10 Nov 2009 @ 10:05 PM 

Another >GAG< Trip To Bagram


Just returned from another wretched trip to Pogadishu, once again challenging my moral endurance. One of the more blatant signs of disconnection from reality; several Soldiers complaining vociferously about Pizza Hut running out of beef while nearby a Soldier who was passing through Bagram to go on leave had come from a FOB where running out of water for days at a time was relatively common, and needed supplies were unable to be delivered due to a lack of airlift capacity. The ridiculousness of the concerns of the denizens of Pogadishu is highlighted in the presence of those who pass through their midst on their way to and from the real war.

The Soldiers who pass through are subjected to visions of high-rise (three story) conex condos while they are subjected to the horrors of the “transient tents.” These hovels house nearly two hundred men who share four shower stalls, two urinals and three toilets. Overflow capacity is provided by several porta-johns nearby. I haven’t been to the east side of Bagram in two years, but I hear that conditions over there are even more horrific. How that can be escapes me, but there must be another level of depravity on that side of the runway. In the north transient tents, one tent, which is not an Army tent but the type of enclosure that might hold diners at an outdoor wedding, holds double-deck bunk beds that house at least 175 men. It is nearly always filled to capacity, a scant foot to a foot and a half between bunks. Dimly lit, it is like a holding pen for a level of Hell that is filled to capacity. Bare plywood floors are perpetually dusty, and there is an air of resignation.

The other tent, of the same construction, has standard Army cots separated by the same intervals. This tent easily houses a hundred men. It seems more pleasant because of the ability to see from one end to the other. Not all of the occupants are transients. Many Soldiers and contractors are “housed” there for weeks at a time before getting more “permanent” housing, likely in one of the many B-huts which have small living areas separated by cubicle-like “walls” with lockable “doors.” The “walls” cannot go all the way to the ceiling because there are only two Chigo (heating and air conditioning) units, one at each end of the hut. Often a dozen men will be housed in one B-hut. B-hut living is tolerable. It is sheer luxury compared to the Spartan living in the transient tents.

In the transient tents, privacy is a matter of mind over matter. The iPod is a savior. If one puts in the iPod, one can almost forget the man snoring 18 inches from his left ear. As I lay there on my cot, the roar of two F-15’s taking off shattered the near-serenity of Pachelbel’s Canon. I restarted the tune, immersed in the quiet dignity of what is likely my favorite piece of classical music. A bit later, another pair of fighters took off, afterburners punctuating Steppenwolf’s invitation to a young woman to join them on a Magic Carpet Ride. Brilliant.

I think that the iPod saved my sanity.

But there is no saving one’s sanity from the utter fobbitry. NFL on Fox made the trip to Afghanistan, only to root themselves in the land of those who serve, forward deployed but not in any way, shape or form an actual participant in the hostilities. As we were conducting training for several days to one of the headquarters elements, we moved through what is to us is something out of Alice in Wonderland. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if I were approached at Bagram by a huge, time management-challenged rabbit. So, eating in one of the dining facilities during lunchtime, we saw Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long as they exited. They had been seated in the large, cramped DFAC and had signed many autographs. Asked by a friend back home if I had said anything to them, I replied, “Nah, this place is full of fobbit jock-sniffers. I don’t want to be one of them.”

I was informed that coffee being shot through the nose is very uncomfortable and stains shirts.

I am reminded that Toby Keith heads out to FOBs and COPs where he has played for very small groups of Soldiers on an acoustic guitar. It was a nice gesture for NFL on Fox to head to Afghanistan, it really was. When I first came to Afghanistan, half of the people I knew weren’t even tracking on this country. It was the forgotten front of the “War on Terror.” Iraq was where all the money, troops and attention went. So for Fox to come to this land was a great gesture. But the kids at Bagram have everything.

Except beef on their pizza… at least for a few days.

There are Soldiers and Marines all over this country who get squat… even water… while Bagram has “Karaoke Nite” and “Salsa Nite.” Then the spoiled wonders there even have the temerity to rant out loud about not getting beef with their pepperoni for their Pizza Hut pizza (delivered, no less). Now, I can’t fault them for making their lives as comfortable as possible, but there is silly and then there is ridiculous. Salsa Nite is silly.

Housing the warriors who normally live in Spartan conditions that the fobbits at Bagram would riot over in those pathetic “transient tents” is ridiculous. You do not see field grade officers spending the night in those wretched holes called “transient tents.” If a full Colonel ever got stuck in there for a night, lots would be made of the event shortly thereafter. But it is perfectly fine to “house” a young Sergeant with two Purple Hearts, who has lived for days without clean water and who has no electricity on a regular basis, in the slums of Bagram while the full-time denizens of that massive disconnect from reality are housed in apartment complexes formed of stacked shipping containers with cable TV and internet service in their rooms.

The word is disparity.

“I can’t believe that they have the nerve to even open their mouths about not having beef on their pepperoni pizza,” the young Sergeant stated, “but it just reminds me that they are nothing.” He continued, “They come here and then they go home and talk about how they went to Afghanistan, but they aren’t even in this war. This is like an American town in the middle of Afghanistan. This isn’t Afghanistan, and these people ain’t shit. Hearing stuff like that pisses me off, but it reminds me that I’m an Infantryman, and I’m in it for real.”

Bagram really needs to do something about the shameful disease vectors that it calls “transient housing.” There should not be a soul living in pampered condos while the warfighters themselves pass through the scummy misery of those fetid tents. Tons of money is being spent there on construction, and yet a man who lives in crap out on a FOB has to share four shower stalls with over two hundred other men? Bagram is a hub for all who pass in and out of Afghanistan. The notoriously snarled air traffic leaves people hanging for days at a time… to suffer the indignity of an ill-run “transient housing” situation. It is unconscionable.

They didn’t show the celebrities the “transient tents.” Why? Why not show them where the real warriors get stuck when they pass through on leave or rush home in family emergencies? Because they are not idiots. If you chain your child in a closet, you know better than to show anyone. Certainly not anyone with a camera. Not only is Bagram disconnected from the war, but they treat anyone who actually is connected to it like some kind of animal. For anyone going on leave, Bagram is just part of the hellish journey that only becomes any semblance of normal when they reach Atlanta.

It’s a shame.

I’ve caught yet another upper respiratory infection in the transient hell of Bagram. If you ever really just have a burning desire to get sick, go to the transient housing office at Bagram and tell them you need a place to stay.

Tags Categories: Afghanistan, General Military Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 10 Nov 2009 @ 10 05 PM


Responses to this post » (21 Total)

  1. coffeypot says:

    Every combat veteran I have ever met hates the REMFs. I know there are some critical jobs being performed back there by some good men, but for the most part I thank the majority (especially the officers) are a useless as tits on a nun. Just let those that count know we are thinking of them today (Veterans Day.)

  2. Kristina says:

    I was recently in a debate about how cushy the prisons are compared to what our Warriors live in at FOB’s. Unfortunately, you more than proved my point.

  3. […] punctuating Steppenwolf’s invitation to a young woman to join them … Read more: Afghan Quest » Blog Archive » Another >GAG< Trip To Bagram Share and […]

  4. […] Steppenwolf’s invitation to a young woman to join them … See original here: Afghan Quest » Blog Archive » Another >GAG< Trip To Bagram Share and […]

  5. Hebisner says:

    Silly civiliian question…

    If the President decides to send 40,000 to Afghanistan, do they have the infrastructure to support a force increase of that size? It seems they have a serious issue with that…

  6. Pattie says:

    Bagram sounds a lot like LSA Anaconda in Iraq. Didn’t take long to learn when I “adopted” a soldier at Anaconda he didn’t need stuff, he had more fast food places than my little town does. He did need letters tho.

    I can’t imagine the conditions you describe are allowed to exist. Sounds like the transients are stuck in tents left by the Soviets when they left Bagram.


  7. RamblingRia says:

    Where are those “inquisitive reporters” when you really need these conditions brought to someone’s attention? Who exactly should be shamed into making changes?? Maybe someone should start a work program that trades construction skills for pizza. They get meat when a unit is livable.

  8. LTC John says:

    Sounds like things have not changed much since 2004-2005, except that the permanent contigent now has Pizza delivery, net and TV (!).

    Oh, I was a Major then, and I did stay in the circus tents (made by a revival tent maker in Waco Texas) on a cot, when I was a transient…of course the permanent party was moving from Tier III tents to B-Huts.

    Sad to see the transient areas are not much better than 4 1/2 years ago.

  9. David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 11/12/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  10. dennis says:

    And just think Brian Williams from ( mbc ) was just there. and not once did Brian say he and his crew stayed in a tent.

  11. OldSoldier54 says:

    I see nothing has changed in the last four decades. It still chaps my hips, though.

  12. neutics says:

    Don’t forget those who leave the wire from BAF on a daily basis, the Army Aviators & crew chiefs who are flying their asses off to protect and resupply true Soldiers like you.

  13. Yankeemom says:

    […] Another >GAG – Just returned from another wretched trip to Pogadishu, once again challenging my moral endurance. […]

  14. membrain says:

    Thanks again for telling it like it is Blue. And for serving!!!

    Stay as safe as you can. (And look after that nasty upper respiratory infection.)

    Links for your readers curious about your iPod choices:



  15. Brian O says:

    Hey Blue,

    Remember the ANA and ANP in those tents before the mission kicked off. Bet the poop is still in the bunkers. lol


  16. Hagenmary says:

    After Brian WIlliams and NBC showed up at my sons FOB and did a 20 second news clip, I emailed Mr Williams. Asked him if he had noticed that they had NO technology (no internet, no phones, no nuttin’ to be in contact with families except snail mail. It’s 2009, and we are reduced to letters that take weeks & weeks & weeks!!!) Anyway, I actually got a reply from someone at NBC, who gave me numbers for a very BIG shot in the USO.
    Yes, the USO. I can’t begin to imagine what the USO can do to get technology to the hundreds of soldiers serving at a “remote” base. This base has been up & running for years by Canadian forces. But they’re leaving, and taking their stuff with them,
    Too bad NBC didn’t notice that the soldiers are living in a 1940 time warp!

  17. Salmon Pants says:

    The USO is awesome…and apropos BAF: the Bagram USO was recently renovated thanks to funding from the NFL and is probably the only building in Afghanistan that resembles an Alpine chalet on the inside and out.

    The location is extremely convenient for people passing through (unlike the transient tents), and it provides just about the only place to stay sane if you’re stuck in BAF. TV, wireless, comfy leather chairs and power outlets…better than the tents.

  18. elf says:

    Gee Blue, I can’t remember running out of water except on fast offensives (91). I think it’s probably indicative of how far we’ve strayed – I wonder how many current CO HQ and 1SG’s could resupply their troops if they had KBR yanked away.

    On fobbits – well, wrote a small 64 post blog on that 06-07. Wasn’t positive.

    Uh dude…reading the tea leaves over here. Support is plummeting, from Tony Blankley (R) to Ed Koch, and you know where the Left stands. Not to ruin your day, BUT…

    When your CINC…isn’t… you retrograde. In any case the decision to bring KSM and crew to NYC renders this all moot. Bammy just rejunvinated AQ when they were on the ropes.

    As he says, the GWOT is over.

    So get the kids the fiki outta there, they are America’s future. He doesn’t want it dude. And it will go bad fast if you stay there. Extract. Sorry.

    The Global War on Terror is Over. The War in America is about to begin.

  19. Cheryl says:

    My husband is currently “stationed” at Bagram. He has been there 3 months and is still living in an 80 man tent. He said today they moved out the people in the tent next to them and dogs moved into that tent. Yes, DOGS! My husband and the rest of the guys in his unit are literally living like dogs. With the exception that the dogs aren’t in bunk beds. Here’s to 30,000 more soldiers headed that way!

  20. Will says:

    I spent six months at Bagram. As the 1st comment from “coffeypot” states, there are some critical jobs being done there, but watch out coffeypot, some of them are being performed by your “useless…tits on a nun…officers”. Folks like me (an AF Reserve O-5) who provide a critical mission… anesthesia. Trauma anesthesia to be precise. I ask that any one reading this comment will hopefully realize that not everyone at Bagram fits Blue’s description of a fobbit. Yes indeed, Bagram is somewhat removed from the “real war”, but then I saw the horrors EVERYDAY! Burned kids, blown off extremities, mangled but still attached extremities, gonads blown off, US service member suicide attempts, kids run over by HMMWVs and MRAPs, RPGs to the torso, gunshot and fragment wounds to the head, and on and on. I am not a trigger-puller, but I am there for the trigger-pullers. Cried my eyes out a few times there after a 20-something Marine with a wedding band on his hand died in my O.R., or a 30-something Soldier with tattoo pictures of his kids on his forearm takes his last breath in the ICU. ‘Nuff said…

  21. Anu says:

    @Will (Above)

    I have so much respect for you and others who work hard, in atrocious conditions, day in and day out to save the lives of others with little or no recognition. I too work for the military in the medical field but am a civilian and work with many of the soldiers who’s lives and broken and crushed.

    It pains me to hear of the conditions which our government find suitable for our servicemen and women. Sickens me to the core.

    I hope that someone finally does something about this. Surely in 2010 for thousands of soldiers sharing such few bathroom facilities needs to be looked into.

    No wonder I have to work with so many men and women who suffer SEVERE mental health issues. No wonder.

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