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...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Herat: Camp Stone

AfghaniDan capturing sunrise - a RARE event

"Wide open skies."  I must have written that a dozen times in my journal during my few days in Afghanistan's western province of Herat, last month.  It was just the most striking feature of a region that is a far cry from Kabul in many ways...its high desert geography, its heavy Persian influence, its abundant optimism.

Thankfully we didn't have to take "the Rhino"...

After a day spent at Kabul's airport not snagging any seats on flights, but watching others come and go, I dragged Esmat back for a second try and we succeeded in getting out West.  In the course of this trip, appropriately for pre-Thanksgiving, we had our own version of "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" trains (there are none in Afghanistan, though they are starting construction of one in the north), but different types of cargo planes, helicopters and vehicles were all involved in our getting around, not to mention crews of Afghan, American, Italian, German, Canadian and Spanish origin.

I-talian pride on display in their cargo plane.

Your in-flight viewing: lots of crumpled brown mountains.
(the sinister satanic overlay is just reflected webbing)

One crowded-ass C-130 gets anxious to unload.

Once again, I feel the need to point out how different travel is in Afghanistan -- even those parts considered stable -- from most places.  Everything is a gamble: the flight itself, the ground transportation to or from airports on each end, the lodging -- if that's even an option when unexpectedly getting stuck somewhere overnight.  For an adventurer, it's a blast.  For anyone with a burden of responsibility, though, without any time to's a bitch.  I'll consider myself in both categories, so it's kind of a wash.

Passengers, Mr. MRAP will be providing your flank security today...

"The West is the Best" (word up, Jim Morrison...)

Edge of the Perimeter

The drive from the airport base to Camp Stone just goes to show how completely different a Kabul tour of duty is from one anywhere else in country.  All the time I've spent on the roads here, and this was my first ride in a heavy mine resistant protective vehicle on this deployment.  We get around by up-armored SUVs in the big city...or regular Ford Rangers when you're really throwing caution to the wind.  Our counterparts face those risks every day -- should they do so alone if we truly are their 'partners'?

The ANA gate is always done with style points...

And the style often includes holy Quran text.
Convenient by the base exit, no?  That virtuous talk casts a downer on the weekend party plans!

Now THAT is how you do a gate, American style
(cue the theme to Team America...)

Inside the gate, workers await.

Just inside the Coalition camp from the Afghan side, there was this large area of spare parts and what appeared to just be naturally by the second day, I had attempted to sound the theme from Sanford & Son repeatedly, each time we passed it.  When Esmat asked what I was humming, I did my best to explain why a TV show from the 70's about a crotchety junkyard owner and his son was so dear to me.  Finally I gave up and tried to demonstrate what it looked like when Fred Sanford would fake a heart attack.

"Elizabeth, I'm coming for ya!"
Esmat: "Shut up, dummy!"

FOB life, once again.

The US troops receive a pep talk from their commander.

I'll be honest -- among the highlights of visiting remote training sites far from the land of headquarters is the shift in rank & privilege.  A greater percentage of troops tend to have 'real jobs' out there, with fewer in the category of being unable to explain what purpose they provide.  It's where the rubber meets the road, as opposed to where staff members are constantly being added simply because they can be.  There is ONE colonel on that post (seen above), and perhaps a couple lieutenant colonels.  It dawned on me then that O-5 may be the most heavily represented rank in all of Camp Eggers, with O-6 just behind it...which is absolutely insane.

Camp memorial to Sgt. 1st Class John Stone

Viva Italia! And everyone else, andiamo!

Another memorials.

The prominence of Italy's flag in the above photo (by virtue of sunlight and wind direction, not favoritism) is appropriate for coalition forces in the west of Afghanistan.  Until recently, the Italians had command of much of the region, and they still do play a very prominent role.  Spain is a bigger player out there as well, and it once again threw me for that Euro vibe to feel like every few minutes you would step into a different region.  Unfortunately, they were not in charge of the dining facilities -- which were still above par.


More Nebraska?

As I said, the landscapes were a treat.
More to come...

And what kind of son would I be if I failed to mention that it's AfghaniMom's birthday?  So then, wishing a happiest natal anniversary to the woman saintly enough to bring me and 7 other chattering travelers into this world!  Not only that, but to bear each deployment and extended journeying with grace, understanding, and tons upon tons of nothing but support.  Love you, Ma...

One last shot of Jameson's before heading out...
(Back in March -- ironically, I had to shave the beard!)


Blogger Joneser said...

The photos are amazing - it's so cool to get a glimpse of what it's like over there (and of course LOVE the photo of Mom).
Only you could get a Sanford & Son reference into an Afghanistan blog! Well done, dummy.

December 17, 2010 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger yomistast said...

C'mon Lamont you big Dummy!!!!

Great shots. Sorry I've been away from the blog for a while.

December 17, 2010 at 7:32 PM  
Blogger Jami said...

Great pictures and captions! I have to say, having grown up in Omaha, that there is way too much non-flat land in the background of the one picture to be Nebraska.
The Fred Sanford reenactment picture is hilarious. I can only imagine trying to explain the significance of that to someone who has never seen it. Very cute picture of your mom--happy birthday to her!
As always, I loved reading your take on what's going on over there. Keep them coming!

December 18, 2010 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger FrenchFried said...

Great shots and writing as usual.
Thumbs up to your great looking Mom : 8 kids, I have to say "Bravo Madame!" Parabéns. Joyeux anniversaire et felice vita! (I cannot be more polyglot than that right now)

Take care Major Dan.

December 21, 2010 at 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Taggart said...

So, you finally went out west where they appreciate you ...

Did you happen to run into any horse-drawn old west carriages with German speaking Indians?

December 23, 2010 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Joneser, YoMista - you know I love me some Sanford!

Jami - I cannot possibly argue Nebraska with you. Point well taken...and thank you.

FF - Merci! And bon polyglotitude. I'll be sure Mama hears the compliments.

Taggart - I watched that classic a few days before the post. Coincidence? I think not. "Aufwiedersehen, take off!"

December 29, 2010 at 11:03 AM  
Anonymous alan-999 said...

Thanks. Very good picture story. You could not publish a photo of the former Soviet camp near to Сamp Stone? In advance thanks. I am the Soviet veteran of Afghanistan from Russia.

March 29, 2011 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger CPT D said...

Alan999- That soviet post your talking about is 8 miles north of Cp Stone at a place called Camp Arena. There is a boneyard there filled with 100's of old russian tanks, trucks, and airplanes. The Afghan National Army currently run that part of Camp Arena.

AfghaniDan- You didn't miss much from the Italian and Spanish DFAC's. I spent a year at Arena and we all loved going to Stone for good food.

July 27, 2011 at 11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I speak about the Soviet camp which was near to Сamp stone . At once behind southern border of Сamp stone.

October 2, 2011 at 5:43 PM  
Anonymous alan-999 said...

So, anybody does not have photo of the former Soviet camp near to Camp Stone?

December 9, 2011 at 7:21 AM  

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