Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rules for Ass Kicking

Rules of Kickin' Ass
For the Non-Military

Dear Civilians,

We know that the current state of affairs in our great nation has many civilians up in arms and excited to join the military.

For those of you who can't join, you can still lend a hand. Here are a few of the areas where we would like your assistance:

1. Next time you see any adults talking (or wearing a hat) during the playing of the National Anthem - kick their ass.

2. When you witness, firsthand, someone burning the American Flag in protest - kick their ass.

3. Regardless of the rank they held while they served, pay the highest amount of respect to all veterans. If you see anyone doing otherwise, quietly pull them aside and explain how these veterans fought for the very freedom they bask in every second. Enlighten them on the many sacrifices these veterans made to make this Nation great. Then hold them down while a disabled veteran kicks their ass.

4. If you were never in the military, DO NOT pretend that you were. Wearing battle dress uniforms (BDUs) or Jungle Fatigues, telling others that you used to be 'Special Forces'. If you know someone that does that, kick their ass.

BTW, collecting GI Joe memorabilia, might have been okay when you were seven years old, now, it will only make you look stupid and maybe get your ass kicked.

5. Next time you come across an *Air Force* member, do not ask them, 'Do you fly a jet?' Not everyone in the Air Force is a pilot. Such ignorance deserves an ass-kicking (children of course are exempt).

6. If you witness someone calling the *US Coast Guard* 'non-military', inform them of their mistake - and kick their ass.

7. Next time Old Glory (the US flag) proudly marches by during a parade, get on your damn feet and pay homage to her by placing your hand over your heart. Quietly thank the military member or veteran lucky enough to be carrying her - of course, failure to do either of those could earn you a severe ass-kicking.

The same rules apply for our friends in Great Britain. Except y'all have to be polite and make a queue while you're Kicking their Arse!

Happy Holidays!
Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Albert Rasch In Afghanistan™

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bagram Air Field: Rocket Attack!

© 2010 Albert A Rasch,
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles &
The Range Reviews: Tactical
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5. trochronicles.blogspot.com
Rockets! The Gifts that Keep On Giving...

“SON OF A BITCH!” I muttered vehemently at no one in particular as anger took hold of me.

Any miss is a good one!

Under the harsh glare of the sodium vapor spotlights in front of the Customs building, I watched as my Vietnamese green tea, (Alokozay, best damn green tea I have ever had the pleasure of drinking.) with the two teaspoons of rich and delicious honey I had carefully stirred in, seep into the grimy, dust coated Afghan gravel. It was the last of the honey I had from my Florida hives, and the Mrs couldn't find the Mason jars that I knew we had in the garage. Now what was I supposed to do? It is one of my few pleasures here in Afghanistan, green tea and honey. The damned rocket had almost knocked me off my feet, and cost me a cup of fresh brewed tea.

Somebody was going to pay, someone had to pay for this travesty!

For the record, I have survived 17 rocket attacks that I know of. I've probably slept through as many if not more that I just didn't notice. The Taliban toss them over to us from Bagram Village on a regular basis. Most of the time they hit either outside the wire, or on some empty piece of real estate. The majority of them are duds anyway. The explosive charges are usually removed, or so small that the rocket charge does very little damage. They use the explosive material to make IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and suicide vests which they then put on an innocent fool, which are usually much more effective in sowing terror and creating mayhem.

The worst case of potential go-meet-your-maker I have experienced was during the third week of January.

I was walking my way to the Customs office, a hot cup of green tea in my hand. It was as cold as usual, and the steam billowed off the top of the mug. This particular mug of green tea was one that I had brewed, (I make it a bit stronger than the locals do.) and with the last bit of the aforementioned honey from my hives. Tea with honey really does taste much better than tea and sugar. I needed clarification on yet another postal issue or regulation and Customs was the place to get the information I desired.

You are never really lost in your thoughts out here in A'stan, it is almost as dangerous inside the wire as outside. Thieves, cutthroats, and highwaymen prowl the streets of BAF, and that's just among my countrymen! The third country nationals are even worse.

I immediately heard the whistle of the rocket as it screamed down from the night sky. All around me the kids, their reactions far more finely tuned than mine, switched into high gear and ran, sprinted, and dove into the nearest bunkers. I, on the other hand, knowing better, or so I thought, stood my ground. If it hit near me, I was either a goner or nothing would happen. I didn't take into account that the rocket might have a full charge, and that it might land far enough that it would mess me up.

Sometimes I'm just a dumbass.

Calmly raising my cup to my lips, the anticipation simultaneously sublime and almost too great to even begin to describe, I awaited for what would be either another anti-climactic dud, or my demise at the hands of the Iranian trained Taliban Rocketeers. The hot ceramic rim had just touched my lips, the sweet, golden green liquid moments from cascading down my thirsty palate.

I'll be damned if it wasn't a fully loaded rocket that landed maybe seventy five meters away from me.

It slammed into the flight line, impacted, and blew itself up, a blast wall and small tin building standing between me and the blast.

The earth bucked under me, the shock wave heaving my body up and backwards. (Or maybe I jumped...) My cup stood momentarily in place, defying the laws of gravity as my hand slipped away from it, before beginning its decent onto the unforgiving gravel.

I managed to keep my feet underneath me and caught myself before I sprawled head over heels on the same gravel. All around me soldiers and airmen were still running wide eyed and breathless into the bunkers, a couple screaming, “Take cover!” at the top of their voices. Probably the Air Force pukes in their snazzy reflective exercise outfits.

I spun around, more concerned for my mug of honey laced tea than my own safety. The mug, miraculously undamaged, was still turning in a lazy spin as I helplessly watched my tea disappear before my very eyes.

White hot fury displaced what might have been the beginnings of fear. What I would have given to have my hands wrapped around some Taliban's scrawny neck at that moment. I would have throttled him into next year. We have honey at the DeFac (Dining Facility), but it's crappy processed honey. Think what Cheeze Whiz is to Lorraine or Brie, and you'll get the picture.

But reality took hold rather quickly, and as angry as I was at the Taliban, I still needed to check if anyone was injured.

Sprinting towards the flightline, I dodged the running kids, and rounded the blastwall. A smoking crater about four foot wide, maybe a foot deep greeted me. I quick survey yielded little or no property damage and thankfully no casualties. The concrete blast wall had taken the brunt of the shrapnel and blast. As an aside, I carry the Tac-Packs I got last year with me everywhere, and I hope that I never, ever have to use them to plug any holes in me, or more importantly, on any of these young men and women that serve alongside me.

A couple of Air Force Security types joined me in moments. I stayed back as they did their initial inspection, reported on their radio, and looked busy. Meanwhile several more response personnel showed up, sirens wailing, lights flashing. Two A10s hustled down the runway, their huge GE turbofans sucking up cold air and shoving those beautifully deadly platforms into the night air. Blackhawks and Apache Longbows swept over the flight lines, their rotor's downdraft signaling their passing as the avengers went in search of prey out west and into the village. My fellow Americans were about to exact a terrible vengeance upon the fools that dare challenge us. Someone was going to pay for my spilled tea.

I wasn't needed, so I turned and walked back past the tin building and towards Customs. The tin shack was a little dinged up from the rocks blown out by the rocket, but pretty much none the worse for wear. As I passed the shack, there in the middle of the road, lay my empty mug, undamaged and unmolested. I walked up to it and bent over to pick it up.

It was still warm, even in the chill night air.

EPILOUGE: I know I make things appear fun and exciting, less serious than they really are. Believe you me, my heart was in my throat as I realized what could have happened. The rockets are no joke; they are a dangerous and deadly nuisance. Many soldiers have been wounded and some killed by an unfortunate strike. When the warning siren actually works in Bagram, you need to heed it immediately, either run for a bunker, or kiss the ground. If you're in a structure, get down as low as possible, get your arms tucked in tight and cover your ears. Only idiots and myself stand around to watch the fireworks.

Empty soft structure, the aftermath.

Other Lessons Learned:
Body armor is cumbersome.
So is shrapnel lodged in your ass.
Wear your armor when you are told to do so. Our intelligence people occasionally get it right.
Always carry a Tac-Pack or its equivalent. Life's a crap-shoot; stack the odds in your favor.
Make sure you are accounted for after an attack. Make a call, or have a system in place that lets someone know you are ok. My guys know to come look for my snoring carcase in my hootch.
While vengeance is sweet, and the sound of a Mk-19 is sweeter still!

And finally, the odds actually are infinitely in your favor. Don't sweat it too much. Live life like you mean it, do the right thing; do your work like it matters to you personally. And remember that what you do may mean the difference between life and death for someone else.

Epilogue Pt II: The winter recess is almost over. Pretty soon the well rested and resupplied Taliban will be back from their mountain hide-a-ways, looking to get into mischief. We'll smoke a whole mess of them, but lots of them will get through to wreak havoc and mayhem. Give thanks to and pray for the Soldiers and Marines that fight, live, and die in the fields, hills, and mountains trying to contain the depraved and destructive monstrosity that is the Taliban. Because of their efforts and sacrifices, you're at home safe and reading this.

Livin' Large in Afghanistan!
Member: Bagram Polo Club
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Keywords: Afghanistan, Bagram, Bagram Airfield, BAF, Taliban, Rocket attack, Taliban fighters, Taliban rocket attack, Iranian 107 mm rockets, 107mm rocket, Iranian rockets, Iranian terrorists

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What to Bring to Afghanistan: Soldier or Contractor

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles and
The Range Reviews: Tactical
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5. trochronicles.blogspot.com
Afghanistan Lessons Learned:
Contractor Edition

Having now spent an inordinate amount of time in Afghanistan, I have learned through first hand experience, sometimes painful, and through observation, what are some of the less obvious things you should bring with you. (This covers non-Force Protection personnel.)

Things to know:
The US Mail will be your life line. USPS Flat Rate Priority takes anywhere from 5 days (East Cost sender) to 15 days to arrive at the Bagram Post Office. SAM (Space Available Mail) can take much longer.  Depending on where you are, it could be another ten days before it gets to you after it hits Bagram. So if you are out on some FOB or COP, I am really sorry, you are looking at three weeks minimum. That's just the way it is in a hostile environment.

Anything with liquid in it that is to be mailed, must be well packed, the bottle top sealed with filament tape, and the box similarly secured with tape on all edges! Spend the money and get a couple of roles of the filament tape. There is nothing more disappointing than getting a box that got all torn up and finding your things gone. Do not over pack boxes, a bulging box will pop and the contents become lost in transit. Similarly, a loosely packed box will be crushed, the box torn apart and the contents lost. Pack the box tight, use newspaper to fill in the gaps!

Dust is omnipresent. Be prepared with personal allergy relief meds if necessary. Contact lens wearers need lubricating eye drops.

You will get sick as a dog. If you are smart you will bring two boxes of generic Dayquil, and two boxes of generic Nyquil gelcaps. This will help get you through the initial incident. Bring aspirin, ibuprofen, and/or acetaminophen as you prefer.Restock as opportunity arises, or have some sent regularly from home.

If you take a prescription medication regularly, you need to bring a six month supply of your meds with you. There are no pharmacies on BAF, KAF, or any of the FOBs. You may be able to use drugstore.com or one of the online pharmacies though.

Things to have:
Chapstik regardless of your gender! You are not used to the dry climate/altitude.
Good quality hand lotion. Hand washing is constant.
Babywipes, large pack. For the days when there is no water to bathe with.
Two pair of ballistic sunglasses. Z87+ rated.
If you wear reading glasses, bring a spare.
Nail clippers, small and large
Shemagh. Basically a large square scarf that you fold into a triangle for covering your face.
A good day pack.
A pack of thumbtacks! They are perpetually in short supply.
A couple dozen nails, 6d commons or finish. Always hard to find!

Two of everything you use as toiletries. Often the exchange is out of items... for a long time.
Two toothbrushes.
Two tubes of toothpaste.
Two deodorant sticks.
Two large bars of soap. (Might as well grab the hotel ones too before you go.)
Two full size bath towels (three is actually better.)
Two wash cloths.
Two cans of shaving cream. Tape the top on, and put them in individual plastic bags in your checked luggage.
As many packs of blades for your razor as you think you will need. You won't find what you need at the PX when you need it.

Feminine hygiene products in particular, are always in short supply!
Conditioner! Conditioner! Buy the good stuff... So I am told.

Anti fungal foot powder
Talcum powder
Qtips, large pack.

Bring a good pillow! You will thank me for it.
Two sets of twin sheets. You need to change them weekly!
Ship a quilt ahead of time if possible. Otherwise bring it with you.

2 pair of broken in boots. I like OTBs myself.
12 pair of good socks. Darn Tough Vermont top my list.
12 sets of underwear.
12 sets of t-shirts.
3 sets of UnderArmor tee shirts. Expensive, but worth every penny.
Hoodie or sweatshirt and sweatpants for hanging around or extra warmth.
Wool cap
Baseball cap
Buy your work trousers stateside. They are over-priced at the PX. I have been using 5-11 trousers and I am relatively satisfied with them.
One set of blue jeans. Good for your mental well being.
Flip-flops/shower shoes

Good quality flashlight. At minimum a Mini MagLight. SureFire would be better.
An MP3 player. Trust me, it will be one of your few pleasures.
Spare batteries. Get lithiums, they're expensive but they last longer.
Multi-tool like a Leatherman or Gerber. I also have one of those small tool kits with allen wrench, torx, Phillips, square, and straight bits along with the driver handle. I must use it at least once a week!
Two sets of addresses, passwords, copies of your Ids etc. Stash one away in your hootch and another in your pack.
Gel type Crazy Glue.
Canned air! Have it mailed to you in packs of three! You need to blow out your computer every couple of days. If you have a DVD player, same goes.
Medium sized RubberMaid or Tupperware food bins for your snacks.
A set of Squishy Bowls and Utensils™. I used mine constantly.

In your carry-on:
fleece blanket for the flight. It's long...
Headache remedy
Chewing gum
Power bars
When traveling to or from theater, be inconspicuous. Wear casual but comfortable clothes. Think business casual, not contractor casual.

More things to know:
Break your boots in before you go!
If you are going to use insoles, use good ones.
Get your Eagle Cash Card as soon as possible.
The laundry turn-around in Bagram is usually seven days. (As of 7/10-10/10) Other bases will vary from two to nine days.
The shower facilities are quite capable of burning you. Be careful.
All bases are dangerous. They are no different than any other big city.
Always travel in pairs. Especially women!
Know where your bunker is.
Keep your body armor handy, clean, and well maintained.
One more time! When traveling to or from theater, be inconspicuous. Wear casual but comfortable clothes. Think business casual, not contractor casual.

That's my list for now. As I remember anything else that's pertinent, I'll add it in.  Traveling to Afghanistan and working there can be difficult. It is an austere environment, and anything that can make it more comfortable and bearable is a good thing to do. Your company will not prepare you adequately! Remember, it is the small things that make it tolerable, so keep that in mind!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Shindand Tent Club