Us filing into the C-130 at Bagram Airfield to fly to Sharana (Photo: Heimken)
We overslept, I had a headache. I hadn’t slept well. All hell broke loose in the middle of the night when jet fighters took off from the airfield. The guy who slept on the bunk beneath, a civilian IT worker on an eight month contract, had told me that Bagram Airfield quite often got “indirect fire”, meaning that insurgents shot mortar rounds into the compound.
After we packed our bags in a hurry we were lucky to catch a shuttle bus just after 7:00 a.m. that took us from Camp Warrior to the PAX Terminal for the flight to Sharana. We got there just in time for check-in. We handed the clerk our Invitational Travel Orders from ISAF and our media badges.
We were sitting in the holding area once again with loads of Soldiers sprawled out on the floor sleeping on their kit waiting to be flown out to Kuwait, some snoring. I was pretty sure we would get booted off the flight, like yesterday.
To our relief we were called up for boarding one and a half hours later. We got on one of those school buses you see in American movies, just that this one was painted white and drove out onto the airfield where the C-130 was waiting.
All passengers were crammed into the front part of the plane. The rear half was filled with cargo on palettes. Most of the guys flying to Sharana were soldiers and contractors. Some dozed off straight away.
The guy next to me with a clean shaven head and wild eyebrows fell asleep with his mouth wide open. I plugged my ears and braced for half an hour up in the skies over Afghanistan.
Our personal Ritz Carlton VIP lodgigng in Sharana (Photo: Loesche)
In Sharana we were greeted by the public affairs officer of the 172nd Infantry Brigade, Major Joseph Buccino. We got our luggage off the palette and he drove us in his silver SUV to the Brigade headquarters, a one story wooden building without windows. Like all US army vehicles and buildings it was nicely air conditioned.
We were shown our quarters for the night in an adjacent building. Separate rooms, raw pine wooden walls, concrete floor with single beds and a closet. We had our own internet for the first time. After the first two nights sleeping on bunk beds crammed into tents with other people this felt like the Ritz Carlton.
We went for food in the canteen and had beef burgers, our first meal of the day, as we had missed out on breakfast in Bagram. Major Buccino told us we were going to travel onwards to our final destination tomorrow – on road.
On the one hand we were happy we would get to the combat outpost Sar Howza the next day already. On the other hand the prospect of traveling on road – with all the stories of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), roadside bombs, in the back of our minds – worried us slightly.