In Jalalabad, Afghanistan, we had a mixed audience of both military personnel and local nationals. At this “Provisional Rebuilding” base, Americans and Afghans work together to bring positive change to the community.
March 12, Bagram, Afghanistan
1509 Zulu, 7:39 pm local time
This was a day of improvisation, and we enjoyed another sensory rich adventure. We woke early and were at the chilly airfield in time to watch a spectacular sunrise over the mountains. Our transport was a Black Hawk helicopter, not a Chinock as earlier thought. Also, the schedule was changed to allow us to come back here instead of spending the night in Jalalabad.
Probably a good thing, as that base was rocketed the night before last. No harm done- just a rocker launcher set to a timer, so that there would be no one there to take credit for the attack. It landed well off target.
J-bad, as it is called, is an interesting base in a very green region of Afghanistan. In fact, this place was used as a Russian resort during their war with Afghanistan. Don’t let that give you the wrong idea… there are very few amenities, and plenty of hard working, dedicated soldiers. Many in fact, were out on missions, so our audience was approximately 65 people in all.
The one hour Black Hawk ride in was amazingly beautiful as we took in the landscape and dawning day. We were greeted by Sgt. Schultz who fed us breakfast and introduced us to some of his personnel, as well as some of the local residents who work there at the base. This is part of the success story. These men earn a good living providing services- one boy, nicknamed “shoe shine” is the primary bread winner of his family. Still, the Sgt. insists he attend school, and he does.
The show went great even without a sound system. During the show two Black Hawks landed just behind our patio “stage,” drowning out our dialogue. Again, we improvised. It was particularly rewarding to perform for the locals (I used one of them as a volunteer in my act) and we had an opportunity to visit with them afterward. We made many new friends.
We took a base tour and learned a lot about the mission- primarily a “Provisional Rebuilding Team.” The soldiers lead missions to provide medical assistance, build housing, provide blankets and food, and build rapport with the local government. IT IS WORKING. And, like any good deed, it can have both moments of great satisfaction and frustration. But, overall, the message is clear- the Afghani people want us here. They trust us to help them, and they are making great progress with their way of life.
The ride back was fantastic! The pilot wanted to show us what the chopper could do, and we cruised at 120-140 knots at minimum altitude which is just a couple hundred feet above the ground. We also took 90 degree turns between the mountain passes and over the drop offs, hugging the terrain with thrilling excitement!! This was definitely the adrenaline highlight of the day!
Back at base, we visited the BX (base exchange) for a few items and then caught dinner at the DFAC (dining facility). We have a leisurely evening now and a show here tomorrow. This will be the biggest break we have had yet. And, we sure need it.