Americans--at least the ones I run into--don't talk much about the fact that we are at war. Since I've had several family members serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war we are fighting against what we can only label as "terror" is very real to me. My neice, Dana, has recently returned from Afghanistan, and she returned a bit battle scarred I think--not physically, but in spirit. It was tough over there. As I was cleaning out a pile of stuff this morning, I found this email from her, sent at the very beginning of her tour, that I had printed out and saved. She's a good writer and it gives the reader a taste of what it must be like to fly into what would be, to most of us, the unknown. I print it here with only edits for her security. It was written in July 2008. (The photo is of a lighthearted moment with some of her pilot friends here in the States.)
Greetings from Afghanistan,
My trip was uneventful and smooth, with the primary excitement being a delay in the States on my flight from Tampa to Dulles due to a thunderstorm. I made my connecting flight, Dulles-Doha (Qatar), without event, and arrived in Camp As Sayliyah on the evening of the 1st of July. The temperature was 105 at six in the morning when we stepped off the plane.
I spent a couple of days in Qatar, checking in, receiving my general gear issue and enjoying my allowed three beers a night. I was surprised that Camp As Sayliyah is used as a rest and relaxation (R&R) point for troops deployed forward. (Editor's note: I think she is suggesting she wouldn't want to R&R in this particular place, if given a choice.)
I spent the majority of my 4th of July trying to get comfortable in a cargo net of a C-130, using my body armor as a pillow. I slept a little bit, looked out the window a little bit, and otherwise enjoyed the ride to my base in Afghanistan.
I am living in a four person "hooch" which is a plywood building with plywood closets separating the room into four sections. Three of us are living there, but we will soon be down to two as my replacement, and one of the other girls in the room are rotating out. I've never met the other girls as they work a day shift and I work zulu hours, which puts us on opposite shifts.
The days are long, but there is some down time during the shift to sneak out and take a short nap, or go to the gym, so it isn't as bad as it sounds. The showers are decent and the toilets are decent and the chow is tolerable.
None of the amenities are worthy of much complaint or much praise. The purpose of all amenities here is their utility not their enjoyment. I am sure the reconstituted cow milk product from the United Arab Emirates has the requisite calcium--it just isn't something to savor on one's cereal. The base is safe. I'll take some pictures of the things that I can take pictures of, but might not be able to send them out until I get home.
The Himalayas are visible and beautiful (and the gym is great).
I hope and trust that all is well at home.
(Below is a pic of Dana in the Gulf on a previous assignment.)