BLOG ENTRY: Steep mountain to climb - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

BLOG ENTRY: Steep mountain to climb

Photo by SSG Cynthia Clements Photo by SSG Cynthia Clements

Kabul, Afghanistan - August 11, 2010

Military flights in Afghanistan are hard to come by, especially if you're not military. Lance and I were bumped from a few flights during our mission in Afghanistan.

So, to get out of Bagram, we kept our fingers crossed and arrived at the airfield at 2:30 a.m. Our destination on the next leg of our journey: Camp Phoenix in Kabul.

We finally boarded a military cargo plane at 7:30 a.m., five hours after we arrived at the airfield, to take a ten minute flight to the capital city.

The men and women at Camp Phoenix seemed excited to see us. I suspect a crew from WCAX was a reminder of home. We were just as excited to finally see them, too.

Not long after landing in Kabul, we headed out on a convoy. There's been no dillydallying on this trip. The convoy of armored Humvees wound its way through the capital city. The tougher and much larger MRAPs, or mine resistant ambush protected vehicles, wouldn't work here. They're simply too big to maneuver the narrow streets.

Our first stop took us to the District 10 Police Station, where we met with the chief of police. Here, he's called the Colonel. Vermont National Guard soldiers informed the Colonel of a suspicious box located in the city's downtown area. In the past, our military would have handled the threat themselves. Now, the Afghans do. This is how the mission is changing here. The Green Mountain Boys are slowly giving up the policing reins. They're more back-seat drivers these days.

At another police station stop, Afghan children swarmed the convoy. This was clearly not the first time. Some kids knew the soldiers' names. Some soldiers knew their names. It seemed pleasantly familiar. Not foreign at all.

We returned to Camp Phoenix to find Vermont Guard soldiers busily fixing broken vehicles and packing supplies that will be shipped to 11 major bases in Afghanistan. And then, something completely unexpected: During a trip to the camp's medical center, a dog was lying on the X-ray table. No one and no thing gets turned away here, as long as you're an ally. This dog is. He sniffs out bombs.

Our quick tour of Camp Phoenix showed us the innards of the war effort. And we finally got a bit of sleep there!

We spent the morning getting other video and soldier greetings for families (stay tuned to the news!). Then, we headed to the airport to begin our long trip home. Many soldiers made me promise to have a beer or two for them once we were out of the country. All bases are dry-- no booze allowed! I'll have to spread out the beer consumption, but cheers to all of you!

It's been nearly two weeks since Lance and I arrived in Afghanistan. It's bittersweet that we are leaving this place.  We've learned so much.

As we take off from the airport, the villages below begin to disappear and I wonder how many of them are currently allies. And how many might be someday.

Only Afghanistan's monstrous mountains are visible now. Perhaps symbolic-- of the steep climb our soldiers still face.

Darren Perron

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