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"It's hard to fathom" just one guy's perspective from KAF


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First, I'd like to say I wasn't sure which forum this would best be suited in. So, to the mods, feel free to move this to a more appropriate area.

Second, my hubby wrote this and submitted it to one of the PAffOs with the TF. It may be appearing in one or several of the major newspapers on the east coast, and it has approval for posting to the blogs and forums we frequent. No OPSEC issues here.

I thought I'd share it just for the talent of the writing itself...as the subject is just a typical PT run while on tour...nothing special really...to those of us in the military community that is, but it lends just a little more understanding for the civvie world. And what can I say...I'm a proud 9er.

It is hard to fathom, at 0430 with a gentle but steady rain falling, that this land could be a harsh daunting desert. But several days ago I had the opportunity to experience at least a glimpse at the possibility of such a thing.

I had seen the signs around, advertising the “KAF Jogging Route” (knowing full well that the use of the word jogging would send some of my RunningManiac friends into cardiac arrest, or at least begin again a spirited debate on semantics). Feeling particularly keen and able one day I armed myself with a 500ml bottle of weak Gatorade and started on an epic journey.

The ground here is often hard, concrete-like packed dirt, often littered with golf ball sized rocks that pester and annoy, and threaten to turn your ankle and leave you a hobbling victim at any time. This phenomenon is not exclusive to sneakers, as even in my combat boots I have felt the awkward and biting turn of an ankle. The ground in places is also a thick spongy mud, remnants of previous rains that evaporated before they were absorbed into the impervious soil. And after a few days when covered in dust can spring up on you like the terrible sinking pits reminiscent of the quicksand in the Princess Bride. After a few steps through this it collects on your boots or sneakers, weighing them down. Then you run across gravel and you end up with a weird gravel encrusted coral on your sneakers (or boots).

But for running, at least for the somewhat lazy runner like myself, the terrain is billiard table flat. Though running at about 3000ft above sea level, you run a smooth eerily flat course.

The running route almost immediately takes me parallel to the airstrip, and for any kid who has ever grown up and dreamt of Top Gun you feel a surge of adrenaline that takes you back. I stretch my legs out here, picking up the pace bit. Feeling the breeze. I pass people from other nations who smile and nod, like serious runners do. Ha-ha.

Then I round the far corner of the airfield, and come face-to-face with the mountains I have seen through cloudy hazes, dusty hazes and sunny hazes. Now seemingly close enough to touch the late afternoon sun shines like a spotlight on them. You cannot help but immediately get the sense of something great and terrible as you look towards the naked mountains. They are daunting rocky crags, reminiscent of a Tolkien yarn. They signify the rigid backbone of this nation. And they are beautiful. You cannot help but thinking “Hm, that is where they launch the rockets from.” And you cannot help but hate the mountains then.

From my vantage points around the airfield you see the true level of constant activity packed into this patch of dirt. This activity is an enormous plethora of air assets, some which threaten to shake my teeth loose from their very spot. As well, there is an enormous amount of construction activity, with workers of seemingly many nations, being supplied by continuous road convoys.

A word about the vehicles in these convoys. The term often used to define these vehicles is “Jingle Trucks” for they are often gaily painted and have some manner of chains adorning them so as they move they well, jingle. You get a feeling of a sense of pride from many of these drivers, who race along at 10 miles an hour and with big smiles. Many times either walking the base, or on this run (that I am trying to get around to describe) I was met with many smiles and waves. But these vehicles are rusted, old, and battered in many cases; however, they have been looked after to the point that they are at least serviceable.

But I digress.

This running route sometimes shows me the roads within the vicinity of the base, and these roads are a curious mix of some civilian vehicles as well as military vehicles coming and going. I run past the uncharted minefields that surround us. I watch convoys of military vehicles drive on doing their duty, or returning from. I know that this is a war zone, and with no levity I state that still with the amount of activity and varying levels of technology evident in this base I feel like I am in a weird dream that is a mixture of the computer games SIMCity and Civilization.

As I continue around nearing the end of my journey I realize then that the base is completely surrounded by this jagged mane of mountains, and with heat blazing off the small section of “blacktop” I feel as though I am running a route around the inside of and electric griddle.
I get back to my room after about 11km, and about 75 minutes. I am covered in a pasty dust muck that coats my skin like some expensive ex-foliant. My shirt and shorts are drenched, yet dusty. My throat is a little raw from dust. But I feel good and exhilarated.

By the time I have finished and am back in my small room, I have a full understanding of the weird paradox this place truly is. In one (relatively speaking) small patch of mine riddled, sun blasted earth the most powerful nations on the planet have sent maybe not all their brightest, not all their best, maybe not even their bravest, but possibly the most dedicated, to a place that is as dangerous as any that exist currently on the globe. These soldiers do not share a religion; do not share a language with the proud innocent civilians of this country. But they share a fundamental humanity, a oneness, and to belittle that to the point of calling it political puppetry or a lost cause or ‘unwinnable’ is to do both sides a disservice. These dedicated, and brave few, (again relatively speaking) have gathered to offer something to this large dirt-poor country. That thing is hope.

I say these things with no arrogance, or expectation of praise for my job is safely within the wire, and I look up to my peers with awe, as well, from here. All I did was go for a run.

Roy Harding

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I am familiar with the "jogging" route he speaks of - but I couldn't describe it in quite the same way he does.

Thanks for sharing that.