Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Let it Snow

Today is my first big snowstorm in Afghanistan and it's going strong after almost 24 hours.  Like everywhere else it seems to bring quiet and peace with it, and that is extra welcome here. There's enough that a half-hearted effort was made to shovel, but the base is covered in gravel, and there aren't any real paths.  The snowball fight (sadly I had a visitor who didn't seem interested in participating) wrecked the notional paths that had been shovelled so the effort was abandoned. It made me miss some "epic" snow battles that were a highlight of my recent vacation, and I'm hoping to partake in the inevitable rematch. Of course I could usually hold my ground in those battles even when outnumbered, and I am slightly fearful that the combination of enthusiasm and combat experience could result in my stumbling into an first class ambush that might leave me wishing I was wearing my body armor...

Ambush Alley

New Recruit

Another positive result is that I've come up with my first nickname for my colleagues. The Mad Medic.

Our medic is 200% dedicated to the well-being of "his" troops and would take the shirt off his back if he thought it would help them. He also takes it upon himself to entertain them (and me by extension) - typically by spontaneously barking out a laugh, and then following up with the joke that inspired it. The jokes aren't usually very funny, but he still brings a smile to my face. Anyhow, Mad Medic informed us that the snow also keeps the insurgents from attacking. Our resident attorney, who will henceforth be known as CPT Esquire gave a textbook look of courtroom skepticism and asked if he was sure the Taliban had gotten that memo from HQ. I'm with the medic on this one, who wants to fight in the snow?

Salang Tunnel Entrance

Then came the real treat of the day - an opportunity to visit the Salang Tunnel. Our intrepid governor had decided to commemorate the soviet withdrawal from Salang (his home district) by visiting the tunnel, and we were invited to tag along. After a long and snowy drive passing an obscene number of fuel trucks heading to U.S. bases we arrived at the tunnel, which was strikingly unimpressive for anything except its mystique as a soviet-era legacy and its breathtaking location starting at 10,000 feet.  We were treated with tales of how the Governor had led attacks against the Soviets and Taliban encamped by the tunnel, seizing their weapons and then firing downhill into the encampments below.  Nasty business, but always done during the summer.

  Tunnel Seen From Valley Below

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