Dec. 12-18, 2012: we are wheels up on a 747 Airbus headed for Afghanistan!
After all of the training at Fort Bliss, Texas, we are actually headed for Southeast Asia. I am flying with more than 280 Soldiers and our first stop is in Bangor, Maine.
After a two-hour refueling stop, we climb aboard and fly to Ledpiz, Germany, and experience another two-hour layover for fuel and a crew change.
Back onboard, we fly to Manas (pronounced MA-nauce) Airfield in Kyrgyzstan, a former republic in the Soviet Union. We are greeted by soldiers from my battalion who have been here performing customs work since October.
As we taxied to a stop, I looked out the window and noticed 1 to 2 feet of snow on the ground. Manas is an extremely cold place.
We experienced a 60-hour layover in Manas, where the temperature never rose above 1 degree.
We were eager to leave and get to Kandahar, Afghanistan, so we could warm up. The difference in temperature was nearly 60 degrees.
We got our wish on Dec. 15 when we loaded onto a C-17and flew two and a half hours and landed at Kandahar Airfield. We removed our cold weather gear quickly because it was nearly 70 degrees and partly-cloudy.
We met with the unit we are replacing and received a briefing on how thing operate at Kandahar Airfield. We then had the next day off to prepare for the next nine months.
We woke up Monday morning Dec. 17 to rain and it continued all day. We discovered this was the first real rain this area has seen in nearly nine months. We are experiencing all the weather seasons during our travels.
Wet and cold our first full day in Afghanistan, we spend the day cleaning the barracks and getting settled. We began our work Dec. 18 and are finishing up our Relief in place - Transition of Authority.
During this time, we ride along with the unit we are replacing and do on-the-job training until both units agree that the incoming unit is ready to take control of the mission.
We have been on active duty now since Oct. 25 and are and set to be deployed for one year.