North Pointe has 13 people from our church family deployed to Afghanistan. One of them is Bryan McCulloch. I asked him if he would give us some insight into what its like to serve in Afghanistan.
4 July 2011
Life in Afghanistan is all you could hope for. I have my own 2m by 2m bed space, equipped with a bed, dresser and an even layer of dust on everything in the morning when I wake up. When I have a vehicle, I drive in the right hand side of the car. If it’s a standard vehicle, I drive badly in the right hand side of the car. This is unfortunate when I have to share the road with vehicles that have much more armour than mine.
I am part of the last rotation of troops to be deployed to Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan. The current rotation of troops are slowly leaving over the next month and with them, all combat operations in Afghanistan. My tour will be fighting the logistical nightmare of sending our stuff home.
Every military member you talk to will tell you a different story about Afghanistan. Naturally that is because every soldier’s tour is different. Their job, where they were stationed, what time of the year it was, and what was the military’s focus at that time, all changes their perspective. These are my experiences.
I am stationed in KAF, which is just outside of Kandahar City. It has roughly 30 000-40 000 people living inside the fence line. Planes fly by every 10 min and rocket attacks happen often. There are people from all nations of the world including soldiers, military contractors, dog handlers, food companies, construction workers, civilian hospital workers, internet suppliers, and TGIF waiters and waitresses. It is a small city.
In KAF I have multiple gyms to go to depending on how I feel that day. If I have high goals that day, and want to work out in an environment full of 300lbs plus people rippling with muscle, grunting, sweating and throwing weights around as if they were stuffed teddy bears…then I will go to the American army gym. If I feel like doing cross fit and hanging with tons of skinny, cut, du-ragged, fashion-oriented-while-workin-out French speaking people, then I will go to the Canadian gym. If I feel particularly unfit that day, and kind of don’t want to do much but feel I should still go to the gym anyways, I will go to the sparsely populated NATO gym. I usually circulate throughout the week.
Food also offers tons of choices. There are 7 DFACs here, or “Chow Halls” in American. They consistently offer all the same cuisine, however zest it up by changing the name of it or putting the food in different locations within the building. I am usually tricked and feel like I am eating something new and different each day. The only exception is the “Asian DFAC” which serves rice and fried “something” 7 times a week. I haven’t been there for breakfast yet but I imagine it is much the same…perhaps rice and fried breakfast burrito?
“Eau de KAF” is everywhere. If you have ever smelt poo, mixed with dust, then you will have a general idea of Eau de KAF (there is a large waste disposal “pond” in the middle of the base). Sometimes someone wearing perfume walks by and you go to breathe it in, only to find the smell has passed and you get more Eau de KAF. Running is particularly difficult. I remember in school I was taught that lungs were meant to process oxygen, not poo and dust. I think this is the cause of my lung wrenching attempts at running here.
The days have quickly moulded into 1. My routine is as follows: pt – eat – work – eat- work – pt -sleep. I hear this is a common routine. There are salsa and meringue lessons Tuesday and Thursday on the board walk which add a festive sound to accompany the sound of fighter jets. There are also a couple races which I have completed, including a 24hr cycle-o-thon. By the way, doing anything for 24hrs is not enjoyable, let alone sitting on a bike in Afghanistan breathing Eau de KAF. I do not recommend this.
I take my “Body Break” or my half day off on Sunday morning. I meet at Canada House for coffee with several other church goers who I have met. We are multi-denominational and multi-national, but all agree Tim Hortons is awesome. Church is different. The sermons are given in a southern accent by an American Padre. This, combined with the fact that we all carry rifles or pistols in the Church, creates an environment you can’t help but find unusual. The singing is fun and we all sing off key as loudly as we can. The sermons are thought provoking and hit home every time. If the padre doesn’t finish on time, the next service (Catholic) starts getting rambunctious waiting, which always happens. It’s great.
On Sunday evenings the same group of people who meet for morning coffee play an eventful game of Dutch Blitz. If you have ever played this game, we try to keep our finger nails trimmed and the name calling to a minimum. If I change out of my uniform into regular clothes, it almost feels like I’m not in Afghanistan…until I get a good strong breeze of Eau de KAF
In short, living in a different country has changed my lifestyle. I guess deploying with a couple suitcases to an austere country has this effect. It has forced me take a step back to see where my life is heading, and where I would like it go. What is important to me, and what do I not have time for. Do I like the feeling of being in shape? Yes. Do I really like watching TV? No. Do I enjoy going to church, even though it is during my only time off? Yes. Do I enjoy studying the Bible, trying to better myself? Yes. Do I miss chocolate chip cookie dough blizzards? …..yes….
Eau de KAF aside, I am surviving here and doing well. I enjoy this opportunity that has been presented to me and I am trying to make the most of it. Thank you very much to everyone for your prayers for everybody here. We, the soldiers, all have different jobs with different risks involved, mentally and physically. Relationships and interactions with people are the number one thing that I find, keeps this tour enjoyable. Thank you for letting me write to you.