(This was written on 29 Oct 2011... my first full day in Afghanistan. I couldn't get it off my computer until this morning... sorry for the delay!)
I can only see to write this by the little pink book light that I have hanging from the coils of the bunk bed above my head. I am not sure where the book light came from... if I had to bet, I would put money on a good friend from Chestertown, MD who seems to supply me (and now many of my soldiers) with many of the important things that I don’t realize I need until I need them. I am lucky to have her as a friend.
It’s not yet 10:30 and the lights are off in my tent-- home base for the next few weeks as we wait for our more permanent housing. This means walking some distance to the “latrine” at 1AM. I have a new personal policy... no liquid after about 6PM. It’s just not worth it! There are ten women sharing my tent and I along with a colleague on night shift are left awake. This is the first night I have been awake past ten, but I wanted to capture at least a piece of my first impression before it faded.
The first few days of anything challenging are always the hardest. We are all in the process of adjusting to our life here. It has been a 48 hour period of extremes. From pictures of our first snow as we waited on “lock down” for our aircraft in Krygyzstan to the combat landing into Bagram, exciting is an understatement. I sat there, surrounded by soldiers with full “battle rattle” (weapons, body armor, helmets, etc) and wondered just how I ended up on a C-17 headed for Afghanistan. All I have to say is that Air Force pilots are amazing. I am not sure what all we did in the air before making a quick touch down on the Bagram runway, but it was not the typical descent. We have also had some real moments of drudgery. Hours and hours of training on Improvised Explosive Devices and the dust and rocks that are never-ending as well as some very somber realities have threatened my “it’s all good” attitude. The last I heard, 13 Americans and one Canadian died a short distance from us in Kabul, and we were all warned that rocket attacks in our area were predicted. This is no longer a training exercise, but we are in the middle of a war. It’s almost hard to believe and sometimes I wonder if am ready for the possibilities of what might happen.
Tomorrow we all begin our shifts. I feel that I have been “working” since I arrived at the parking lot at Ft. Sam, and that is a good thing. I have known this for a while but for the past week I have lived one of the most important aspects of chaplaincy-- friendship. Day in and out, in the bathrooms where toilet and showers have no formal doors but instead shower curtains as meager dividers, in the dining halls and getting dressed in the morning, and everything between, friendship with one another and discovering in the midst of these developing relationships, friendship with God, that is what this is all about. And so, after a day where I was on an emotional roller coaster, experiencing just about every emotion from eagerness to depression to gratitude to sobriety, I can say, at least as I prepare to close this day, that being here in this place with these companions is an incredible privilege.