Thursday, March 4, 2010

Forward Operating Base Lagman

The tent in the background is my "temporary" housing. I currently share it with one of our CRNA's, but I'm moving to my own room in mid-March.

Welcome sign at the Landing Zone

I woke up Saturday morning thinking I was going to enjoy a nice, leisurely breakfast and a cup of coffee (btw, I haven’t had a good cup of coffee since the Brannock’s were in NC) when I received a phone call from CDR Godinez, our OIC, informing me that we were leaving for Forward Operation Base (FOB) Lagman within the hour. We traveled by helicopter and, this being my first ride in a helicopter, I was a little nervous. It was a Chinook (H-47) and it, like the airplane, was packed with not only our FST, but also other military members as well as civilian contractors and all their baggage. I got some cool pictures that I posted. Anyway, the flight was uneventful and even smoother than any airline flight I’ve been on. After arriving at the FOB, we got an orientation to our living quarters and then to the FOB itself. The FST spaces are quite modest and currently include only one operating room table that will soon grow to two. We have yet to receive any combat-related casualties. The current plan is to complete turnover with the Army FST that is currently here and then be on our own – probably by early next week. The FOB is much smaller than anywhere we’ve been so far and a little too close to the nearest city (Qalat) for my liking, but we were told the FOB was only “shelled” once in the past 6 months and is “relatively” safe. Since I can’t go into much detail without violating operational security (OPSEC), you can Google FOB Lagman and its nearest city, Qalat, for more details. One good thing is the weather has been pretty nice, 60-70 during the day and 30-40 at night. It has rained a couple of the days, but only in the early morning, then it is sunny. Qalat is at 5000 feet elevation, but I haven’t seemed to notice much difference. Glad I don’t have the sickle cell trait (only hard-core Steelers fans will get that one).

About that cell phone I bought in Kandahar, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that is still works here. The bad news is that the service is shut off at 1700 each day until the following morning. So, that makes my window for calling Judi even tighter since we are 9 and a half hours ahead of EST. They do have a very small USO here with some telephones and computers for Internet, but you need calling cards for those and the wait is typically more than an hour. On the bright side, they also have free used DVDs and I scored LOST Season 1. I didn’t start watching LOST until the second season. Judi got me to start watching after she loved the first season. So I should be able to pass some time watching it. Judi and I plan to have a big LOST blowout party when I get back and watch the final season over one weekend – after our trip to Vegas, of course.

There is no US chaplain here, so no US religious services. That said, one of our surgeons and I attended the Romanian service on Sunday and it was not your typical Catholic mass. I stayed for 30 minutes and during that time the priest (I guess that’s what they call him) never stopped talking, and I’m not exaggerating, he did not pause to breathe for half an hour and I didn’t understand one word he said.

The food is ok (we’ve got an omelet guy for crying out loud) and the gym isn’t terrible, so I’m doing pretty well. I actually think I could do this as a full-time job if I could just come home at night to see Judi and Cowher. Oh, that and there would be no chance I would be involved in a mortar attack by the Taliban.

One last thing, you hear a lot of helicopters here and I mentioned to some of the group this morning that every time I hear one it makes me want to sing the theme song to the TV show MASH (you know…suicide is painless, it brings on many changes….) and someone said, “you mean there’s words to that song? I had no idea”. C’mon man!

Well, I hope all is well back in the states. I saw some pictures on Facebook of the snow that Jacksonville, NC received and I couldn’t believe it. My condolences to family and friends in PA and MD who are getting pounded with snow again. Can someone please convince Raymond that his life would be much easier if he just broke down and bought a snow blower? I mean really?!?!

I’ll write again when business picks up. We are all expecting some heavy combat in our area soon, just not sure when. We all hope to see no combat casualties while we’re here, but also realize that’s not realistic.

Take Care and God Bless,


  1. John, so glad things sound like they are going well. Adjustments of course, but apparently not exactly like MASH. Back here all is the same. Judi is actually driving in the snow! Maybe you will be making more trips up in the winter from here on out. She is also getting very good at holding Maddie, even when she is crying. Cowher is so spoiled now that he expects not two but three jerky treats when he comes down. And then dinner on top of that. Kenzie loves the pics of you. She says that is Uncle Goober and he has his sunglasses on. He is ready for the beach. We are going to miss you there this year. We have booked a week at Nags Head. Judi is head navigator. Everyone says she should know the way already. We are having fun, but as always we miss you and wish you and all good luck and safety.

    Take care and God Bless


  2. Hey John,

    Thanks for the coffee compliment, we promise you a GREAT cup when you return home soon. I was reading your recent blog to Mikey, and he was so excited to hear you rode in a helicopter.
    We got to visit in Carrolltown today, and Judi was so kind to entertain Mikey with videos of you in rifle practice. He was glued to the computer screen while Cowher tried to sneak some of his McDonald's french fries. Mikey kindly shared one!!!
    An update on the Brannock household...The "Mike" lost two teeth - and both were pulled out by he himself. What a trooper...he already spent his tooth fairy money.
    Miss you bunches...take care and be safe!

  3. thanks suze! i'll see if i can bring a memento home for "the mike".