Friday, September 28, 2007

28 Sept., stuck

No flights today. running out of clean clothing. I took my last pair of socks with me, and I washed them in the shower. The next flight is due out on Sunday 30 Oct. I must immediately make a flight to Wazakhwa, another of my bases. I will have to fly to Salerno by fixed wing aircraft, and then wait on a helicopter.

The Rec Hall was not crowded, so I am spending several hours on the computer catching up on some administrative work.

Called the USA yesterday. Spoke with RB Hooks, a masonic friend.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Stuck at FOB Orgun-E

27 Sept. Got up at 0515AM this morning, and went to the flight desk to see about the flight to Sharana. It was cancelled. I came here to do 45 minutes of work, and I have been stuck here ten days. The next flight is 30 Sept, and there is no guarantee of that one!! I might have to wait until the 3rd of October.

Getting low on clean clothing. I will wash some items in the shower myself. Stuck on a cot, fortunately I was able to scrounge a blanket. COLD in the mornings.

Not much line for the computers, I was able to inform my supervisor of my whereabouts. Would like to call the USA, maybe later.

The bad weather is coming, and it is only going to get worse (with respect to flying). In bad weather, the helicopters will fly less often.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

26 Sept. Wednesday afternoon

A little excitement last night. There was some enemy activity, outside the gate, so there was an alert. Siren, so we had to go to bunkers. Waited about an hour, then all clear.

Should be flying home to Sharana tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Got up this morning, cold as usual. Got a decent breakfast, then got on the internet. Scheduled to fly back to home base Sharana on Thursday, In's'hallah. Got to see Jeapordy. Mostly just relax,and wait for the chopper.

I have made many postings on this blog about Freemasonry, but I have never deliberately criticized any individual. If anyone feels criticized, or treated unfairly on my blog, please let me know.

I received a letter from the Grand Master of Masons in Kentucky. The Grand Lodge of Kentucky does not realize, that I am a dual member of two lodges, one in Kentucky and one in New York. I have been communicating with the Grand line officers, and others in New York, about the LSA#1 project.

The Grand Master asked me to provide them with an "intent" to communicate only with individuals in my own grand Lodge. I agreed.

I am about done with the lodge project in Iraq. There is not much I can here in Afghanistan. We have a lodge project here at Sharana, and I am going to be very active. I think that the military and civilian personnel here in Afghanistan (and Iraq) deserve to have Freemasonry.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Still at Orgun

Monday morning. I was supposed to fly out of Orgun-E this morning, but the flight was cancelled. I am scheduled for a flight on Thursday 27 Sept. It is cold at night, I scrounged a blanket last night, so it was tolerable. I am on my last set of clean underclothes, I took mine to the laundry, and I will get them back tomorrow.

Not much to do, just surf the net, keep an eye on my systems, and file the reports. Got a letter from the Grand Master of Masons in Kentucky, and I sent in a short response, and I will send in a longer response later. Since I am not in Iraq, anymore, I am not helping on the Iraq masonic project. I wish them well.

Food here is about the same at any mess hall. All of the cooks and servers at the mess hall are Army. There are some local national employees in the kitchen, and cleaning up.

Got to see Jeapordy today. Talked for a while with the Chaplain, just chatting up comparative religions. Talked right through lunch.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday afternoon

Stuck at Orgun. Cold last night, winter is coming. Right now, there is a rainstorm, the entire base will turn to mud. I have no more clean clothes, I am scheduled to fly back to my home base, Sharana, tomorrow, Monday 24 Sept.

Friday, September 21, 2007

21 Sept. 2007

Stuck at Orgun. A small base up in the mountains. Only 9 minutes flying time from my home base at Sharana. The base has a decent rec hall, the dining hall is 100% Army run, the cooks do a decent job. Three meals a day, instead of two. Decent food. Took my first shower today since left Sharana. The water is high-pressured, felt good on my skin, to pummel it. The temperature was not so hot, but it was good to get a shower regardless. I am almost out of soap, and the small OX here carries my brand of soap, but they could not make change for a $20 bill! I will have to wait until tomorrow, and they have some change. The PX is cash only.

The office where my computer is located, did a complete renovation today. They moved all of the furniture out of the building, and painted all of the walls. They had to move my computer around, and so they unplugged some of the equipment!!! I got everything plugged back in, and running properly. It is a good thing that I am here, else I would have had to fly in, and plug everything back in.

It is Friday night, the Islamic sabbath, and the base is on a slow schedule. I finally got to watch "Jeapordy" it comes on at 1pm. The people in the Rec Hall were stunned at my amazing knowledge. They thought I had seen the show before!

I never thought I would get lonesome for pavement. The entire base here, and the entire base at Sharana is 100% gravel and dirt. I brought an extra pair of running shoes, My feet are sore after walking all day on the gravel.

I still have no idea when I will get a permanent quarters. I will be in the tent, sleeping on a cot for a long time. Fortunately, I will have an internet line run into the Mayors cell at Sharana, and I will have unlimited internet time, and not have to rely on the kindness of strangers (like Blanche DuBois).

I brought some extra clothing, I had a feeling I would be stuck here for several days. Just wish there was more to do here. Tonight there is a bible study at the chapel, maybe I will drop in, and observe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday 18 Sept

Woke up with backache. Still not getting into quarters. Fly up to Orgun tomorrow. Spoke with some friends by phone last night. A lonely place. At least I will have a masonic fellowship here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday 17 Sept

What a day. Still have the backache from sleeping on a cot all night. I will get a permanent residence, and a bed soon, I hope. I have finally got a temporary office. I have received a computer account, and I must bring my laptop in for baselining, and for the Army to prepare my computer for use on the internet here. Then they will install a line in the Mayors cell, and I can use my computer there.

I must get down to the finance office, and get a letter for them, authorizing me to cash checks at the finance office. I do not need cash here, there is only one store, the PX, and I can use my credit cards there, as well as my Army debit card. But I may get vacation, and need some paper money for traveling!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Afghanistan blues

Went to the Doctor yesterday to get Malaria tablets. I honestly did not know that Anopholes mosquitos could survive at this altitude. The Doc assures me, that mosquitos can survive up here, and that malaria is definetly present. I got a years supply of tablets, and I will take one each monday.

My blood pressure was a bit high, so I have to go back next day for another blood pressure check.

Food here is all right, but tiresome. Definetly a step down from Iraq. That army cot I have to sleep on, is giving me a backache. Plus all the walking, my feet and shins are sore as hell.

Enough complaining. It is good to be working, better to be working here than unemployed back home! I have located a Mason here, who runs a study group. I hope we can expand into a fully functioning square and compasses club.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

One week here

Slept a fiftul night. Winter is coming. The nights are cool, and getting colder. Got up at 0630, got the breakfast. My tool kit arrived, so I am going to make my first flight to Orgun. I must be at the flight office at 0530am tomorrow.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday morning

Winter is coming. Cool last night. Only one other man in the tent. Got up this morning, and got a breakfast. I need a computer account, so I walked down to the data connection shop, and signed up. I needed to pass two exams on computer security and operations, so I took the tests on line, and passed.

Strangely, there are no 220volt electrical outlets anywhere on this post. I asked around, and I was able to scrounge a 110 to 220Volt transformer, so now I can plug in the transformer, and then I can plug the battery charger for my cell-phone directly into it, and recharge the battery. The data shop had a spare that they were not using.

The post exchange (PX) opened up three days ago. It is small, but much bigger than their last one. Sharana is going to be a major base, with many more troops and civilians arriving here, so the whole base infrastructure will be growing. More barracks, more buildings, more offices, more vehicles, etc. I am going to be a busy man.

Went to the main chow hall for the first time. There are a total of two(2) dining halls on this post, one is run by the US Army, and one is run by the KBR company of Houston, Texas. The quality of the food is about equal in both of them. I also made my first visit to the recreation center, what a disappointment. Plywood hut, with wooden benches. Equipment is run down and shabby. Remember, the Recreation centers get no government money.

I tried to see the Chaplain, about getting a room for a masonic club. The Chaplain's office was closed, I will try again later. I am excited about getting a masonic square and compasses club underway here. The First Sergeant is very supportive, even though he is not a mason.

I walked outside the tent at 2am, and the sky was spectacular. We are at 7200 feet altitude here, and there are no lights permitted to burn at night. There is virtually no air pollution, and no city lights. The stars just blaze,the milky way was a band of white, with stars down to the sixth magnitude! It makes you stare in wonder! Back in Iraq, the air is dusty, and on some nights, the moon is the color of polished brass, stunning.

It is going to be a struggle to keep clean here. The dust and filth is everywhere. The Afhgans are not used to Western style toilets, so they defecate in the mens room, on the floor, and on the seat. The toilets are always filthy. At least the hot water is on in the shower house, and the laundry. I had a weeks worth of laundry that I turned in today. There is an Afghan man, who washes the clothes, and you get them back the same day.

I have done a lot of walking, and my feet are tired. The place is all gravel, with no pavements or paths. My shin muscles are sore from the walking. The firm promised me a vehicle, and I will be glad when it gets here.

It seems like my postings are always going down in quality. I thought Al Asad was a paradise, and then Talafar had many good things going for it. At least I was in a CHU (Trailer), and we had decent bus service. Now I am in a tent, sleeping on a pad. I do not know when I will get a permanent housing nor when I will get an office. The base just does not have the facilities.

So I make the most of it. I will work from the mayor's cell, or the rec Hall, and relax in the tent. I am re-reading "The path between the seas", about the Panama canal.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Finally got a shower

Sunday night in Sharana, Afghanistan. Spent a night in the tent, noisy with people moving in and out. People came in and got their belongings. I got up this morning, and the tent was empty. I went to the dining tent, and got a decent breakfast. There were T-Bone steaks left over from yesterday. Hard-boiled eggs, hash browns, bagel with strawberry cream cheese. The coffee machine is broken, so no coffee.

Moseyed over to the Mayors office, did a little internet. The soldiers are so nice, they permit me to use the internet on a non-interference basis. Fortunately, because office space is tight, and virtually non-existent! My principal "client" is the Movement control team, which is responsible for shipping and receiving materiel, from around Afghanistan, and worldwide. I was originally slated to get an office in their tent, but they have two new NCOs arriving, so space is not available. I don't care. All I need is a desk, a military telephone, a computer line (I already have my own computer), and some storage space.

I was busy yesterday, I had to load some software on a computer, and take some readings, the computer works perfectly, it is amazing, how in this nasty, dusty environment, the computers just keep on running.

I came back to the tent, and slept a little, then did some reports. Things are slow on Sunday.

The shower tent finally has hot water, so I took the first shower I have had in three days. The laundry has also had no hot water. Tomorrow, I will drop off a weeks worth of laundry at the laundry tent, and then relax!

I am waiting on a tool kit, when it arrives, I will make my first chopper flight, since I left Al Asad, in November 2006. I will be flying a lot. I am anxious to get a Masonic group underway here, I already spoke with the First Sergeant. He is not a mason, but he is very supportive, and he indicated that he would issue a letter, and help us get underway. I need to meet with the Chaplain, and get a meeting room scheduled. What a life!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

First Twenty-Four hours in Sharana

I flew from Bagram to Forward operating Base Sharana, on 7 Sept. The flight took about 40 minutes. The base is 7500' above sea level, and the air is thin. I got off the plane, and hitched a ride to the mayor's office, and got a tent. The base is bigger than I imagined, about 3000 American civilians and military. Also there are Republic of Korea and Polish troops.

I got a meal in the Dining tent, and got into the tent. I did not turn off the air conditioning, so it was bloody cold all night long. I just slept as best I could. In the middle of the night, a man came into the tent, and said "Fire in the dining hall". I just went back to sleep. Later the Polish army fired three artillery rounds down the mountain, to discourage the insurgents from camping there.

Got up this morning, and got a decent breakfast in the dining tent. The hot water heater in the shower tent blew up last night, and there was no hot water or cold water in the shower tent. I could really use a hot shower. This is Saturday, so the Army serves a picnic lunch whenever the weather permits. We had Tbone steaks, Ribs, Barbecued chicken, burgers, hot dogs, etc. Also some excellent Shrimp Jamabalaya with Andouille sausage. I don't know how the Army does it, but they can sure serve good food here in the mountains of Afghanistan.

I will be getting some permanent quarters and office space later on. There is a real shortage , the population here is growing, and the infrastructure cannot keep up. There is construction going on, new concrete barracks and office buildings going up all over.

The generator for the one computer here dropped off last night. No power for some hours. When the power came back on, the computer needed to be re-booted, so I went down and re-booted. I also had to install software, and take some readings. Fortunately, the computer is running properly.

I will now have to fly to Orgun, and install software on that computer. I will need some tools, which are being shipped here.

I got a pad for my cot, and it will be more comfortable than sleeping on the canvas. I am hoping that the hot water is back on in the shower tent!

Tomorrow is Sunday, and I should be able to relax!

Friday, September 07, 2007

On the ground in Sharana

I arrived at Forward Operating Base Sharana, a couple of hours ago. It is the bleakest place I have ever seen, and I have been all over the world. I am in a tent, sleeping on a cot. The base is all gravel, no paved streets. I was to be living in a plywood hut, but the hut was full.

I am going to be commuting between four (4) bases, Warrior, Wazakhwa, Orgun, and home based here at Sharana.

I will be here through the first of the year, and perhaps longer. I would like to get back to Iraq. I thoroughly enjoyed Al Asad, and Talafar (FOB Sykes) was all right.

I had my first meal, and it was OK. TBone steak, lobster tails, shrimp, scallops, fried rice, mint chocolate chip ice cream. Very nice. I will now unpack, and try to rest. At least the tent is empty, and I will have some privacy. I must walk 75 yards to the shower tent.

I will begin work in earnest tomorrow, the First Sergeant will be attempting to secure better quarters for me. My mother thinks I should write a book, she thinks I am the most interesting person she knows!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

6 Sept 2007 Bagram Afghanistan

Finished the training school, and now I am trying to get to my new duty station, Forward Operating Base Sharana. I ate a salad for supper last night, and this morning, I was in no shape for breakfast. I bought a cell phone, that works in Afghanistan, and I can make calls to anywhere and receive calls from anywhere. I know that there is service at Sharana.

Monday, September 03, 2007

3 Sept 2007

What a day! My bank account changed to a security system, and I tried to access my account. The system asked me my fathers city of birth, and I answered, but the system did not accept the answer. I am working on getting the account un-locked.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

2 Sept 2007

Got a few comments on the blog. I am glad that they are all reasonable. I got some really sick, racist comments last year, I had the blog set for open comments, but the comments were soo off the wall, I had to moderate. Since I started the moderation, there have been no more sick remarks.

Slept all right last night. This is Sunday, and things are slow, but I am working regardless. Tomorrow, a three day training class begins, then on Thursday, I will see about getting to Salerno. I will remain there for a couple of days, then I will get a flight to my duty station, Sharana.

Food here in Afghanistan has been OK. There is never a line at the shower house. The laundry takes 3 days, whereas at Tall'Afar, it was a one day turnaround. Bagram is a big base, there is Masonry here, a blue lodge, Scottish and York rites, even the Shrine and Eastern Star. Where the Americans go, Masonry goes.

There is no lodge at Sharana, but I will start a Masonic Square and Compasses club, and network and socialize with the other masons there. I really enjoyed it in Tall'Afar, but the first sergeant would not permit any advertising or posters. He transferred out, and the new first sergeant would probably have been more reasonable. But I am no longer there, so it does not matter.

The firm is going through some changes, mostly due to the new contract. The technology is the same, virtually indestructible. As long as the electrical power stays on, and the internet stays up, and the operating frequencies stay clear, the job is wonderful. When things go wrong, that is when I step in.

I will probably leave the office a bit early today, things are slow. I called the USA from the Rec Hall last night, the connection was good. The PX here is huge, much bigger than Tall'Afar, I decided to get a short haircut, short hair is much more serviceable and cooler, and easier to take care of in this climate.

I had a sore throat and chest congestion, so I went to the hospital. When I said chest congestion, they automatically assumed chest pain, which means heart attack. They put me on the EKG, and checked my heart rhythm. My heart is "stone cold normal", but they made me stay all night. I spent a fitful night, plugged into an electro cardiogram. Every two hours, they drew blood, to see how much protein was in my blood. I was stuck in the elbow, the wrist, and the belly. I got up the next morning, and was put on the treadmill. My heart checked out fine, but I never got anything for my sore throat.

I am feeling much better ,and I am fit for duty.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Saturday 1 Sept

Got up early today. Noisy in the barracks. One thing about Talafar, I lived alone, and it was quiet in the mornings, just the hum of the generators. Went to the chow hall, ate some steak and eggs. My cholesterol will definetly take a jump here. One of the other engineers flew in this morning, and he will stay in my barracks for the next couple of days.

I will be taking a class 3-4-5 Sept. Then I can fly up to Salerno, and then on to my duty station at Sharana.

We are forbidden from wearing short pants here. I wish I could wear conservative black walking shorts, especially in the high summer. Winter is coming. I have been through three Augusts in Iraq, where it gets to 120. Here in Afghanistan, the winters are bloody cold! I was here at Bagram in February 2004, and froze slowly. NO heat in the barracks.