U.S. Army Soldiers watch a movie on a portable DVD player inside of their tent on Combat Outpost Cherkatah, Khowst province, Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2009. The Soldiers are deployed with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment.

How do our Troops Live Deployed?

I’ve always said that everyone’s Iraq/ Afghanistan experience are different. You can spend the entire deployment working on a  large camp in an office. Or you could be “outside the wire” intermixing with the public/conducting missions/ engaging the enemy in combat for the entire deployment. I’ve had both types of deployments.

They both suck. Check out what they are doing below to build an outpost. I’ve done some of this myself!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY2RPODy2g8[/youtube]

I’ve personally never deployed to large camps like Victory/ Anaconda (Iraq) or Bagram/ Kandahar (Afghanistan). I prefer smaller intimate camps. (not that I had a say in the matter) Plus there are less things to spend your money on if there is no Coffee Bean, post exchange filled with tempting treats or a pizza parlor (Kandahar). As a leader, a smaller camp provides you more control over your troops. I like that.

But that doesn’t mean that living on these larger camps aren’t dangerous for our troops.

Large camps/ bases are a softer/ easier target for the enemy to attack. You can also be drummed into a false sense of security by your daily routine.  That is until that rocket comes crashing down on your hooch. Hopefully you were at chow when this occured. There are just more creature comforts for the troops at these large installations. Yes, running showers are a creature comfort! I didn’t shower for 39 days when we invaded Iraq. I took sponge bathing to a whole new level! I don’t even want to get started about no air condition in Iraq in the spring/ summer!

Ha! Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Remember our boys in the Ardennes forest during World War II? (Check out Steve Ambrose’s WWII book or watch Band of Brothers). The hardships our troops go through today pales in comparison to those days!

But the most difficult hardship that all service members face while deployed spans all generations. We miss our loved ones and life back in the states. We think about it constantly and dream of returning home. Not being with our loved ones is the worst.

This isn’t my story but I think it speaks to the great disparity in a service members experience while deployed. I figured you wouldn’t want to see picture of huge dinning facilities of coffe shops. So I included some great video and picture of some hard living while deployed.

Story by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHUKVANI, Afghanistan – When you ask soldiers about their deployment experience, you might hear about them going down to the PX at Kandahar Airfield or about how they were in the middle of nowhere using water bottles for brushing their teeth, shaving, or using baby wipes for a shower.

Soldiers of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade are witness to these contrasts as they exist between service members at Kandahar Airfield, which has more services and resources to offer, than to the soldiers at smaller forward operating bases.

Service members at even smaller outlying FOBs must continue normal operations without the services and resources of the larger FOBs. Soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, currently attached to the 25th CAB, conduct medevac operations out of FOB Shukvani with only essential tools and equipment.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgtGthVOWoY[/youtube]

“When we first arrived here, the only thing for us was a bunker,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Berry, a flight medic with C/1-169th Aviation, originally from Covington, Ga. “We sent a three-man advance team to set up our area. They drew up the floor plan, set up tents, built floors, and coordinated with the Marines here for generators, constructing outhouses and emplacing HESCO barriers.”

Another experience the soldiers at FOB Shukvani experience is living with no plumbing. For bathrooms, they had to construct outhouses and equip them with exposable baggies known as Wag Bags. Within the past couple of weeks, they received two portable toilets. Another new addition is a tent equipped with water bags and nozzles so they can shower.

“The shower was the biggest improvement for us,” said Sgt. Cherie Flett, flight operations non-commissioned officer, C/1-169, from Smyrna, Tenn. “Before the shower tent, we were using water bottles for showers. Since being here, we are still making improvements like making walk ways, building doors for the tents, just the small things to make it more homely.”

The bigger bases have several dining facilities with chicken, steak, tacos, hamburgers, hot dogs, salad bar and a dessert bar. The smaller outlying posts have nothing of the sort.

“We receive T-Ration meals twice a day, one for breakfast and one for dinner,” said Berry. “For lunch, we have Meals, Ready-to-Eat, or make what we can out of snacks.”

On rare occasions, the soldiers on FOB Shukvani get a taste of the big FOB life. For example, the nights of “surf ‘n turf,” which is slang for steak and seafood; the shrimp is delivered in a garbage bag. The shrimp is in addition to the four trays of steak and rice that are about as wide as a laptop computer and as thick as a stack of printer paper.

Since the medevac company is split up between three different locations, they receive assistance from their counterparts in Kandahar Airfield or Dwyer to bring out needed supplies, parts and food via.

“One of the things that help keep us going out here are the care packages from home,” said Flett. “We get mail about once a week. My husband and I are both deployed out here. Since we are located at different FOBs, we send each other care packages containing movies we watched with letters. It gives us something else to talk about out here other than work.”

With every installation not the same, soldiers must bond together to take care of each other and accomplish the mission.

“We have to do what we can to get by out here,” said Flett. “Being out here makes you grateful to be able to walk to, and buy, the simple things. When we go back home, I won’t take it for granted.”

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25 thoughts on “How do our Troops Live Deployed?

  1. Robert Brown

    Editorial comment:

    “smaller intimidate camps” probably should be “smaller intimate camps”. Although, I can see how those smaller camps could be intimidating.

    Keep up the posts, I look forward to reading each new one. Thank you for them, and for all you and your comrades do.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Good looking out Robert! Thanks. My website proofreader (the wife) is neglecting her duties! She keeps blaming the baby! :-)

      Reply
  2. Carole M. Di Tosti (@mercedeskat45)

    Found this to be a really useful piece. We need to be reminded about how the soldiers are living. Any time wealthy elite whiners about how they don’t want their taxes raised start to bleat like wussies, I say, send them out to work like these guys do. They’ll shut up real fast. Oh, I forgot, they are making a huge profit on wars, funding them, supplying the operations and weaponry, etc., and the interest the Federal Reserve gets to charge on the loans to keep the war in motion.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thanks Carole. I found that living harshly changed my perspective when I returned. I appreciate things more. I relish in turning my heat/ AC on…not being cold or hot, not being hungry/ thirsty….etc!

      I just walked memory lane with a guy at work yesterday. We reminisced about being rationed to two bottles of water and two Meals ready to eat (if we were lucky) during the Iraq ground war. Funny now…miserable then. Seem paltry to the hardships faced by our troops during the world wars though.

      Reply
      1. Sean

        Those must be engineers in the first video…? I remember doing that at AIT when I was a 21B before I became a Chaplain. That coffee pot is in a better place and probably taste better than the coffee offered at chow at Ft. Stewart….

        Reply
        1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

          You are right Sean….engineers are working on the COB construction. Ha! you must be a good pole pounder then! I’ve done a little work with one of those pounders….a great workout!

          There is nothing worse than chow hall coffee man! The Amry has made me into a coffee snob!

          Reply
  3. barbara longley

    I learn so much from your posts. I’m already thinking about how to incorporate some of this in my next character development. I lived on a commune in the Appalachian Mts. in the 70s. We didn’t have indoor plumbing or central heating. We had a communal kitchen with wood burning stove/oven. If we wanted water, we had to haul it from a cistern. If we wanted heat, we had to cut the wood, haul and split it. We farmed with horses, had outhouses, etc. I can relate, only we didn’t have the stress of having enemies who shot at us, or set IEDs around for us. Interesting.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thanks Barb. It def sounds simliar! You had an interesting upbringing! Mine was quite boring (Suburbs of Boston) compared to this! :-)

      Was this like a hippie commune? That would be a cool book!

      Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      It is funny becasue when you are at (VBC) Victory Base Compound you wish you were at a smaller camp. When you are at the smaller camp you wish you had the PX that VBC has….. Course when you spend all your time inside the wire you want to be outside…… and vice versa! Change…any change is good for the psyche of deployed troops.

      Reply
  4. Lucia Migrditchian

    Always enjoy your reads because I can tell you tell it like it is. I like the pic of the coffee pot on top of the boxes. Gotta have the coffee! God Bless everyone out there and always stay safe.

    Reply
  5. susana

    I liked to read this post as I’m supporting some Soldiers through an organization and now I can understand better what they go throuh when deployed!
    Greetings,
    Susana

    Reply
  6. Carole Remy

    Thanks for the look into soldiers’ lives on deployment, Kevin. I read today that 34,000 troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan within a year. I hope everyone makes it home safely, and perhaps as important, that they receive appropriate support when they get back home. I always appreciate your posts. Thank you.

    Carole

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thanks Carole. I was glad to hear about the troops being brought home. I just wonder what will happen in that country when we leave….. though Iraq hasn’t imploded yet! LOL

      Reply
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