30 Days Through Afghanistan: Fobland Kandahar – Day 6

By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan, ISAF Joint Command Public Affairs 

Fobbit or poge, either way is a term for those who never leave the wire.

There are a great many here in Kandahar. It’s actually quite painful for me to write those terms, because I know how many are grimacing right now reading them. The fact of the matter is it’s a part of military life and there are thousands of servicemembers across this country who never get to experience half of what Ken and I have experienced in the last six days.

But the key to military operations is support. Although they never get to leave the wire, their work is critical. Without them, there is no operation. Examples are many, including me. I’ve been on five deployments, but this deployment is the first time I’ve ever left the wire. Other examples could be finance or even a select few Joint Terminal Attack Controllers. Air Force JTACs are the guys fighting throughout Afghanistan who call in the air strikes. But sometimes, they too get stuck in the wire.

If you can’t view Day 6 vlog on YouTube, click here.

The one thing I’ve learned is it’s the position, not the job title that turns someone into a poge. I’ve seen almost every sort of job going out there and fighting the good fight, I’ve even heard of finance troops being out there.

Life on large FOBs is pretty comfortable. Here at Kandahar, they have everything from a hockey rink, to a massive base exchange, to Pizza Hut, Burger King and even a TGI Fridays. Some people live four to a room, and one guy I talked too has a large plasma screen television he plays Play Station 3 on every night. He has roommates, but they all have televisions and do the same thing. Granted, the lifespan of the these types of services is short, command will be closing much of it to make room for more essentials, reference Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall’s commentary.

At every FOB I’ve been too, people work seven days a week and 12-hour shifts. They work, work, work, go to the gym, grab some food then go watch a movie. Life is different here because of the sand, showers and the massive dining facility they eat at, but they’re afforded similar opportunities here as they have at home. I’ve even seen college classrooms up at Bagram Air Field and a lot of times there will be karaoke nights and salsa dance classes. Since 1998 I’ve been trying to get myself to go to one, but I still haven’t.

I remember when I was way out in a little combat outpost, or COP, which was no more than a building outside of a village with some barbed wire, walls and towers protecting it. Soldiers slept about 12 to a room on these really scary and rocky bunk beds they built themselves. Soldiers are great soldiers, but they have some work to do on being good carpenters. I asked them about FOBS. During the discussion, they were all about teasing and harassing the poges stuck in the wire. Later, when I was heading to the FOB to catch a flight, all the soldiers going were really excited to go back to take hot showers, check their mail and go to the store to restock on snacks and essentials.

It occurred to me then, that although these massive FOBs take a lot of heat for the amount of niceties they have within their fence line, it’s not only for the fobbits or the poges, but it gives the guys out sleeping in holes a place to come back to. They act as mini-rest and relaxation centers for troops across Afghanistan.

As I was walking around looking for people to talk too, I came across one soldier with an unexpected job. His name is U.S. Army Specialist James Dutton, he’s from Checotah, Okla., and he fixes fire trucks. There’s more. He’s the only servicemember in Southern Afghanistan that can fix fire trucks, and if that’s not enough, he even goes to some places in Western Afghanistan to fix them. I’m continually amazed by the number of different job types available in all of the militaries. Who would have ever thought about serviemembers who fix fire trucks in Afghanistan? Color me weird, but I was pretty excited to have met the only one in Southern Afghanistan.

Speaking of people, I went to the store today to pick up some supplies and the lady behind the teller machine was from Ethiopia. Then, as Ken and I were walking, we met a soldier from Jordan, but we weren’t able to talk to him due to the language barrier. I swear I need to keep a list of all the countries I meet people from. One of my favorite aspects of being in ISAF is the chance to meet all of these people.

While today wasn’t excitement and adventure, it gave Ken and me a chance to share a rather large part of military life, Fobland.

Tomorrow we have another day of exploring and talking; I’ll take some more pictures and try to talk with some of the other countries we didn’t get to today. I want to ask a lot of the questions that have been building up in the forums and ask some of the people, who never leave the base, about counter insurgency and this war means to them. I imagine it will be an interesting perspective, but that’s life in the wire.

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