Shortly after arriving in Afghanistan, I was able to part of a joint mission between the French Task Force and the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). We had done a quick visit down to Southern Tagab before the team we replaced left. And our team decided it would be a great opportunity to team up with the French. We hoped we would be able to get more information on where our roads were. What their status was. And check on the other project in the area. Due to security concerns, we had to go on a route that took us around Kapisa and up through Kabul to get to Tagab. Overall it was a great mission and not really anything like what I expected.
Another letter home during my deployment to Afghanistan in 2010:
I was able to go on a mission to South Tagab, one of the seven districts in Kapisa. Tagab is one of the two districts that are dominated by Pashtuns. It is a less friendly area than the North where we live. The mission was in coordination with a French operation, which is the first time that the PRT had done something like this. The Province of Kapisa is located in French Battle Space, so we have to work all our operations through the French, even though most often we operate on our own. We are the only PRT that is not operating in American Battle Space.
The Journey Begins
Anyway, our journey began and it took a few days. Leaving at strange times and driving to different places to get to our final destination. When we got there we were ready to go. We started out our mission before the sun came up and seeing the Valley of Tagab as the sun came up was pretty cool.
Our main goal of the mission was to look at one of our road projects. We basically had a start and endpoint and no information on where the road was going in between. Luckily, we were able to see a lot of the road. We discovered that the contractor’s reports were not as accurate as we had been led to believe. Because of the location and limited resources available to the PRT we were not always able to see projects as often as we liked. And since the region was not safe we could not rely on our local national engineers to see the site either. In the end, we discovered we have a lot of work that needed to be done to complete this road project.
The other project that we went to see was a bridge. This was a new project that had the groundbreaking ceremony less than a month ago. The contractor had already accomplished a lot of work in the last month and we were impressed with the number of workers at the job site and the progress they have made.
Different Feel from the Villagers
This was an interesting village to visit. The villagers had not seen Americans in a long time. The children who had been friendly and interactive in other villages didn’t want to have anything to do with us. Especially me, a female. Often times we would get mobbed by kids wanting pens or stickers or they just wanted to talk to us to show off their English. These children were not interested in anything we had. The village just slightly south of this village had a totally different reaction to Americans.
Sleeping Under the Stars in Afghanistan
By the time we got done with our mission there was a lot of chatter on the radio so we decided it would be safer to stay at a Combat Outpost (COP) we were at instead of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) we had planned on sleeping at. No one had expected us to stay there. And there were not any tents for us to stay in so we had to improvise and sleep, in, on, under, and around our MRAPs (armored vehicles). My Master Sergeant made a hammock from an old HESCO bag and string. Others slept on the ground, or in or on the MRAPs.
I found a medevac cot and slept on it dressed in my uniform in a sleeping bag. And used my dirty clothes bag as a pillow. I actually slept pretty well. Except for when the helicopter landed in the middle of the night. Apparently, we had decided to camp out in the big open space. It was the landing pad for the helicopters. Dirt and rocks went everywhere. I covered my head with my sleeping bag and survived without getting too much dirt in my mouth.
And I won’t even mention the bathrooms, but every time people are grossed out by bathrooms, I always think it isn’t as bad as COP 42. The next day we got out on the road. We got to a different COP and stopped. There was a lookout point on the top of a mountain near the COP. A select few of us climbed up the mountain (250-meter climb) to the top to take pictures of the surrounding area. Truthfully, we couldn’t see much when we got to the top of the hill, I mean mountain, but it was cool to see the surrounding area.
Going Home (back to the FOB)
This was the last day of our adventure and we made our way back, which was no small feat. Everyone wanted to be back at the FOB. We decided to head back that evening instead of waiting until the early morning. This meant we ended up in traffic, like super rush hour traffic. We ended up making a 3rd lane in between the two lanes of stopped traffic to get out of there safely. It was an adventure to be sure. The best part of getting back to Morales Frazier (my FOB) was getting to sleep in bed with my sheets and blanket. Instead of a sleeping bag and in clothes other than my uniform that I wore for way too long.