Monday, 24 September 2007

At the Outer Limits of Afghanistan . . .

There is no need to adjust your set,
we control the vertical,
we control the horizontal . . .

While LTC Phillips waits for inspiration, Sergeants of FOB Salerno Hospital have taken matters into their own hands . . .

The Sergeants of FOB Salerno Hospital are here:

Msg Lisa A. Baker
S Sgt Christiana Webbs
1 Sgt David Child
SFC Mike Fields

Well, they say SFC Mike Fields is there with them, appears to be more of a phantom, or he can’t/won’t test post.

David S Child, 1SG USAR 396th CSH(FWD), Reserve Soldier
Vancouver, WA

1 Sgt David Childs is the Senior NCO on the ground.
He’s the one whose job it is to make things happen. . . (Note --- and he did)
Middle School Science Teacher Portland, OR
Married with 4 kids, 3 girls 8, 6, 4, and a boy 1 ½ old.
Enjoys biking and hiking as a family.

Lisa A. Baker, MSgt, USAF Langley AFB, VA
Hometown; Montgomery, Alabama

She has been deployed to FOB Salerno for 3 weeks. This deployment has truly been different from last year’s deployment to Balad, Iraq.
It took her 13 days to get from Langley AFB to her final destination.
Describes FOB Salerno as nice, surrounded by mountains with hardened living spaces. They have 5-6 living in a hooch.
Counts it a big bonus that they have modern bathrooms.
Reminds us that there is a mix of Air Force and Army serving there. “They all are a very good bunch of people to work with. Right now it’s not very busy here which is good, meaning that the bad guys are somewhat under control.”

Christina Webbs, SSgt stationed at Keeesler AFB,
MS Originally from a small town Newton, MS which is three hours away from Keesler

SSgt Webbs is the proud mother of five-year-old Gabriel – and says he is the best thing that ever happened to her.
Works in the TOC at Salerno, monitoring their computers.
Has four brothers and sisters, and is very family oriented.
Loves where she’s at and what she does.

Mike Fields, SFC stationed in Spokane, WA
396th Combat Support Hospital, Reserve Soldier

Firefighter in Civilian world
Just had baby boy in May,
Has three other children
1SG Child says “Great all around guy . . .

Wait a minute, searching through pictures. . .

LTC labeled this
David and Fred.

Could it be . . . ?
David not typing a test post !

We return the control of your browser . . .
Check back for the Sergeants posts

Friday, 14 September 2007

In Memory . . .

MSgt. Hubert Phillips, USAF (Ret.)
Born on Dec. 13, 1928

Departed on Sep. 11, 2007

resident: Warner Robins, GA.

Father of:
LTC Richard Phillips,

Surviving to cherish his memory are his wife, Lola Phillips; children, Hubert II, Michael, Charles, Brian, Richard, and Karen; along with seventeen grandchildren, Hubert III, Brian, Teresa, Andrew, Elizabeth, Jeremy, Rebecca, Katherine, Brooke, Meghan, Christopher, Nicholas, Stephen, Johnathan, Scott, Luke, and Joel; as well as his step-son, Charles Barboe.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

A Tour of the FOB . . .

As promised, a tour of the FOB is in order.

I guess up until a few years ago the term FOB (Forward Operating Base) was not a common term. Now, it’s very common.

FOB Salerno is located in eastern Afghanistan, in Khowst Province.

Khowst Province reminds me of Arizona, high desert surrounded by mountains. The weather is hot in the summer and mild in the winter. We don’t get much snow, but during the winter we get rain and during the summer, we get frequent thunderstorms.

I can’t say much about the FOB, for security reasons, but I can tell you that it’s not very big. Before I deployed to Afghanistan I worked at Vancouver Barracks, Washington.

I told those I worked with, who had never deployed,
to imagine living on Vancouver Barracks for the next year,
seeing the same people,
going to the same places,
day after day after day.

That is life on the FOB.

Of course, FOBs come in all shapes and sizes.
Some are really big.
Some are really small.
FOB Salerno is right in the middle, the perfect size.

We have everything you could ever want.

Well, maybe not everything you want, but everything you need.

First, we’ve got great places to live, mostly.

Most of us live in brick and mortar “hootches”.

We call them brick and mortar because they are made with, yes, bricks held together with mortar. In a place where the majority of people live in tents and work in wooden buildings, and the local Afghanis live in building made of mud and straw, buildings made of bricks and mortar are a beautiful sight.

Here’s my two biomedical maintenance and repair technicians, SGT Reid and SPC Reynolds, standing in the door of their brand new, brick and mortar, combination hootch and office. They are fortunate to have a new building, and it even has a porch!

And here’s a picture inside my hootch.

I’ve got five roommates!

And we eat well here. Here’s a picture of the Dining Facility (DFAC).

As you can see, it’s a brand new brick and mortar facility. Up until July we ate in a large tent with wooden floors. Some of you may know that most DFACs in Iraq and Afghanistan are run by Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR). They are usually pretty good. Nothing fancy, but all you can eat. We get steak and seafood at least once a week, and different choices of main dishes every night, along with ice cream and cake and your choice of drinks and side dishes and plenty of extras. It would be easy to get fat here, if not for the great gym.

And speaking of the gym, ours is one of the largest and best in Afghanistan, or so I’m told.

It looks like a tent, but it’s actually called a “clamshell”. Really, it’s just a big, semi-permanent tent. It has cardio machines, weight machines and free weights, along with mats and all kinds of other workout stuff.

And for our spiritual fitness, we have a nice chapel.

All faiths share the same building, so the services are coordinated throughout the weekend.

Lots of people find religion here; maybe it’s the danger, the boredom, or the loneliness. Whatever it is, the best church services I’ve been to have been in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is strange to go to church with weapons racks in the back of the chapel, and handguns visible everywhere. But it’s nice to go to church without any pretension; no worries about what to wear or what you drive or who you are in the community.

There is a purity and simplicity to worship in a combat zone.

And finally, there are the places of entertainment and shopping;

the post exchange (PX), the mall (coffee shop, movie theater, embroidery shop, etc…), Subway Sandwich shop Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), and finally, the bazaar.

the PX (Post Exchange)

t h e M a l l

the Subway

And our MWR has movies to loan, for free.
And books and a movie room and video games and pool tables, all for free.

I’ll have to do an entire post on the bazaar.

That is a sight to see; all the local vendor selling rugs and scarves and chests and jewels and anything else you can imagine. It’s a great place to get a little “local flavor” and to pick up some souvenirs and gifts.

As you can see, FOB Salerno has everything you need.

I know I’ve been here too long because I can find my way in the dark, with no flashlight, with no problem.

That’s right, there are no streetlights here; after dark it’s just flashlights to see your way around. And as I’ve mentioned, there are no paved streets either, just dirt roads covered in gravel.

All in all, I’ve got a real “love/hate” relationship with FOB Salerno, and the deployment in general.

I love being here, doing this job, with these great Americans.
I hate seeing the suffering and pain and death and
I hate being away from my family for so long.

But, it you’re going to be deployed, FOB Salerno is probably one of the best places to be, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan.

More later as the inspiration hits me.

Phillips, out.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Afghans help build mosque, hospital in border region

By Bryan Mitchell,
Stars and Stripes Mideast edition,
Monday, September 3, 2007


The only sound more frequent than the echo of helicopter blades across this forward operating base is the banging of hammers.

As choppers come and go, ferrying wounded troops and combat boots across southeastern Afghanistan, scores of indigenous laborers sweat under the relentless sun converting this once-spartan base into an enduring compound for coalition forces and, some day, the Afghan National Army.

The most significant project under way is construction of a new hospital to replace the makeshift tent complex now home to the 396th Combat Support Hospital. U.S. contracting company KBR is overseeing a crew of several dozen Afghans working to finish the $1.4 million, 23,000-square-foot hospital by December.

The hospital’s commander said the new complex will provide a safer and more sterile environment, boosting both security and hygiene for physicians and patients.

“We still get rockets and mortars occasionally, and it’s much better to have concrete and mortar over your head,” said 396th commander Lt. Col. Richard Phillips. “This building will replace the tents, partly so we don’t have to evacuate when we get rocketed and partly for a cleaner environment.”

Located approximately 10 miles from the Pakistan border in a region teetering between volatility and relative calm, FOB Salerno is in a spot where militants can fire rockets and mortar rounds toward the base, and then flee into the often-lawless border region.

Lately, the hospital has been busier than in the recent past, tending to 300 percent more patients than at this time last summer. While the military and the media focus on the “surge” in Iraq, insurgents in this country have boosted their attacks, increasingly with more potent Iraq-style tactics such as car bombs, suicide vests and roadside explosions.

Last week, the 396th Combat Support Hospital cared for a cadre of children caught in two vicious suicide attacks in Khost province, including one that killed three U.S. troops working on a reconstruction project. If the trend continues, the hospital under construction will be well received.

Phillips, 45, of Sioux Falls, S.D., said the hospital will be divided into two parts: a trauma wing for emergency care; and a primary care section to deal with traditional aches, pains, illnesses and ailment.

Like its nylon predecessor, the hospital also will play host to the occasional Afghan health clinic, providing surgeries and treatments unavailable in the rest of the poverty-stricken Khost province.

KBR has a handful of engineers on hand to supervise, but the majority of labor is conducted by Afghans. They earn roughly $8 to $11 per day for work that includes plastering, framing and roofing.

KBR supervisor Randy Gustafson, 49, of Bellingham, Wash., said the Afghans are eager to work and quick to learn

A lot of them show up with very little skill in construction, but we’re teaching them along the way, showing them how to do things,” Gustafson said.

Afghans also are developing skills to build a new mosque in the heart of the base.

On Thursday, Sgt. Dane Seydler, 26, an Army reservist from Amarillo, Texas, was supervising a team of locals sanding the mosque before its next coat of paint.

Before this, they just did their own thing, but now they come over here at lunch to eat and pray,” Seydler said.

Phillips said the hospital, as well as other smaller projects on FOB Salerno like the mosque, are vital to the image that America is here to help, but not here to stay.

All the stuff we do is with the attitude that the Afghans will one day take it over,” he said.

It’s not just a slogan anymore,

Afghans are doing the work,

Afghans are learning the work.

We want to send a clear message that we are not here forever.

This is your base, and you have to decide how to run it."

Richard's posts on continuing hospital construction:

Thank you
for reading and praying and caring.
Thank you
for remembering the Soldiers in Afghanistan, the “other” war.

Phillips, OUT

Gratitude and Prayers for all our warriors in Afghanistan and their families supporting them at home --- Haole