Monday, September 26, 2011

Tales from Afghanistan, Chapter 2: Hurry up and wait.

Nate’s blog: September 26

That’s the title of this blog, and a pretty accurate description of the past week. Those in the military know this expression very well. Travelling to our FOB (Forward Operating Base) is a slow and measured process, and can take a week or more.  At the moment I am at a major military base in Afghanistan, waiting for my flight out. My next update (hopefully) will be from our FOB, in what has been described by many out here, as a “warzone”. Throughout the last week we’ve gone through some training, classes, and slowly adjusting to life out here. Adjusting to the climate, adjusting to the reduced living conditions, and hardest of all; adjusting to being away from our loved ones.
While uneventful, the last week certainly has been memorable. To start with, as soon as we arrived here I got sick. Wonderful. As I am asking the Corpsmen (Navy doctors) for some medicine, they tell me that I’m really probably not sick. I won’t get into the details, but TRUST me; I was down in a bad way. So I ask them in the most polite Marine-speak that I can, how they came to that conclusion. Apparently, all this travelling through different time zones and climates is hard on the body, and my system is “adjusting” to the new location. In short; I am allergic to Afghanistan.
While waiting for our flights, I have been able to talk to many people. This base is a major transportation hub, people are coming and going from different FOB’s and bases. It’s interesting, eating lunch in a giant cafeteria (or chow hall), and hearing the story of the dirty Marine across the table from you.  In general, Marines aren’t quick to open up. Every Marine I’ve talked to that is going home has lost someone in their unit. Sometimes a lot of people. They are dirty and tired, and ready to go home. They have been fighting for 7 months in an area that most people could never even find on a map; towns and cities that mean nothing to the average person, but that they fought, bled, and sometimes died for. While I sit there and talk to them, I think to myself, “In 7 months that will be me”. At least I hope so. I hope that 7 months from now, I will be able to be sitting in an air-conditioned chow hall, while some annoying new guy in a clean uniform is harassing me with questions.  I also hope, though I know it’s not likely, that we all make it back.  None of us wants to lose a fellow Marine, a buddy; a brother.  Of course when they ask me where I am headed to, they are quick to open up about what they have heard. “The most dangerous town in the most dangerous part of Afghanistan”, they all say. Hooray…
As I type this, I am sitting on a cot, in a tent with about 30 other Marines. While the living conditions aren’t great, it’s something we are all used to.  During training, Marines frequently sleep in the dirt, with nothing but a thin pad between their sleeping bag and the dirt, and the sky as their roof. Many Marines have taken the time to order things to make their lives easier at the FOBs, such as snacks, pillows, books and batteries for their electronics. The hardest adjustment is being away from our loved ones. This is my 5th deployment, but some are on their 6th or even 7th, while for others, it’s their first time. Wives and girlfriends are a common discussion among the Marines here in the tents. Marines talk about plans they have for our return, and in our own “macho” way, how we miss them. Occasionally there is a wifi signal here, and you will see Marines pulling Ipads, phones, and small computers out of their bags to talk to their loved ones. It’s not perfect, talking over Skype with a blurry screen and choppy sound, but to be able to see our loved ones and hear them, even if it s for just a few minutes before the signal is lost, means a lot to the Marines. It means a lot to our loved ones too, who also have to go through their own “adjustments”.
It’s easy to think about the troops, and how hard it is for us out here. We are fighting a war, in this far corner of the world. Marines will sometimes go for over a week without any kind of shower, a month without hearing from back home.  We are tired, hungry, and dirty while we are gone. But it’s also hard for our loved ones too. Those husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, parents and relatives. They sit at home trying to adjust, trying to live their lives while all of a sudden there is this giant void in their life. I can hear it in my wife’s voice, every time we are able to talk to each other. Many Marines (and everyone in my unit), live where they do because the military moved them there. We are stationed in the California Desert, not by choice, but by military orders. And when we moved here, we brought our wives and loved ones here as well. And now they are alone without us, and they miss us. They miss being able to see us walk through the door after a long day of work. They miss spending time with us, waking up with us, and even fighting with us over things that seem so mundane and meaningless now. Those shows that we all watched together as a family, they now watch alone. The couch, dining room table, their home, seems so much emptier now without us. And while we here have all trained for this deployment, those loved ones at home, have had no training for theirs. I am so thankful for Saija, as we are all thankful for those loved ones we left behind. We recognize the sacrifices they make for us, and we appreciate you all for staying strong and staying with us through these trying times. And of course, for doing those household chores that we are used to doing! Thank you Saija. Thank you wives and girlfriends, family and friends. We could not do this without your love and support.
I look forward to my next update, hopefully in about a week, from the FOB. Thank you all for reading, following, and for the supportive comments I’ve received through Facebook and my blog. Your support means a lot!

PS: Saija has already informed me that she will have plenty of chores for me to do when I get home. And I cannot wait to be back at home, taking out the trash.


  1. Just wanted to let you know that we are following your blig. Thank you for writting it! Hang in there! Inessa

  2. Stay safe cuz and respect your NAVY corpsmen! Keep writing Man!


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  4. Inessa and Rick: Thank you! This definitely isn't as fun as tea time on the cruise haha!

  5. I bet man! Just stay safe and remember that you are being tested for a corporate job in the future that's not on wall street! Now that's funny, I don't care who you are!! OHHH RAHHH!!

    Rick C. From Nebraska