Skip to comments.Kandahar Airfield: Dusty chaos in perpetual motion
Posted on 04/28/2009 9:17:32 PM PDT by Clive
A Griffon CH-146 tosses up clouds of dust in Kandahar Airfield.
LCol Michel Villeneuve describes the dusty, noisy experience
of working at the airfield.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Kandahar, Afghanistan – The effect is stunning, a total surprise.
It’s like finding yourself, without warning, facing the bleak landscape of another planet. The whole thing can be summed up in two words: dust and noise.
It’s chaos in perpetual motion. Trucks toss up clouds of dust so fine that it hangs in the air indefinitely; only nightfall brings it back down.
The soil, which looks like clay churned and baked over thousands of years, seems doomed to spend the days flying up in the tracks of everything that disturbs it, not to descend again until evening.
From east to west there’s the same desolation, except for a few mountains just as arid as the landscape around the camp.
A grey mixture of concrete, barbed wire, minefields and dust
Everything here is some shade of grey, with no grass, crops or shrubs and only a few drab trees. It’s a mixture of concrete, barbed wire, minefields, and the dust that covers our vehicles, uniforms, machinery, equipment — even our flags, where only the wind can sweep it away.
It’s hard to believe, but the omnipresent suspended dust even has its own odour. This situation becomes even less bearable when the wind turns to the west and the exhalations of the sea of human excrement that lies within the camp perimeter sink into your innermost being.
Reveille begins the unshakeable routine
It’s like this every single day, an unshakeable routine, rolling continually like the military truck traffic, the troop movements, the dusty clouds shrouding everything.
Camp routine is always the same: reveille at 5:30 a.m. followed by a wash, a work-out at 6:00 a.m., and breakfast at 7:15 a.m. Next we begin a day that doesn’t end until about 8:30 p.m., sometimes later. Bedtime is about 10:30, when you can fall asleep.
In fact, military operations go on constantly, seven days a week, and sleep doesn’t come until late at night and only for a few hours, between missions.
At night, the racket of the war machine established in what used to be Kandahar’s international airport only gets louder. The roar of jet engines, combat helicopters constantly shuttling back and forth — non-stop air operations disturb everyone. Oh well, what can’t be cured must be endured.
Less than 200 metres from my quarters is the last defensive position the Taliban held when the intervention force arrived in 2001. We call this rampart the “TLS,” which stands for “Taliban’s Last Stand.” Surrounded and bombarded during the siege, those who managed to escape withdrew into the neighbouring mountains.
Sometimes you have to ask yourself whether the roles haven’t been reversed. It’s an asymmetrical conflict with an invisible enemy who goes to ground and then trickles away into the Afghan population.
Last evening, rockets landed in the camp not very far from us. It’s like this every evening, waiting and listening, ready to dive into the bunkers. By outrageous coincidence, the rockets were based in the TLS area, with ignition system in place and in all likelihood prepared for firing in our direction.
A precarious and dangerous place
Without a shadow of doubt, Afghanistan is a precarious and dangerous place.
Tonight, the Canadian flags are at half-mast. This will be the 115th goodbye to people who were at our side mere hours ago. Four of us have fallen, never to rise again.
Like dozens of times before, the ceremony and the farewells are held on the ramp. We have become accustomed to it, but it is not at all routine. This evening, I went to the chapel where the four soldiers rested before their repatriation. They were only 20, 22, 26, and the eldest, 27 years old, the father of two small children.
Next came the ceremony, solemn and grand in all its military splendour, masterfully orchestrated with acute precision and controlled down to the smallest detail. The ranks of soldiers set out in a multitude of platoons, men and women paraded by unit and national contingent.
Before this moving display of bitter solidarity, I fixed my mind on the soldiers who lost their lives in this harsh country, of all places, so far from their homes and loved ones.
Article by LCol Michel Villeneuve, Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing
LCol Villeneuve is the weapon system manager responsible for in-service support to the CH-147 Chinook fleet. He recently visited the JTF Afg Air Wing on a technical assistance visit.
Photo by Cpl Andrew Saunders
Courtesy of Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command.
This Canadian writer has obviously never been to Nevada.
The losses are sad and terrible.
The routine ...routine.
However, in this is a clarity as long as you don’t think too much about the purpose, just the mission and your buddies. Work, sleep, eat and survive. Really, to me, much more clear, satisfying and so much less complicated than living as a civilian or stateside.
If you know your enemy, if death comes quickly and not the endlessness of permanent injury and you can put both away and out of mind, it is not so bad.
It is the loneliness though isn’t it? The responsibility to communicate with those you love and who love you, pressed against the avoidance of doing so out of self protection. When you can finally put the pain of missing to the background you hate to pull it up again because you know how hard it is to put back where it is out of the way.
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