Thursday, November 10, 2011

OASA Sharana Afghanistan

10 November 2011

A few days before I was scheduled to return home after completing my "1st rotation" as a Flight Operation Coordinator (FOC) for AAR Airlift, I was asked if I would consider extending for an additional 2 weeks in Afghanistan to assist a fellow FOC in Sharana.

My 1st rotation kept me at Bagram Airbase, home of AAR's "fixed wing" fleet (airplanes). The base in Sharana (ICAO = OASA) is one of several helicopter bases in the country.

With permission from Linda (thank you my love) I accepted the opportunity.

AAR has several S61 helicopters based across the country, further supplying our troops here with needed transportation of personnel and supplies.

The Sharana base, though almost the same size as Bagram, is in development and is more "rustic" (=muddy).
The housing is comfortable, food good (read "free" & "I don't have to prepare it or clean any dishes"), working conditions tight, but alright.

I had the opportunity to be near the perimeter of the base, so here I am at "the wire"
(yes, there are MANY guards nearby)

I go home in ~ 10 days.... Thanksgiving at my brother Pat's home in VA....
a week later, Linda and I will get married in the Catholic Church.
As I mentioned in my bio here, I'm a blessed man !!!

Later, gators


Thursday, October 20, 2011


Thursday  20 October 2011


Sorry its been awhile that I've blogged ... life as a Flight Operations Coordinator on an active Airbase in a warzone can be a very interesting experience.
We have security drilled into our heads all the time, so I cant really elaborate on alot of things I see here.
Sorry. You'll have to wait till I'm in the rocker and tell my "when I was in Afghanistan" stories.

One thing I will comment on....  I daily watch and hear the dedication of our military people here at Bagram Airbase Afghanistan and it has given me a deep and thankful respect for the work that they do.
They walk the walls, they go outside of the wire, they prep, they practice, they're very kind and respectful when I talk with them at meals and ask them questions.
Their dedication to "Army Values" is beyond impressive. I am honored to be in their presence.

Daily, I walk into the Green Beans Coffee cafe here ("Honor First, Coffee Second") stand next to the line, wait until a Soldier/Sailor/Airman/Marine orders, and step up to the cashier and pay.
I tell the soldier I do this daily as a very small gesture of thanks for what they do.
Please .... no "gee Dan, how nice" thoughts ... it is nothing compared to what these very young people do every day.
The other day, the soldier I stepped up for was a 2 Star General.
When I went to pay, he told me that wasn't necessary.
I explained that I do this gesture daily in gratitude for what our soldiers do, and that I'd be equally honored if he accepted as would a pimply-faced very young private here.
He did, I thanked him, and disappeared.

My brother Pat, besides being a Captain in the USCG, is his Boy Scout Troops "Pop Corn Kernel".
Pat recently sent me a box full of popcorn, along with some TERRIFIC chocolate cookies that his wonderful wife Carlene packed into the box.
I had the honor to walk up to soldiers here and give away the popcorn. ((I ate the cookies !!!)

Due to the desert conditions of Afghanistan and the unforgiving terrain, our fleet of aircraft carry onboard  survival equipment (along with some other toys). In the survival equipment are Meals Ready to Eat, a self contained packing of food and snax, easily warmed up.

Those not in the acft are in storage. I asked for and got permission to try one.

I went for the Chicken and noodles.
The packaging is a heavy plastic, like a 6 ply bag. Easy open zip top.

Here's all the stuff in the MRE kit.
The Reeses pieces were gone within a minute.
Hey, this IS survival !!
((do you know thats NOT peanut butter in them !!!))
There's a spoon, crackers, coffee making kit and the meal itself.
I'm just going to make the meal .... I'm hungry.
The coffee ? I'm a Green Beans Cafe guy !!

 Nutritional facts ..... not bad !!
 Instructions for heating the meal ..... Reeses pieces ? 10...9...8...7...6...
Basically, you add a small amount of water to a heat generator that looks like a teabag.
The packaged food heats up inside of the bag ... takes ~15 minutes.
 Julia Childs, check this out !!!
Here's a test human actually eating the MRE ..... pretty good .... 7.6 on a 10 scale ,,,,
Guess what ..... it tastes like chicken.
Darn .... wish there were more Reeses Pieces !!!!!

Next ...... Lasagna !!!

Later gator !!

Friday, September 30, 2011

On an Observation Flight !!!!

Friday 30 September 2011
On an observation flight

I had the opportunity to do an observation flight today. The idea of such a flight is to give someone like myself the opportunity to “watch the show” as we do what we do thruout the country every day. Although I dispatch the aircraft and crews, I track them on monitors at our home base as they move about the country via tracking tools, monitoring how the flights are progressing.

Going on an observation flight enables me to see the fuelers fuel, something I task them to do, to see the “loggies” (logistics people) loading and unloading the aircraft, to see maintenance teams interacting with crews and other support personnel at their actual tasks. It’s a great eye-opening experience. My dispatch rating demands that I do x hours-per-year at such a task, and fortunately, AAR encourages me to do so. Of course, due to personnel scheduling, it’s done on your day off.
Oh yeah, and cool, I get to sit in the jumpseat with the crew and fly around for a day !!

The type of aircraft I had the chance to fly in today was a Casa 212. The Casa 212 is a twin engine, 2 pilot aircraft which AAR uses as a cargo aircraft. AAR flies a variety of cargo for its client’s thruout the region. When you mail a letter or a package to a soldier serving in Afghanistan, we deliver it.

We visited several “FOB’s” today ….. Forward out bases. We deliver cargo and transport either cargo, like an aircraft engine we did today, or soldiers returning stateside for some R&R. We remember to thank them for their service. I keep a bunch of $10 and €10 McDonalds cards in my pocket that I give to our soldiers returning home. It gives them taste America on their stopover on their way home and is a small, very small thank you for what they do!

This is a FOB …. Can’t tell you where though …. Security is the master key here.

For the most part, Afghanistan is a mountainous region. I’m told that 30+ years ago Afghanistan was an agriculture nation but the Soviet Union, trying to conquer, blew up the underground aquifers and canal system, allowing the desert to quickly reconquer the nation.
Flying overhead you can spot green in the river valleys, but little other green in the mountains

Flying overhead, you’re able to observe mud rectangular triangles which surround where the people live. Houses in Afghanistan are traditionally made out of mud, and have a series of rooms located around a private rectangular courtyard where women and children play, cook and socialize. Married sons share the same house as their parents, although they have separate quarters. Some Afghan houses contain a special room where men socialize with each other. 

Of course, being a Muslim nation, we saw several Mosques. Acft in the region are not allowed to fly over or near them.

The end of an 8 hour day bought us back to our home base in Bagram. A great day. Our crews and all support staff work hard 7 days a week fulfilling our mission of support to forces based here.
I’m proud to be working for AAR Airlift.

Friday, September 23, 2011

the doo.....

9/23/11 pm ... the aforementioned "once around with the #1" cut....
last time Linda was my barber, we borrowed Reuben's shaver (good boy ...miss you !!)

Yes....Steelers Nation is alive and well in Bagram !!

Pogs !!!!!

Fri 9/23/11
Today when I was at the PX buying something, I went thru the checkout and realized that I have completely bought into a weirdity of everyday life here at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan ...although transactions happen in USA $'s, there are no coins.
Instead, we use cardboard pogs. Pogs of all different values, but cardboard none the less.

I went onto Wikipedia, that absolute source of all that is known, to look up Pogs. I remember my daughter Danalisa used to play and collect pogs growing up. sure enuf, Wiki tells how indeed pogs are used on military establishments as real coins weigh alot and to ship them would be expensive. The pogs claim to be "gift certificates" rather than currency .... I think I'll try to collect them all and give them to Danalisa !!

I had the day off today. I went an got a haircut ("#1 all around please") so i'm handsome once again. There's a shuttle bus that runs around the base, so I went on an explore to the east side of the base. I ate at a different DEFAC (dining facility) for lunch. Had a nice walk, read . I had the chance to go to Mass @ 1130. The priest officer here is an Air force officer. I enjoy his homilies.

There was a good wind today, kicking up alot of dust. Hopefully, that'll mean good visibility tomorrow, and I'll be able to snap some pictures of the nearby Hindu Kush mountain range.

I hope everyone is well.
Take good care of you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

~25% ....

Greetings from Bagram … btw, those of you following along wanting to see the aviation weather here, you can look at the TAF’s and METARS for OAIX & KQSA. A "K" code all the way over here …. Crazy !

I’ve been in-country for about 2 ½ weeks now and I’m really starting to get a good feel for what’s going on here. Life on an active military base in a war zone does indeed have its interesting moments. Our living quarters are very close to the flight line, and some very loud planes fly 27/7 here !! Interesting how you easily get used to it. For me, having grown up right under the final approach for Newark Int’l, its just the same old thing all over again.

There are troops from several different nations here, all eating together, walking the same streets … I wasn’t aware that military from other countries salute officers from other nations. I sometimes am following officers and notice they have to salute back several times a minute !!! Seems like their arms must get weary. 

The weather here continues to be warm and sunny, temps in the high 80’s and low 90’s … constant clear skies. I’m told winter kicks in late November.

I stopped in to visit with the USCG based here. My brother Pat is a Captain in the USCG. Although a land locked nation, the USCG does container inspections and works with Customs officials here. Pretty impressive group.

My work rotation has us in country for 60 days and home 30. As a math head, I’m constantly doing %’s, so, being here 2 ½ weeks already, I’m more that 25% done of my 1st rotation. The department I work in, Flight Operations, see’s people coming and going thru their rotations … people are always psyched to leave, but come back refreshed and ready to take on their tasks. The sense of mission is quite a positive thing here.

Food, good. Bed, comfy. Showers, could be warmer.

I have to note that Skype has to be one of the best inventions going !! I’ve been able to have video calls with Linda and our children ….

So, all is well here in Afghanistan.

Take good care of yourselves.

Deltafox ("Afghan-is-Dan")

Friday, September 9, 2011

H-O-T !!!!!

Friday 9/9/2011  2015 AFT (1145am East Coast time)

Greetings from Afghanistan.
Man, its hot here !!! and dry !!!  and dusty !!!!!!

Things are going well here for me.
I'm starting to settle into my job .... there are 3 shifts, each 10 hours with a 2 hr break midday.
We work 6 days a week.
There are some very interesting tasks that need to be completed .... the AAR Flight Ops office is a tight facility with alot of traffic and activity. These folks are a tight community and they go out of their way to intro themselves and ask about you. I know I'm going to enjoy working here. There are some pretty bright people here who really know their stuff.

I'm assigned to a "hooch", a large tent like structure with rooms built into it, air conditioned. The rooms are about 8x8. I'm not yet assigned my permanent room yet but will be within a few weeks.
I've been a tad sick since I got here .... the dust and the dryness tend to dry up your nasal passages and give you congestion like an upper respiratory infection. The solution is to nose-inhale saline a few times a day and drink alot and alot of water. I'm feeling alot better.

Life on the base is interesting. Of course, its loaded with soldiers, all carrying guns. There are big trucks everywhere. All places are off of a central street called Disney, named after the designer of the roadways here. The food is good. I've found the gym, and I'll start heading there once I can 100% breathe. I found the movie theater, free movies 24/7 with free popcorn!! I've found the chapel but not Catholic services. I've emailed the Archdiocese of the Military and asked them for info. Its and interesting, hot and very dusty place. I've taken to wearing a surgical mask walking around and its amazing how quickly it gets dirty.... dirt that would've gone down the ol' trachea.

I cant take pictures really in the event of compromising the "inside the wire" information. I think I've taken about 20 security courses since I began with AAR and they really drill into you the whole idea of "loose lips sink ships".

I'm based in Bagram, one of several bases in the country. It is a 34.9* N latitude, about the same as NC.
We are surrounded by mountains on the north and south.

The jet traffic is ever present .... they go all day and all night. My hooch is within 100 feet of the flight line, so I can hear the activity.

I hope everyone is well.
Later !!!