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What's it like in Afghanistan?

Discussion in 'US Army Forum' started by Biscuitsjam, Dec 3, 2007.

  1. Biscuitsjam

    Biscuitsjam

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    Jan 10, 2004
    I spent a year in Iraq as a tank crewman:

    5 months in a no-frills company-sized base near Baghdad with daily action
    5 months in a really nice battalion-sized base in southern Iraq with no action
    1 month in an isolated platoon-sized outpost in the middle of the desert
    1 month in transit between all the different places.



    We're talking about going to Afghanistan next. I have a pretty good idea of what Iraq's like from my tour over there, but I know next to nothing about the other sandbox.

    If it's relevant, I'm going over as a Cavalry Scout this time around. We're a RSTA squadron and train both dismounted and with humvees.

    What's the terrain like? The weather? The locals? The type of engagements? The living accommodations?
     
  2. deadday

    deadday

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    Aug 14, 2007
    Texas
    So you're a TWAT now? Unfortunately, none of those questions can be answered with at least a general destination. That country has plains, urban areas, mountains that would make a billy goat scared, gently rolling hills, etc. etc. Weather could be 90* on your COB/FOB, then -10* when you get off the bird. I'd imagine the living accomodations would vary much the same as Iraq, you've got your large, cush areas with all the ammenities, your in betweens, and then the out in the middle of nowhere, far from friends sandbag villas...If you'd like I can try and get you some contact info on guys that are just recently back either by way of injury or DEROS....


    drew
     

  3. Biscuitsjam

    Biscuitsjam

    1,002
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    Jan 10, 2004
    Yep, I'm a TWAT.

    Yeah, we certainly saw a lot of variety in base accomodations... No phone, internet, air conditioning, or any of the other nice stuff folks take for granted for the first part of our tour, then we went to a base with KBR chow, a giant MWR tent, and all the rest. At the first sector, they attacked most patrols with IEDs, and in the second sector, we didn't have any action at all.

    I'm interested in any generalities though like "Afghanistan doesn't have big mega-bases where you can get away" or "Afghanistan doesn't have highways like Route Tampa and most of the secondary roads aren't in good shape" or "the weather can be 50 degrees cooler in the mountains than down in the valleys."

    And, I'm interested in specifics like "Up in the mountains in the XXX part of the country, the locals were pretty friendly so long as we left alone their poppy fields" or "There was snow on the ground for most of the year in XXX and it got down to -20." or "In XXX, most of the patrols are done on foot and inserted by Chinook helocopter."


    I'm not looking for an encyclopedia on the country - it's just that I'm starting out with SO little knowledge that it's hard to even categorize info when I get it. They haven't told us what part of the country we might deploy to, and when they tell us, the info will probably be wrong. Our commanders scouted out our sector in Iraq at least 6 months before we headed over, but they kept talking about some other base until a few hours before we started our movement.
     
  4. deadday

    deadday

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    Aug 14, 2007
    Texas
    Ghanzi Provence has some pretty decent indig persons....For the most part, the Afghanni is a hard working individual, trying to do the best for his family...However, doing the best for his family often comes in direct conflict with US/ISAF/Afghan Gov interests..The tribal ties in that country are stronger than anything though....Tribal ties have even caused some indig personnel to side with American forces against al Qaeda or Taliban forces, even at GREAT risk to themselves, their families, etc..

    Study the concept of melmastya. It is called different things throughout the country, that is the Pashtun word. It is the act of giving kindness, protection, and support to ANYONE who asks it of a tribesman. ANYONE, be it al Qaeda, Taliban, rival village, or you Joe P Snuffy. They will take you in and protect you at all costs, failure to do so greatly impugns their honor and they will likely be thrown out of their tribe and turned into pariahs, if not killed. For a great example, read Lone Survivor by Marcus Lutrell, great book. This website made by some intellectual types will give you some decent dope on the different groups in the country, as well as a map showing their general areas.

    Mega bases, there are not many, but Bagram, is a HUGE base with everything you could want. Most of the fully established areas will have a decent sized FOB with MWR, internet, phones, etc. But again, being a scout, it is very likely you'll get dumped in the middle of BFE and have nothing but pen and paper...When the 82nd hit boots this time around they were broken up by Company/Troop and stashed around the country with a few large contingents at the main outposts.

    Global Security also has some pretty good info and some decent (not very detailed) maps giving drug routes, problem areas, FOB locations, etc...There are some major roads that have been improved and are regularly patrolled as MSRs, however, in most of the country, the roads start at unimproved dirt roads and go on down to goat trails...Don't be suprised if you do some patrols on 4 wheeler/ATV type vehicles.

    Pray to God, light a candle, do a dance, whatever is your bag, that you are not directly attached or working with ISAF. You will come to loathe them and 90% of the non-American/British forces in the area. They regularly bribe the Taliban and local warlords (well, we bribe the warlords too) and al Qaeda for 'protection'. They will pay to keep certain roads protected, causing the enemy to focus on others, namely the ones you will be using...They will not leave their camps, hell, some of them don't even carry weapons, or if they do, they are not loaded! If you've been to combat with your unit already, you know who you can trust, who you can depend on, and who will **** up among your officers. As always, watch your new guys, keep them close, but let them learn.

    Watch very closely any ANG or AP personnel attached to you or that you are working with. Hell translators are also alaways suspect. You don't know how they are loyal to, who their cousins are, brothers, fathers, etc. etc. Watch them closely. But also watch yourself around them, they are a very honorable people, and if you are going to accuse them of anything, make DAMNED sure you are right. Remember that Afghanistan is rediculously impoverished and many things the populace will do are solely motivated by money, so they can feed their families. They will accept bribes from anyone for information, they will leave 'packages' in places for foreign agents, etc..Be careful.

    Another good book to check out is called Jawbreaker by Gary Bernstein (I think, could be wrong here, but definate on the title). He is the the CIA that coordinated and is damned near single handedly responsible for the fall of the Taliban regime. He goes in detail about tribal alliances, changing tides between the warlords, and other things you should concern yourself with.

    I suppose that is enough for one post, bounce any questions you come up with here or my PM, and if I can't help, I'm surrounded by those that can..

    drew
     
  5. GSXRanger

    GSXRanger

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    May 30, 2007
    Gentlemen...

    Although I really concur with knowledge sharing... Please, PLEASE pay attention to OPSEC. After all... this IS the internet, and this is an open forum.

    That is all.
     
  6. Biscuitsjam

    Biscuitsjam

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    Jan 10, 2004
    I agree absolutely, but I think Deadday managed to give a lot of info without saying anything he shouldn't have. I really appreciate his post.


    Here's a few more questions. Most of the Iraqis we encountered couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with their AKs. They'd just point them in the approximate direction and shoot. It was Allah's will whether the rounds actually hit anything. Often, in combat, they'd do "death blossoms" where they'd just fire their weapons in a complete 360, no matter if there were other units nearby.

    Similarly, if they fell asleep on guard duty and got slaughtered - inshallah (God Wills It). To a certain extent, they didn't believe they were responsible for their own actions.


    Can the Afghans shoot?
    Are they fatalists?
    Are firefights a high percentage of the action over there?


    And, about the weather:

    Just how cold does it get up in the mountains?
    Is your army gear sufficient to keep you warm?
    How much nicer is it in the non-mountains?
    What about the weather in the summer?
     
  7. Biscuitsjam

    Biscuitsjam

    1,002
    6
    Jan 10, 2004
    According to the latest press release, we will "concentrate on training Afghan National Security Forces." We spent a lot of time with the Iraqi Army, so I guess it'll be somewhat similar.

    Some guys were cowards and would run at the first sign of danger. We once drove past a checkpoint where an Iraqi Army soldier flagged us down. There were supposed to be 12 guys manning the checkpoint, but they had heard that the insurgents planned to attack them. 10 of them took off their uniforms and fled, but the last 2 decided to stay. They gathered every machinegun, rifle, grenade, and ammo crate, determined to fight to the death, but they were extremely relieved to see us.

    The Iraqis would refuse to wear their body armor on guard duty, and they would often go to sleep. When asked where their rifles were, they'd have to wander around looking for them... However, when one of their outposts was attacked, every Iraqi within shouting range would run out and jump on the Bongo trucks to charge into battle all revved up and ready to kill the enemy. They got out the gate faster than our units did, usually.

    Needless to say, they were extremely frustrating to deal with. We'd be in awe of an Iraqi soldier (both for bravery and stupidity) that would singlehandedly rush into a 3-story house after fleeing insurgents and capture them by himself, then we'd catch a translator lieing to us and trying to get us killed. We'd see guys that were incredible and then those that were the dregs of humanity, and we never quite knew what to expect.
     
  8. deadday

    deadday

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    Aug 14, 2007
    Texas
    None of the information I have given is an OPSEC violation...Not even the strictest OPSEC Nazis could fault it..


    drew
     
  9. deadday

    deadday

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    Aug 14, 2007
    Texas
    Some more tidbits:
    -if you smoke/dip/chew make sure your favorite products are regularly included in packages from home. If you are in a remote AO, the shoppette/trailer will run out regularly for indeterminable amounts of time and the hadji cigarettes, aside from the obvious safety issues (heard of a handful of cases where soldiers were sold cigarettes laced with various poisons), they taste like ****

    -not sure about your previous Army time, but if you have any issues operating with females, get over them quickly. You WILL have female medics with you during village calls, soft knocks, TCPs, etc. The Afghan is VERY protective of their women and would rather shoot it out with your party than allow a male to search one. You will also encounter female EOD types for the same reasons, as well as for searching female living quarters.

    -on jewelry, watches, chains, wedding bands, don't bring them. Replace them with something very simple, utilitarian. The Afghan, as I mentioned is horribly impoverished, and while an honor bound society, they will steal to feed their family. Beyond that, it can create some hardships when dealing with Afghan civs, ANGs, APs. They will develop the feeling that you are rich, a caste above them, not to be trusted, etc.

    -Not sure if it was you or another poster in the machine gun thread that mentioned having to use British ammunition and having issues with it. This IS a problem as well with ISAF taking over more and more. Make sure you know what you are feeding your weapon and adjust accordingly.


    drew
     
  10. Hal9mm

    Hal9mm

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    Jun 9, 2002
    Do you read the Bible? If so visualize the old testament and add AK's, Toyotas and cell phones yep you got afganistan!
     
  11. deadday

    deadday

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    Aug 14, 2007
    Texas
    :upeyes:.....:supergrin:.....:rofl::rofl::rofl: You forgot about the counterfeit DVDs and Folex watches....




    drew
     
  12. Care to back that up, bud?

    mikeg81,

    Afganistan 2006-2007
    Canada Task Force 3-06 Battle Group
    E Battery, C Troop (M777 by the way)
     
  13. deadday

    deadday

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    Aug 14, 2007
    Texas

    If I had a way to back it up, I would've done more than complain about it on an internet forum.... For what it's worth, my next post was going to be regarding the Canadian and British forces I encountered, they were incredible guys to know, and from what I saw a very competent fighting force. That comment was directed towards other members of the ISAF contingent, I'm sure you saw it as well. I can't remember which countries off the top of my head, but I'll find the list of those that have completely unarmed delegations over there.


    drew

    ETA-Hey, do the Canadian troops really get a beer ration? We heard that several times, but the guys would just laugh and say maybe when we asked them:rofl:

    Edit again TA- I realize I left the Canadian forces out when I gave the 90% number and I appologize for that. It should read 90% of the non-American/British/Canadian forces....
     
  14. Fair enough...

    Yup, we do get a beer ration. When my Troop came in after Op Medusa, we had pizza and 2 king cans each(Molson Canadian, Labatts Blue or Keiths). You have to sign for them. Each unit over there had beer calls every so often. I did 3 of them. 2 can max. Does wonders for morale, and from what I've heard, there haven't been any problems.

    Mind you, the KAF Rats got more than us Battlegroup guys, but I'd still rather be outside the wire than spend my whole tour in that s**thole.
     
  15. deadday

    deadday

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    Aug 14, 2007
    Texas
    Did you have a better experience with ISAF than I? They really left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and I know I'm not the only one....


    drew
     
  16. I really didn't give a rats about ISAF. As far as I was concerned, it was just a patch I wore. My job was to serve the guns and support the infantry.

    ISAF affected the guns, inthat we had to wait for authorization to fire missions, from ISAF HQ. I agree, there shouldn't be any asking of questions when it comes to that sort of thing, you gotta trust the guys on the ground. But that was it, in terms of ISAF affecting us.

    We would send guys back to KAF for a 48 hour R&R, if we could spare them. Its nice to get a real shower and real food, but I wouldn't want to spend the whole tour there. Very boring place to be, I found.
     
  17. deadday

    deadday

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    Aug 14, 2007
    Texas
    You know, a whole deployment, definately not, but every now and then, if only for a couple of hours, boring is just what the doctor ordered....


    drew
     
  18. I had plenty of that on the gunline...
     
  19. Hal9mm

    Hal9mm

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    Jun 9, 2002
    Why can't US .MIL get a beer ration, it would do wonders for morale. They did it in NAM right?
     
  20. deadday

    deadday

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    Aug 14, 2007
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    Yes. And on top of that, soldiers could go into the Ville in the rear areas and drink in the bars.....Course, this was back when your C-rat came with a pack of cigarettes....




    drew