Arrgh.Old Blue | Monday, February 13th, 2012 | 9 Comments »
The move into theater was very disorganized. I’m understating that, but bear with me. I traveled through Manas on the way into country in 2007, and it was smooth. We were there less than 36 hours and then we were gone. All of our baggage made it into theater with us. We arrived with what we left with, and that was that. In 2009, I moved to theater through Ali Al Saleem in Kuwait with much the same result. Not so this time. I haven’t written about it because I had some small level of trust that it would be ironed out with some kind of focus, but it hasn’t, and so it is no small part of the experience now.
On my first two tours, we were allowed either four duffel bags or three duffel bags and a rucksack (backpack), plus a carry-on and a laptop bag if we had one. We traveled on full airplanes, and all of our gear made it with us. On this tour, the brigade got the idea that we were only allowed to travel with one duffel bag and one ruck and a carry on. The initial word we got was that only the staff officers would be allowed a laptop bag. Lo and behold; our orders, when they were published, permitted the same baggage that we had been authorized on my previous two tours.
Alas, it was too late.
We had already sent ahead pallets of duffel bags, which were called “B” and “C” bags. The idea being that the one you bring with you was your “A” bag. The brigade also published packing lists detailing what was to go in each bag. Those who followed the packing list were to regret it immediately when they discovered that the medium issue pack makes a much better carry-on than the tiny little “assault pack,” and it fits in the overhead storage. We sent ahead, on pallets, duffel bags full of clothing and gear that we felt that we would not need for the trip itself, but that we would expect to have access to within a few days of arrival in country.
Big mistake. Huge.
The biggest mistake I made was trusting you.
– Things Army leaders should dread soldiers thinking
Hey… our stuff made it into country, right? As long as it made it to Afghanistan, it’s a success for the brigade, apparently. Now, the baggage that arrived early and was literally sliced open by soldiers of our predecessor unit who were looking to make good their equipment losses so that they could account for their stuff when they get back to Germany… well… who could foresee something like that?
There is only one thief in the Army. Everyone else is just trying to get their stuff back.
– Old Army Proverb
I ask you, what reasonable human being would think that allowing your stuff… stuff that you are signed for and worse; that you depend upon to do your job… out of your sight because the organization says it will be alright… who would think for a minute that might be a bad idea? I mean, really? And what organization would let their soldiers’ gear just get scattered all over the whole damned quarter of Afghanistan that we now call home?
That never happens, right? No one would allow that to happen to the soldiers of their brigade, right? And, if they did, that would something that they would practically kill themselves trying to straighten out, right?
Okay, so that hasn’t happened (the straightening out part), but I understand that a chart has been produced with what items of the extreme cold weather system you are allowed to wear in sets of temperature ranges. Oh, yes; we are organized and highly disciplined. And we have our priorities straight. Everyone knows that un-f*<ing your soldiers’ scattered gear can wait when there are important appearance issues to be addressed. You see, it’s not really what you’re doing that’s important; it’s how you look while you do it.
Besides, you can’t wear an item in a proscribed circumstance if you don’t actually possess that item, right? Crazy like a fox, that’s what we are.
I have enough cold weather gear to stay comfortable for the winter. I do not have enough cold weather gear to stay clean and comfortable through the winter. Much of the spare clothing and gear is in my… hell, I don’t even know if it is my B or C … palletized duffel bag that went somewhere I’m not. I have no idea where it is. Much of my team hasn’t seen their (choose any letter of the alphabet except A) bags since palletizing them in Mississippi, and some of those guys have been in country for over a month now.
This is ridiculous.
To add to this, the Air Force, red-faced from forgetting that they had nearly two hundred people on the ground for over two days before they remembered that they had to move them into theater, decided to move two groups simultaneously. As long as they were going to Afghanistan, it was cool with them; they were off the books in Manas. So a large group got sent to Bagram, quite a bit south of Marmal, and moved in a trickle from Bagram to Marmal over a series of moves requiring days to complete. As the two groups, now headed in different directions, were having their gear simultaneously re-palletized in Manas, my ruck got mis-palletized and went to Bagram with that group.
Realizing the mistake, but too late to rescue my ruck, I made contact with an Sergeant First Class who was the senior NCO in that group. He was bound for Marmal, so what could go wrong?
Of all the groups from this brigade to come through Marmal, his little band was the only one that our LNO (Liaison Officer) for the brigade wasn’t tracking. A warrant officer I know ran into this NCO at the massive American DFAC here on Marmal several days ago and confirmed he had my ruck. Assuming that he would be located with the rest of the new arrivals, he didn’t ask where this NCO was staying.
It wasn’t where the rest of the new arrivals stay.
I have no idea where he, nor my ruck that he dutifully dragged up here from Bagram, is. If you wonder what I do with my spare time and why I haven’t completed the Afghan version of War and Peace yet, I’m probably searching for him and my ruck… it’s like a mystery that I have to solve in order to get my stuff back into my own possession.
There are other issues with supply and equipment, none of which need to be discussed in the open, but suffice to say that things that had been brought up months ago in Shelby were put off so long without fixes that now they are problems. You don’t fix these things in theater, and if you bank on getting stuff while you are already on the ground, forget it. You’ll have to wait for the book to come out to read about the other stuff. It’s not good. It is not likely to cause injury or death, but it’s not good.
Just when I think, “They couldn’t possibly mess up anything else,” they prove me wrong. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
The difference between professionals and amateurs is that professionals know it’s not enough to get the crap here; it has to be where the people who signed for it and depend on having it are. And, they find a way to get it there. I’m just sayin’.
The proof, as the great philosopher Dr. William Cosby reminds us, is in the pudding. Guess what flavor our pudding is? I’ll give you a hint; Jello doesn’t make this flavor.
Sigh. In the meantime, I am missing much of my winter gear and my entire sleep system. I am not the Lone Ranger, either. I had to buy a blanket upon arrival so that I didn’t freeze trying to sleep in the tent that gets a little cool at night; cooler than a “woobie” poncho liner can handle without a little help. The first night was a little irritating, but after than I bought a blanket (made out of 100% recycled polyester… how green am I?) and I’m good unless I have to travel anywhere overnight, in which case I am NMC (Non Mission Capable). Yep, that’s in my ruck. Clean poly-pro shirt? Duffle bag somewhere in Kunduz or Badakhshan or some such place.
You know that all of the lost left socks in the world wind up in a mystical valley in Badakhshan, right? Probably that sock you lost last week is draped over my now-mythical duffel bag, nestled high in the Hindu Kush, protected by snow leopards and unicorns.