Notes from Afghanistan – July 13, 2007

July 13, 2007

The crackle of the base loud speaker went off around 7:30 this morning. The voice is reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s teacher. “Wah wah wah wah, wah, wah… wah.” No one ever knows what the announcer is saying except for his final 2 words; “5 minutes”.

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You quickly learn what this means but, in the groggy state of waking up, it still takes about 5 minutes and 1 second to register. “BOOM!!” The Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team was at work early today… and they were busy. The first explosion was so powerful I, not only heard it but, felt it deep in my gut. It was followed by 6 more. Nice wake up call, eh?

The early morning explosions were, by no means, rare. The sad and frightening truth is so many IED’s, old mines and ammunition stashes are found, the EOD guys are never short of things to blow up. You won’t hear me complain, though. Every bomb EOD blows up is another one I don’t have to worry about next time I head outside the wire.

Noise is just part of life here on base. Our work and sleep tents are pretty darn close to the air strip so we hear everything thing that takes off and lands. I now know the difference between the sounds of an F-16 fighter jet taking off and a British Harrier jet hovering overhead. I can almost distinguish between the rotor sounds of the Apache gun ship, the Blackhawk and the Chinook helicopters. Sometimes the helicopters just seem to sit in place, rotors spinning, for hours.

At night, the sound of outgoing fire rings through the camp. Most often, it’s just the sound of illumination flares being fired to help base security see what’s going on.

The one sound we haven’t heard in a while, here at main base, is the sound of an air raid siren signaling incoming mortars or rockets. Kandahar Airfield Base (KAF) hasn’t been hit since May 16th. I’m not sure why. Maybe there’s better perimeter security. Maybe the Taliban has moved further out.

I heard a rumour that the base commanders sat down with local merchants, who come here every Saturday to sell their trinkets to soldiers, after a series of attacks last fall. Officials believed the merchants knew the people responsible, at least, looked the other when the bad guys were setting up their rockets and mortars. Officials, apparently, told them the weekly market would remain closed until the attacks stopped. It took just one weekend.

True or not, it’s been relatively quiet ever since. For the record, I don’t care why they stopped. I’m just glad they did. I can cope with all the other sounds because they represent noises of things meant to protect me. An air raid siren, though, means someone is trying to kill me. While I have gotten use to many things here, overt threats against my life still seem to annoy me.