Here’s what a road in Afghanistan looks like:
I don’t know how many paved roads there were in Afghanistan before we arrived, but there are still not many miles of paved roads even now.
At this time of year, the unpaved roads in Afghanistan turn to mud, and the mud to quicksand.
We were out driving near the FOB one day when we saw a coworker just off the road, so we went to see what he was doing. As we got closer, we noticed he was not moving. He was stuck in the mud. Our plan was to pull him out of the mud with our tow strap on the front of our HMMWV, until we noticed that we were also sinking, and eventually stuck, in the mud. After we got out to evaluate the situation we noticed another coworker approaching in his SUV. Realizing what was about to happen, we attempted to warn him away, but our waving only served to lead him on until he, too, was stuck in the mud. So there we were, three vehicles from the same office stuck in the mud; one, two, three. And of course, no one gets stuck on a sunny day; there was a steady mix of rain/sleet/snow falling on a cold, foggy day. We were not far from the FOB, but in Afghanistan, not far from the FOB is still a dangerous place to be.
The military convoys that passed by were smarter than we were, they kept driving and called in our location and situation to the Tactical Operations Center. While we tried to extract ourselves, quite unsuccessfully, kept an eye on our surroundings and tried to keep warm. It seemed like hours, but soon our rescuers arrived. Our rescuers came out to us with a….forklift. Not your standard recovery vehicle, but it was all they had at FOB Apache for this situation. Fortunately, the rough terrain forklift is equipped with off-road balloon tires and an extendable fork. Thanks to a very skilled driver, and with a lot of hard work, he managed to free first one, then another and finally the third vehicle.
I wish I could say this was unusual, but unfortunately it is all too common. When the weather gets bad around here the mission does not stop. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are out day and night, in all weather, chasing the bad guys and rebuilding Afghanistan. And when you get stuck in Afghanistan, there’s no AAA wrecker to call. Self-recovery, your unit and your friends are all you can rely on. Fortunately, that’s usually enough.
On a side note, while I enjoy my job I often feel “stuck in the mud” trying to accomplish anything. Working with the Jordanian Army, while they mentor Afghans, can be a real challenge. I often attend meetings with two translators; one to translate from English to Arabic and another to translate from Arabic to Pashto. As you can imagine, conversations take some time and are subject to much confusion and misunderstanding. And while it’s great to have the Jordanians here to help the Afghans, they are culturally very different. The only thing they have in common is religion, but just because they all practice the Islamic faith does not mean they are the same. Finally, the Jordanians are not part of NATO or ISAF, so their status is hard for most of the bureaucracy to understand. My job as the liaison officer to the Jordanian Field Hospital is to facilitate their mission, to make sure they have what they need to teach the Afghans and what they need to live in Afghanistan, to deal with the contractors and Coalition Forces. So, although I never fail in the long run, I seem to spend much of my time “stuck in the mud”, spinning my wheels. Oh well, such is life as an LNO, Army-speak for liaison officer.Phillips, out.