I finally managed to break free from KAF a few days ago. Several of us flew up to FOB Pasab in Zhari District on Thursday to meet with a team of civilians there. They were Department of State, USAID, and US Department of Agriculture experts who are directly involved with the local Afghan government. Two of us stayed for a couple of nights for some more in-depth and focused discussions. It turned out to be a very productive visit. I'd never been there before, and I'm the kind of guy who'll go almost anywhere once, so it was fun to see a new place.
FOB Pasab is a pretty large military base. Most of it is ISAF, but not all: there is a section that belongs to Afghan security forces, and a section that includes the District Center, which is the seat of government. Like all our bases, it's made up of tents, CHUs, "Plywood Palaces", stacks of CONEX boxes (big shipping containers), diesel-powered generators, miles and miles of T-walls, and gravel.
Most significantly, it has one of the best DFACs in all Kandahar Province. After eating at the "Sux" DFAC for so long, it was great to find a really well-run place. The food tasted great, there was a good variety, and they had all the extra geedunk (Navy terminology for snack food) that DFACs are supposed to have but ours never do. For example, they had a wide variety of drinks, including Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Coke Zero, regular Coke, Orange Crush, Snapple, boxed juices (pineapple, orange, apple, cranberry, and mixtures), V8, Gatorade, non-alcoholic beer, and much much more. The Sux might have regular Coke, orange crush, mystery drink (maybe it's Tang, but I wouldn't bet on it), and something they claim is apple juice. FOB Pasab's DFAC even had (gasp) REAL ICE CREAM! Yes! Cookies 'n' Cream, Praline, Chocolate, and Vanilla ... the kind you scoop out of a big ol' tub, not the kind that squirts out of a machine like runny poop. Last night was Friday, which means Surf 'n' Turf, and I had a big stack of crab legs for the first time since, well, Baghdad. Followed by real pecan pie. Oh my gosh, it was almost like being in the real world again. Tomorrow I gotta hit the gym to start working it off.
But we weren't there just to hit the DFAC, we were there to work. (No, really, we were. There to work, I mean.) We spent most of the day in some pretty deep discussions about the team, the mission, operations, and how to maximize our effectiveness. I got to visit the district center and get a feel for the place. Last night, the incoming Colonel (he'll be in charge of all the military operations in the area in a week) came to the tent and talked with us for two and a half hours. Quite impressive. Very sharp guy with a keen understanding of the social, political, and military environments. He'll be a great one to work with.
Today we came back, riding home in an ancient CH-46 helo. The Navy and Marines used to operate these things way back when I was a junior officer at sea, so it was cool to get to ride in one again. Yes, that is Your Faithful Correspondent in the cool Ray-Bans at the top of this post.
So now it's back to the KAF Grind. Back to the Sux ... in fact, I needed some Alka-Seltzer after dinner tonight, and not because I ate too much. (A word of explanation: the "Sux" refers to the DFAC right around the corner. It's official name is the Luxembourg DFAC ... aka the "Lux" ... aka, well, you know). There's going to be an excruciating 2-hour meeting tomorrow morning. Oh, boy, can't wait. (I'm lying.)