Wednesday, May 4, 2011
On the way to Afghanistan - the Journey Starts
May 2, 2011. The Journey Begins
What a way to start the day. Get up at 3:45 am, take a shower and head to the airport to get there by 5:30 to check two whopper bags for a flight to Dallas – Ft. Worth. I’m grumpy already and have not yet been bitten by a sand flea. Get there late because of storms in Dallas. So it’s raining and I’m schlepping my whopper bags from concourse to concourse to get to the correct ground transportation pick-up.
We finally get Crazy Jimmie our driver who can make a Ford mini-bus hydroplane at 75 mph. We go past the giant Texas Motor Speedway and Jimmie guns it. I think he’s daydreaming about racing Danica Patrick. Next stop, the DynCorp Deployment center at the Marriot. This is not a bad hotel. Nice amenities but out in the middle of nowhere. They don’t want any escapes. This may be the only hotel in America where you can buy tactical field gear in the hotel lobby store. Anything from fancy tourniquets for $24.95 to camouflage watches.
So, the work day today starts at 2:00pm. Sign in; report for “muster”, then go do 6 or 7 more computer based training modules. I hate computer based training modules. The whole class hates computer based training modules. So, I started taking a poll. What did you learn in the SAEDA module? The huh? Did you learn what SAEDA meant? Uh, well, I mean, well …….not really. But I got the certificate. So, I finish up about 9:00 pm – some of the other poor bastards are still there because they did not bother to do the classes at home. Finally, right at 9:00 pm I eat a quick cheeseburger because I have to fast for at least 8 hours before the medics start drawing blood. By 9:30, I’m in bed thinking about 5:15 am. I can’t sleep. What am I doing here?
Day 2 – May 3, 2011.
What a perfect day. This is just like the Army. Hurry up and wait to get poked, prodded, peed and bleed. I have to give a urine sample but no coffee allowed and I just peed about ½ hour ago. I’m grunting and squeezing and finally after I just about rupture the blood vessels in my eyeballs, I manage to squeeze out about 1/3 cup of pee – the bare minimum. I’m starting to think this may set a standard. Bust your ass for little reward. Next stop, bleed me. Fortunately, I have more blood than urine, so that was actually a little bit easier. Now it is time for shots. I produce my G.I shot record last updated in 1978. The medics start to laugh and pass it from one to another – “Man, that’s really old!” “Wow, they gave you that???!!! It’s a wonder you did not die. Do you still have liver function?”
Bottom line, I got to get al the shots. Six of them. All in the same arm. In under 3 minutes. Even faster than saving 15% or more with Geico.
Well, the good thing about the hurry up and wait is that I get to learn about my classmates. There are two who are working for CHM2Hill as subcontractors to DynCorp. There are 3 unemployed electricians from various parts of the country, a crane rigger, an emergency medical technician, an operations analyst, a “vector control” expert (he kills rats, flies and snakes) and several others, jobs unknown. Several of them have been in the Middle East before either as contractors or as military. But surprisingly, about half of the class is made up of folks who have not been in the military and have not been out of the country. Could be rude awakening time.
After medical and lunch, we start out training. Really, more a bunch of orientation sessions. The class has been split into two groups and I have been anointed the “A” group leader. There is one other manager and she was anointed “B” group leader. This is a very responsible position. We get to see who does not show up for roll call.
So we start out with a LOGCAP IV brief. Logcap is Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program. The original LOGCAP started prior to the first Gulf War and basically was an omnibus services contract to move and store supplies and to provide infrastructure to support the military. The concept is the same with LOGCAP IV and there are two primary vendors for LOGCAP services in Afghanistan: Dyncorp and Fluor. Dyncorp has the southern half of the country, Fluor has the north. In this briefing, we learn that the place is a desert and that the food in Kandahar sucks. If you want good food, go to one of the smaller bases, particularly where the Marines are located. I have it on credible source that they have served lobster on one of the Marine bases. God Bless ‘em, they deserve it.
Now we get to the really great part of the day – the new hire forms. Taught by an HR person. I hate HR. Wait, I AM HR – yes I hate HR. What bureaucratic menches we are. A blessing here to all of my friends at Philip Morris (OK, those in Altria, too). In looking at the healthcare rates, folks, we have it good. Even retirees have it good. For a plan not quite as rich as ours, their rates are about 50% more than ours for family coverage.
Finally, time for the 18:00 hour muster and a good meal down in Fort Worth with my sister Carey and brother-in-law Rick. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. They are my link to the civilized world after learning that some thing like 10% or more of the dust in the air in Afghanistan contains feces.
And with that, good night. More tomorrow
May 5th, 2011
Yesterday was fun. We started the day with First Aid training.
The first segment was on hygiene and preventative stuff. Dust storms, insects, scorpions, spiders, malaria and what the mega-doses of doxycyclene do to our guts. We got a list of good stuff that we need to take with us like anti-fungal cream, insect repellent, bandanas, SPF-30 moisturizer and acidopholous pills. Even female vaginal cream recommended for guys for athlete’s foot. On thing that is a big deal is Avon Skin-so-soft. I wish we had had the list a month ago.
Then we learned about shrapnel, arterial bleeding, gut wounds and how to triage folks. We learned how to treat a sucking chest wound with a plastic bag and how to tie off an artery with a shoelace. The instructor said you could even treat a sucking chest wound with a credit card. Someone asked “Which One?” Someone else replied, “American Express, - you get points” We also heard about real life stories where some Dyncorp employees had actually had to use these skills. Despite the wisecracking, we all took it very seriously.
Quite frankly, this morning session was not for the faint of heart and brought home some of the reality that this is a war zone. Two people apparently decided that this was too much and they quit. Interesting. I recall from my Army days that their training was not nearly as detailed and graphic. Perhaps if it had been, more people would have gone AWOL or un-enlisted somehow. And if this is part of a weeding out process, then so be it. This is definitely not a venture for someone who is not committed.
The afternoon was spent learning about Improvised Explosive Devises. Again, scary and sobering and we are all hoping that they are not things that we will see.
The last part of the day was probably the scariest part of the day. How to fill out the electronic daily timesheet. We have had more warnings and cautions about this than we have had about IEDs. So far, I have had to read and agree in writing to comply with timesheet policies, take a couple of computer based training courses and now take hands on training. Timesheets are a major part of Dyncorp’s function and we can blame Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi for this curse. At first the pendulum swung one way, now it is on the other end. Oh well, such is life as a government contractor.
At the end of the day we got our dog tags. Same things that the GIs wear. For old times sake, I pulled mine out from 37 years ago. I hope they get the same use that they did the first time I went to the land of the bad guys – none!
Today , May 5th , has been hurry up and wait. We had to fill out what are called ISOPREP forms. That stands for Isolated Person Recovery. Bottom line, if we get lost, kidnapped etc, then we will be able to identify ourselves to the Army (or Marines or SEALS or whoever rescues us) by correctly answering a series of personal questions that only we would know the answer to. It is a little more detailed than knowing your mother’s maiden name. I’d publish all my answers on line but then everyone would know when I lost my virginity. And who wants to admit they were a 40 year old virgin.
After that, a run to Walmart for all the stuff that we learned about yesterday. Again, thanks to my sister Carey who magically found some Skin-So-Soft.
Carey, I owe you dinner. Only problem now is that I get to stuff 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound bag.
So, this evening, we will get our deployment orders. I imagine that I will fly tomorrow. So tonight and tomorrow will be filled with some long cell phone calls and more than a few mixed emotions. But the good news for the followers of the blog – soon I will have pictures of Dubai! Yeah!
Had a great dinner with Carey and Rick last night. Lots of jokes about the last supper. Well, at least the last supper with Martinis (for a while anyway).
Today we fly. So I took a couple of pictures of the Marriot and the Tactical Equipment Store for the record I took my first doycyclene pill this morning and all I can say is that I hope they have lots of potties on the airplane. It kills all the bacteria in you guts and has some less than desirable side effects. Pinto beans can’t even compare with doxy. Everyone – and I mean everyone – has to take a pill a day for the time they are over there, while on leave back in the States and for a month after we return. Supposedly it is the preventative for Malaria. Whoopee! Or should I say whoopee cushion? Oh well, enough bathroom humor.
Tonight I will be in Dulles and sometime Saturday evening, (their time) landing in Dubai. Looks like we will be in Dubai until Tuesday so I ought to be able to see a few things then on to Kandahar. So, the interesting posts should start then.