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.


Katrina Reid said...

Thank you so much! All he's been talking about is that new shop with the porch! My dad sent him a snow cone machine you should stop by and get one. Tell him I sent you, Ha ha! Thank you so much for giving us that look, ironically I had the exact same conversation with him today he said that if he were single he would stay there for the rest of his time in the Army. It's great to know you have such a high morale there and the soldiers are being taken care of. Thanks again!

David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/11/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.
Today highlighting 9/11 posts, along with other must read info from around the net.

Chaplain Dan Carlson said...

LTC Phillips,

I located your site through a google search of "spiritual fitness". Thank you for your message, specifically the message about worship in a combat zone. I have a site at www.publicsafetyministries.org and shared your message and linked to your site. I hope that is acceptable. I am a retired police chief, now police chaplain working to bring spiritual fitness to our profession. I am also very involved with military reintegration efforts in Minnesota. I am enjoying and learning from your message and I thank you for your sevice.
Dan Carlson

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