Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Day in the Life of the Mayor

My days are frequently busy, and something unexpected almost always comes up.  But the other day was one of the biggest adventures I’ve had since I’ve been in Afghanistan when it should have been relatively straightforward.  All I needed to do was meet a truck that was bringing some gym equipment.  I should have remembered that nothing is easy in Afghanistan.  Nothing.


A couple of months ago, I won a bid for some excess gym equipment from a base that was shutting down.  The plan was simple:  The equipment gets shipped down to us in a shipping container loaded on a truck, we unload it, sign for it, done deal.  Well, okay, I knew it would be a little more involved with that because I would need a crane to offload the container.  Since we don’t have a crane on base, I’d have to rent one.  That wouldn’t be that big of a deal because I already needed a crane to move some other stuff around, like a few T-walls, a mobile armory, and the coffee shop (yes, the coffee shop.  But that’s another story…).  I would just rent it for the day and get all my requirements knocked out at once.  My to-do list would look pretty awesome with all those things checked off!


I had it all set up.  My facilities contractor was bringing the crane in that morning and would start taking care of my other moves while I was picking up the container truck.  Both trucks had to go through the scanners at NKAIA (the main base) to make sure they were “clean”.  My Captain and I left early enough to stop and get coffee before we had to meet the truck at 0900.  That was fun, sitting outside, practicing for retirement for a few minutes before we had to do real work!


We left in time to get over to the gate.  Since we had never picked up a truck going through the scanner before, we weren’t sure how the process worked.  We asked a few questions of the Jordanian guards.  They could see on the camera that our truck wasn’t there yet, but they pointed us down a path leading to another guard shack.  From there we could see the scanner, so we could just wait.  We waited a long time.  I called the trucking company several times, and they kept claiming the truck was at the gate.  We didn’t see it, so we kept trekking back to the original gate shack to look at the camera.  No dice.  Meanwhile, the Jordanian guards were very friendly.  They offered us Cokes and cigarettes, and they tried to help us, but they didn’t speak very good English.  We kept calling the company.  The story changed that the truck was right outside the gate but the ANP (Afghan National Police) wouldn’t let them come on base, and we needed to walk out there and talk to the ANP before they would let them come on.  That seemed odd since there were no ANP right outside the gate, and we certainly weren’t going to walk off base!  We asked them if they were sure the truck was at the right gate, and they assured us they were.  Then the story changed that they were a kilometer away at an ANP checkpoint and were having trouble getting through traffic.  They also threw in that I was supposed to pick up two trucks.  I assured them that, no, I was only meeting one truck.  Finally, we stumbled into an interpreter who offered to help because we were pretty sure something was getting lost in the translation.  Magically, the truck finally appeared; we could see him on the camera.  Finally!  We’d get this thing over with, and I could get on with my day!


The Jordanian guards sent us from the gate shack we had been waiting at, past the scanner, and down to the next gate shack – the initial entry point to the base, the first line of defense.  They told us that the truck didn’t have a license plate and so they couldn’t positively identify that it was our truck, and asked if we were sure it was our truck.  We were pretty sure since the interpreter had just been talking to the driver, but we couldn’t say with 100% certainty.  The guard asked us if we wanted to go out there to check with the driver.  My conscience, Capt Phillips, my head force protection guy, said “I’m not going out there.”  I was stuck.  I was pretty sure that was my truck, but I couldn’t verify it – and I had the crane waiting on me that day.  It’s not like I could reschedule. 


NOTE:  At this point, my mother should stop reading and skip down to the next NOTE in bold face!  Do NOT keep reading!


Finally, Capt Phillips said he would go get his armor on and go out there.  I said that I would go with him.  So we traipsed all the way back to our vehicle (probably a quarter-mile away), got our body armor and helmet and came back.  The Jordanian guard told us that the sniper in the tower would have us covered if anything happened.  As we started walking out there, Capt Phillips said, “You see where those Hesco barriers end and that the truck is past it?  That means there’s nothing between us and Afghanistan.”  Then the Jordanian guard told us to rack a round in the chamber of our M4.  In that instant, all of the training from Air Advisor came rushing back.  We agreed that Capt Phillips would ask the driver for documentation, and I would provide cover.  I watched the driver.  I looked for people hanging around outside the gate that didn’t look to be well employed.  I looked for drivers wanting to take a target of opportunity.  Fortunately, all was well.  The driver just had his license plate covered, and his identification matched what we had been given, so we escorted him up to the designated location so the guards could examine them as well.


NOTE:  Mom, you may continue reading from here.


The truck came through the gate, made it through the scanner okay, and after another very long wait, we were finally on our way to Oqab.  Whew!  When we got to the FOB, I called Jason, my head facilities guy, to find out where the crane was, and he told me there had been a small problem – that the crane wasn’t allowed through the gate because it was too big, so it was just sent away (rather than sent to another gate).  Ugh!  Now what was I supposed to do?  I needed a crane!  Otherwise I couldn’t offload that gym equipment!


Never fear!  Necessity is the mother of invention.  Some of my guys decided that they would use a couple of forklifts working together to offload the container.  Well, we started down that road, but the forks wouldn’t fit exactly into the holes in the container, so we needed four forklifts working together.  It eventually looked like a preview to a YouTube video that started with, “Hey, Bubba, hold my beer and watch this!”  (I bet you saw that coming, didn’t you?) 


In a moment of desperation, I asked my interpreter if it would be possible to borrow the Afghan CE Squadron’s crane, figuring it would be out of fuel as it always is, but it was my lucky day!  In less than a half-hour, we had them over there, preparing to offload that container.  They’re lacking on training, though, so we watched apprehensively as the container moved all over the place while being offloaded.  Getting it back on the truck would certainly be interesting.


We asked the driver for the keys to the locks on the container, and he said he didn’t have them.  That was convenient!  So we got the “master key” and cut the locks off.  We opened it up and found six treadmills and two bikes.  For some reason, I thought there was supposed to be more, but I couldn’t remember, and at this point, I really didn’t care since it had taken so long to get this far.  We got the forklift and a pallet and ferried the equipment over to the gym where it would be stored.  Thanks to my cops for providing some manpower, because that equipment was heavy!


Finally, we got all the equipment moved to the gym and the container put back on the truck (it went considerably well considering the operator’s lack of proficiency), and escorted the crane and container truck off the FOB.  I went back to my office to see what e-mail damage had been done in the seven hours since I started this adventure and immediately saw an e-mail from the trucking company that drew my attention.  I opened it up, and to my horror saw proof that, despite what I had been told all along, indeed I was supposed to meet two trucks.  Awesome.  You just can’t make this stuff up…Guess, I’d get the opportunity to repeat this adventure another day!  Yeehaw!

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