snoring servicemembers (I can only imagine how much they curse me out for my sawing), but the chance to interact with some international media on their way to or from different regions within theater. I asked an Australian news crew there when I arrived where all the cold beer was (joking, of course! It's strictly forbidden)...they replied that I should've gotten there before breakfast. Touche. Point, down under!

On the big C-17 jet now, ready to take off for vacation along with dozens of others. Wait a sec now, is everything above board here? Let me take a closer look at this row of passengers...

Ah, it's just soldierly companionship! Quite a cute scene, for those of us armed with cameras. Hey, they asked for it - we had barely sat down before these two were nuzzled together. Probably not a bad decision on their part though, considering I was among many who sought out freezing cold floor space after a couple hours of trying to sleep in those seats.

My buddy Pete and I decided by then to ham it up for the camera. Not that it took much arm-twisting...we were probably delirious after a long day and most of a night spent in the terminal. But we were finally on our way to the fabled R&R.


Blogger Chevy Rose said...

Enjoy your R&R. God bless you.

June 10, 2006 at 3:24 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Betsy said...

So glad you found a "cooler" place and a much more peaceful one. We pray that someday even the hot spots become peaceful.
Love and prayers, Aunt Betsy

June 10, 2006 at 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Agnieszka O. said...

So how is sand in Qatar? I hope you’re having a relaxing break.
I've been mailing packages to Bagram for a while. It's very picturesque in winter.
Funny - when I zoomed on the picture to look for a Polish flag I saw that sign "hat/salute area" – laughed - and then you wrote about it :-)

June 10, 2006 at 11:04 PM  
Blogger gdcons said...

Hey Cap'n Dan,
Remember that time, driving down to key west for spring break, and our mini-van hit an owl? That was awesome.
I bumped into Scho at the 10-year reunion this past weekend and he directed me to your blog - very interesting and entertaining stuff!
Stay safe brother.

June 11, 2006 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger gdcons said...

Hey Cap'n Dan,
Remember that time, driving down to key west for spring break, and our mini-van hit an owl? That was awesome.
I bumped into Scho at the 10-year reunion this past weekend and he directed me to your blog - very interesting and entertaining stuff!
Stay safe brother.

June 11, 2006 at 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Janet said...

Interesting and as so often is the case - funny. Loved the part about the Aussies and the beer! If there is any within a thousand miles they are the ones who would know or would allude to knowing! Your pics are great as always and really loved the thought of the marine placing the Marine Corp Emblem so far above all the others - clearly were it belongs!!

If not censored, await the report of R&R in Quatar. Hope you are having a great time; you and your buds deserve it. Thanks for all you have done to earn it. Blessings...

June 12, 2006 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Conly! Holy shyte!
You have to leave me an email address, man. Unbelievable...of all the developments from having this blog, this may be the least expected. Get in touch, brother!Schof, I owe you one.

Thanks to all others who wrote in, too...I truly enjoy reading your comments, and all your well wishes.

June 12, 2006 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger kbug said...

Hope you have a great time on R&R...enjoy!!!

June 12, 2006 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger Major John said...

I am surprised the Aussies didn;t refer you to the Taliban Tavern in Coalition Village - if it is still there, I mean. :)

If you don't mind, I'd like to post your sticker wall picture next to one of me next to it (with Santa - yeah, only at Bagram). It sure looks like it has grown over the past year.

June 13, 2006 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger Fastest Squirrel said...

Wow. I was in Bagram in late October 2001 when it was just a couple Special Forces. That was the wild west days. I'll bet it just really sucks now. Cheers!

June 13, 2006 at 9:46 AM  
Anonymous SFC D said...

My God, I don't even recognize Bagram from your description and pics. I got there in FEB '02, might have been 200 people there...when I left in July '02, there were like 7000. Hope the R&R was good! And you can thank 18th Airborne Corps for the saluting requirements. Sniper Check!!!

June 13, 2006 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger gdcons said...

Hey Cap'n,
It is:
Give me a holler!

June 14, 2006 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger MJ in florida said...

Great writing and pictures. AfghaniDan, it is a pleasure to read your Blog. Hope that you have a great R&R. Thank-you for your service to our country. Martha

June 16, 2006 at 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That picture of the Humvee driving through the mountain pass is fantastic ! Maybe you should starting thing about copywriting some of this stuff.

Phil, London

June 21, 2006 at 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved the site. Thanks for everything

July 6, 2006 at 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Viola said...

Thanks for sharing these pictures!
Very nice!

July 6, 2006 at 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantástico blog. Gracias por estas imágenes y por lo que estáis haciendo por esa gente.

Saludos desde España.

July 7, 2006 at 6:00 AM  
Blogger P. Alsip said...

Love your Page dude!!! I was in Bagram and a few other places in 2002 with the 101st.....It sure has changed since I was there......Brought back alot of memories thank you for that!! it really is a beautiful country under its own!? Keep your head up and enjoy it...lots of good and bad memories...but its all worth it in the end!!

P. Alsip

July 11, 2006 at 11:18 PM  
Blogger AfghaniDan2 said...

I thought sure I came up with that name!

I got there in April 2006 so I guess you beat me!

I spent a year at Camp Eggers with CFC-A.

Enjoyed your site!

IS1 Dan Schlueter, USN

April 30, 2007 at 3:43 PM  

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