Rainy Day Monday by Jim Spiri
“The Last Journey” #9 Rainy Day Monday
02 August 2010
Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan
It’s late in the afternoon around 1730 (5:30 PM) local time. I’ve been taking care of some writings and reconfirming with my POC’s about my helo out of here tomorrow. The flight’s only 25-minutes, however, the rainy seasons hitting and that causes delays. My timing might suck but I’m enjoying the first rain I’ve experienced in Afghanistan. At least it is good writing weather.
One of the public affairs officers just gave me some discouraging news. Two reporters from the Fort Worth, Texas have been embedded for 60 days at the exact location I’m trying to get to. Hard enough to generate enthusiasm for another “media” type but I’ll do my best. I explained to the officer that I had come to see a specific soldier that I had first followed and reported on in Mosul, Iraq in 2007. We’ll take it one day at a time. Apparently the location had been on the receiving end of some indirect fire so that isn’t making it any easier for me to get my foot in the door.
Always moving from one location to the next, even as a child. I was born in New Jersey but then immediately taken home to Pennsylvania. And it’s never stopped since. The rain and my mood has me singing Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again. The road is my home.
I heard someone grumble that the two media folks ahead of me were a bit demanding. I’m not sure what that means but I’ll do my best to carry my weight. They evidently are through with their embed with the Rakkasans. There’s an interesting history with the Rakkasans’ name and since I regard myself as a bit of a historian here’s some background.
The 187th Infantry Regiment, Rakkasans, is a regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of the Army. The regimental motto is “Ne Desit Virtus” / “Let Valor Not Fail” The Rakkasans, derived their nickname from the Japanese word for umbrella dating back to WWII and the 187th’s tour of duty in Japan. Supposedly a translator was trying to explain that the men of the 187th were “airborne soldiers”. The translator used the phrase “falling down umbrella men”, “rak ka san”. The nickname took on a life of its own and today the Rakkasans’ legacy lives on.
**Late in the evening of 02 August 2010, FOB Salerno**
I’ve been informed that the rain has in fact canceled flights today. There’s a story around here everywhere I look so I should stay busy. I learned that a fair bit of the passenger transport helicopter flights are contracted out to private companies. The general opinion is that more CH-47’s are needed here and that the dual missions of Iraq and Afghanistan are taking their toll. Some feel that Afghanistan has always been the unwanted step child to Iraq. Today I was told that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates mentioned on Sunday that nation building never was the focus here in Afghanistan, rather, the elimination of the terrorists was always the goal. I’m not so sure what to think about that statement yet.
The locals here on Salerno are intriguing. I broke a pair of my dollar store reading glasses last night so I went to the little Camp Salerno bazaar to see what I could find. The bazaar was a bit like our states side flea markets accept here I found some exotic gem stones and hand made rugs. Oddly enough I came across a man that had fixed a pair of prescription glasses for someone else who never came to pick them up. He kindly offered them to me. I tried them on and they were completely blurry, but I had an idea. I went back to my quarters, found my broken pair of glasses, and took them back to the man. He readily fixed them, and expertly at that. I discovered that he was a jewelry maker by trade so fixing glasses was relatively simple task. I also had the fortune to share some “chi” with some other locals. I believe the men look much older than their years. All of the ones I spoke to were born during the early years of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan beginning in 1979 making them all under 30-years old. I wonder how much has changed from then and now?
Looks like bad weather still on the horizon. Perhaps I will get to know this base a little more than I had expected.
Jim Spiri In The Stan
Candi, I love you and soon I’ll be home.
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