Yes, I am still posting. I plan to finish reporting on my last days of deployment . . .
The last two weeks in Afghanistan entailed a whirl-wind of events beginning with the official announcement that we had a rough guestimate of a departure date somewhere around the 20th of February. On the 14th we were informed, through word of mouth (there never was an official announcement) that we were to have everything packed up because we were probably moving into tents in only two short days. We were only issued to Sea Bags to pack our stuff in and all the useless gear we never used but were issued took up most of the space in those, so began a frenzy of sorting through our accumulation of 6 months worth of stuff in our dorm rooms and multiple trips to the post office. Over the next few days, I think I spent more time waiting in lines at the Kandahar Air Field Post Office than I did doing much of anything else.
On the 16th we loaded all our stuff up on flat-bed trucks called Bongos and were moved into tents that had just flooded the night before. February in Kandahar is the rainy season and, because the ground is so hard, the water just sits on top and everything floods. The picnic area of the boardwalk resembled a pond instead of the dirt football field that it normally serves as.
Instead of our nice beds in our dorm rooms, we now had to sleep on small, foldable cots with our sleeping bags, although some of us were smart and actually brought our linens and blankets to make it a little more cozy. I do have to admit that I thought our living situation was going to be worse than it turned out to be. We had heat, at least most of the time. The heater was run off of a gas generator and our second night there, the gas ran out and the heater turned off. It was about 40 degrees in our tent when we woke up that morning! And to top it off, there was no more hot water for the showers. After that, I discovered that if I took a shower around 5 pm there was always hot water.
Over the next few days, we waited for our replacements to arrive so that we could orient them to their new jobs, however they were delayed and meanwhile, we had to keep working. For us night-shifters, this meant trying to sleep during the day in the tent and then having to find somewhere else to hang out on your nights off because people were trying to sleep in the tent. I spent most of my nights of just hanging out at work because there was nowhere else to go. Living in the tents also meant a greater risk of injury from a rocket attack which of course we had two of while we were there. We had to quickly roll off our cots, placing our arms over our head for protection. Then, after two minutes of lying on the ground, we had to quickly slip on shoes run and run out into the dark across an obstacle strewn courtyard, trying to avoid tripping over things like rocks and pieces of rebar. We had to rendezvous in a cement bunker on the other side of the courtyard and stand in the cold for 30-45 minutes before the “All Clear” would sound. I had taken the warmth and safety of my blast-proof dorm room for granted, that’s for sure!
Finally, our replacements arrived and were ready for turn-over on the 20th. Lucky them, they only got one day of orientation as we were scheduled to depart the very next day! I discovered that one of replacements was a Lieutenant from my unit back home, so that was kind of fun to reconnect with him before I left. It was pretty wild that one day our group was smoothly running the whole trauma hospital and then one day later, we had handed it all over to a completely new group of people with a total turn over of approximately 120 people!