You and your fear are fenced in together. Nowhere to run to (Photo: Loesche)
A week after our return to Germany I’m still pretty knackered. Our embed with the Apaches in the dusty country called Afghanistan just lingers there, hasn’t completely sunk in yet. It was a physical and mental challenge, bigger than I had anticipated.
For now, I have found refuge in the microcosm of the work office, where things are orderly and clean and predictable. This is the settling back into “normal” life, the Western world wants the Afghans so desperately to share with us.
I like being back in Germany where people stand for five minutes at the red lights at the pedestrian crossing even though there are no cars to be seen for miles. On the other hand, I hear, the army sends their soldiers to some Mediterranean resorts to decompress for a week. I could have lived through that, no question!
How to sell agricultural lessons. Teachers at Mata Khan boys highschool (Photo: Heimken)
Today, we first drove to Sharana and then on to Mata Khan, a much smaller combat outpost than Sar Howsa. I had fun listening to Frank Sinatra, Black Sabbath and some country tunes on our way over via an iPod connected to the intercom.
Mata Khan is home to the 1st Platoon of Captain Perkins Apache Company 2-28. The country side surrounding it is completely flat, unlike the Sar Howza region. Although it’s only about 15 to 20 kilometers away, the climate feels different too. It’s much warmer, at least 15 degrees Celsius more.
There’s much more arable land here. We drove past some really impressive castle like Qalats, big square compounds with high mud walls and small turrets on each corner. I guess they reflect the mentality of the people living in this region. Everybody who is wealthy enough protects their fortunes out of sight. Their home really is their castle here.
It might be a testament to the fact that there is no centralised authority, called the nation state that has vowed to protect private property and enforce sanctions against people who don’t respect that right. By now there are such institutions in place in Afghanistan, but they are young and not welcome by everyone. The province of Paktika is known for being stubbornly anti-government.
Specialist Gloria from Michigan looking out towards One Tree Hill near the village of Gulridin (Foto: Loesche)
Today, we went out on a mission for the first time since we got here. Lieutenant Chad Christian, 24, from Alabama took us with him in his MRAP to see for ourselves what Captain Perkins and his two platoons had accomplished on a previous five day mission.
A convoy of MRAPs and some Afghan National Police vehicles drove down the asphalted street to Gulridin where a check point by the street and two observation posts high above up in the hills had been set up.
Half way we stopped.
Suddenly the gunner in the turret fired a volley of shots from his machine gun. Empty cartridges tumbled into the air conditioned armoured truck. Shots were going off in front and behind us. The Police had dismounted from their pickup trucks and shot their AKs.
It was a test firing exercise, shortly before we reached the end of the asphalted road. Perkins told me yesterday: “The insurgency starts where the asphalted road ends”. Todsay’s mission was to further fortify the check point to be manned by the ANP – to build a shelter for the police.
While some of the guys started unloading building materials from the cargo truck Axel and I followed Lieutenant Christian up the hill. On the way, we met Staff Sergeant Neal Nuñez, 33, from Los Angeles of 3rd platoon 2-28.