An American Adventure in Afghanistan

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Coming soon…

A tale of American incompetence and Afghan corruption.

A decade in  the ‘Stan.

Romance…adventure…cultural commingling…deep spiritual philosophizing…Mullah  Dawood…Afghan Police…friendship…soul searching…utter stupidity…and sometimes hilarity.

Somewhere in there I manage to be serious and learn  a thing or two.

Hope you read and enjoy.

Top Ten — Best Reasons to Contract Overseas

1.  You can make a boatload of cash.

Contracting take one away from home.  In many cases, it puts one in an isolated area and military contracting places one in some dangerous locales.

But!  It also affords most folks an income opportunity that would be nearly impossible in a 9 to 5 Wage Slave position Stateside.

2.  Travel Abroad.

I saw a good slice of the world when I was in the Military.  Since I started contracting, I’ve been able to experience parts of the world that I never dreamed that I’d see.  I have been able to afford to travel to all corners of the Globe.

Chinathe Great Wall (twice), Beijing, the Forbidden City, Shianghai, Xi’an, the Terra Cotta Soldiers.

Israel — Jerusalem, Acre (Akko) and the Crusader Fortresses, Tel Aviv, Joffa (where Jonah landed after his fabled belly of the Big Fish adventure.

Egypt — The Great Pyramids and several others, Amarna, Luxor, Aswan, Abo Simbel, Giza, Saqqara, Cairo, Alexandria as well as many other locations with a richness of history that is indescribable.

Turkey — Istanbul, Izmet,The Temple of Artemis, Pammukale.

Europe — Athens, Rome, Pisa, Paris, Santorini, the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Forum, the Coliseum, Temple of Zeus. the Leaning Tower and on and on.

Southeast Asia — Cambodia (Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh), Thailand (Sukhothai, Chiangmai, Ayuthaya, Bangkok, Koh Samui, Koh Tao), Laos (Luang Prabang), kayaking on the Mekong, the Mekong Delta, Saigon (HCMC), Hanoi, Hoi An, Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves) and much more.

More and more and more…

3.  Freedom

One is not tied to one location.  There is much freedom to not having a home tying one down in America or Europe or wherever one calls home.

4.  Meeting interesting people across the Globe. 

I have met people from nearly every corner of the globe and drank a beer with them in cities as geographically unconnected as Siem Reap, Cairo, Delphi, Santorini.

In Santorini, I sat and drank with a couple from Paris, France in a heavy metal bar that looked like a scene out of Mad Max.  Everyone was sporting leather and men had hair and beards longer that would have made ZZ Top proud.

I’ve had similar experiences in Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Athens, Paris, London and Beijing.  Speaking of Beijing, I wish I could find the CD of the band that played in a rock bar there.  Rock Opera.  But it was Chinese Opera.  Madame Butterfly meets Metallica.

5.  One’s eyes are opened to the World. 

It’s nearly impossible to travel, meet people, see pieces of the ancient world and the modern and not come away feeling part of a broader association with humanity.

Sit and talk to a Buddhist Monk, a Taoist Monk and a Coptic Father and a Sufi Mullah and it’s impossible to come away feeling the same old trepidations, prejudices and separation from the people of the world as one had merely moments before.

I believe in America and I believe that America has been and will continue to be exceptional.  We have been thus because of our ability to absorb the people and ideas of the world and to mesh them into a way of living.  We must continue this.

6.  The experience of spreading America to other people and places.

I’m not talking about an arrogant America running around screaming; “U S A, U S A, U S A!”

I’m talking about intelligent intercourse with folks from around the globe whom one will encounter out in the world.

America is a great nation.  We have done great good along with some heinous acts that make any human being cringe.

When one speaks to others realistically and with an open mind, ideas exchange.  Good will passes between peoples.  Folks from other nations learn that Americans are not all George Bush or Barack Obama.  We’re just as human as the rest of the world.  We are willing to learn, to adapt, to overcome.

We are also willing to share with the world in a positive way.  That’s important.  Americans traveling the globe as positive ambassadors is an important way to spread the message the democracy and republicanism can be a good thing.

7.  Beer!

There are some damn good beers out there in the worldBudweiser isn’t the only beer worth washing down a urinal.  Actually, if I can help it, I don’t drink Budweiser.  Give me a decent heffeweisen from Bavaria or a Tsingtao from northern China.  I’ll drink those over Budweiser any day of the week.

8.  Saving for the future.

This kind of goes along with earning power in number one.  But!  Not everyone saves.  If you squirrel away some of those fat paychecks, you can have a good chunk of money in the bank in no time.  Finance that dream business.  Go back to school when you return home and have the money to do it right.  Buy a house or a boat or both.  It all depends on how long you are out there and how much you save each paycheck.

Savings is possibility.  Don’t forget to pay future you for all of that hard work and sacrifice.

9.  It’s a fresh start on life.

Getting out there in the world is eye opening.  You will experience life in a way that wasn’t possible in America.  America is all about the 9 to 5 for your average Joe.  It’s a Monday to Friday run to the weekend.  In contracting, you work and dream.  You can make plans for great adventures.  You can dream big.  Forget life at home for a while and open your mind to the possibilities of the world.

The world is waiting.

10.   It will change your life, if you let it.

Contracting is mostly a single person’s game.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are thousands of married folks out there.  I don’t know how they do it.  Especially the folks with kids.  How a mother or father can stay away from their child for months or years at a time is beyond me.

I don’t have children so it’s not something that I can comprehend.

When you sign that first contract, you don’t know what is out there.  You have no idea about how your life is about to be changed.  You will not return home the same person.  That, of course, can be good or bad.

For me, it’s been a positive.  I feel that my eyes were opened to the world.  I’d been in the military for a decade prior to contracting.  It’s not the same.  In the military, you live on a base.  You are insulated.  You can always retreat back into the safe confines of your little America.

It’s not the same with contracting.  You are forced to get out there and meet people, feel and experience your surroundings.

This is especially so for those who travel frequently on their off time.  Once you set foot on those exotic and foreign lands, you are on your own.  Life is there waiting to slap you in the face.  You can enjoy it and feel it…experience it and live it or you can hole up in your hotel room and stay the same as when you arrived.

Frequent travel changes a person.  Tasting new foods, smelling new aromas and even new levels of funk that you never dreamed could exist, hearing different languages spoken in their homelands where you are the foreigner, being in a place where no one speaks your language and finding ways to communicate despite the language barrier, talking to those folks despite your lack of knowledge of their language, sleeping under the skies in a Southeast Asian landscape, conversing with ten people who all speak a different language and are all from a different corner of the globe.

I’ve been in a room full of English speakers in a bar in Bangkok.  Every person speaks English.  Yet, each person is from a different country.  Scotland, Ireland, America, Canada, Wales, Australia and New Zealand.  Even though, we all spoke English, we still needed translation at times.  The Aussies were incomprehensible to all of us.  The Kiwis spoke slightly different.

The Irish guy would speak.  The Scottish guy would translate to the Brit.  The Brit would translate to the American who would attempt to translate to the Aussie.  That’s just English.

We live in a big world.   There are so many differences.  Even amongst the English speakers.

Humanity is fascinating.

When you are afforded the opportunity to get out there.  Get out there and experience it.

Contracting is one way to get that opportunity.  If you get it, don’t miss out.

Coming up:  Top Ten Negative about Contracting Overseas

Uzbekistan

October 2003 Uzbekistan — Tashkent and K2

Back in 2003, KBR flew in and out of Afghanistan via Tashkent, Uzbekistan.  You might spend a couple of hours or a few days in a hotel in the capital of Uzbekistan.  Next stop was Karshi-Khanabad or K2.  I spent a week in K2 that first time.
Arriving at Tashkent International Airport was like jumping back into the ‘50s.  It had a ‘50s era looking Soviet gangster movie feel to it.  The drab guys behind the Customs and Immigration cubicles going through their bureaucratically, mindnumbing motions.  These guys were automatons.  No smiles, no greeting.  Hand over your papers.  Stamp your papers.  Move along.  I don’t think they even looked at me to verify that I was the same guy as that pictured in my passport.  STAMP!  STAMP!  STAMP! and your passport comes flying back at you.  No nonsense.  No greeting.  Nothing.  I tried to engage the dude who processed me into country.  Either he was deaf or I was just another number in a long line of the faceless masses who had started passing through in the War on Terror that had suddenly made Tashkent a popular destination for business men, contractors and government bureaucrats.
The airport itself was more drab, cold and grey than the customs troops who worked there.  Men in green and grey uniforms with guns stood about with no real purpose in the air about them.  The building was at least 50 years old pre-dating Perstroika and Glasnost.  Democracy had not been kind to Tashkent.  Cheap, imitation marble lined the floors.  It was an ugly structure and it was run down.  Fake leather padded metal seating was thrown around in a way that spoke to the traveler.  It said; “Keep going.  We don’t want you here.”  The baggage carousels were tattered and frayed.  They were broken when I passed through.  Instead of queuing at the carousel to await my baggage, carts were wheeled in and gnarled Uzbek men in dirty, tattered uniforms hurriedly conveyed our bags to the dirty floor.
Once we grabbed our bags, we were led outside where we were instantly surrounded by a teeming mass of poverty stricken humanity.  Men and boys in tattered, filthy clothes demanded that they be allowed to cart our bags to our vehicles.  “Sir, sir, carry your bag.  One dollar each bag sir.”  They were insistent.  If you carried your own bag to the buses waiting to take us to our hotel, they accompanied you still.  As you climbed aboard, they begged for baqsheesh.  “Tip sir!  Baqsheesh sir!  One dollar sir!”  The kids were especially insistent.  They waited outside the windows of the bus.  Constantly pleaded.  “Sir, one dollar, sir.  One bottle of water, sir.  One dollar, sir.  Gum, sir.”
Only one airline flew in Uzbekistan at that time — Uzbek Airlines.  The airplanes were rickety, ancient machines.  I thought the damn things were going to fall out of the sky.  I’m pretty sure parts of the wing fell off an airplane on one landing.  The airplanes that flew us from Tashkent to K2 were worse.  I flew into K2 on an airplane that had folding seats bolted to the floor.  One passenger was holding a chicken during a flight.
Uzbekistan was a former Soviet satellite state.  It was drab, grey and dreary looking.  The people looked and acted downtrodden.  The economy was dead and jobs were scarce.  The hotel in which KBR put us up in Tashkent had lawyers and doctors working as receptionists, bartenders and bellboys.  The bars were all full of prostitutes.  The first time that I stayed in Tashkent, the going rate for a night of love was fifty bucks.  The rednecks from Texas and Louisiana had run that price up to 300USD within a few months.  The price pretty much stuck there until KBR moved it’s operations to Dubai in 2005.  However, the girls followed us.  Supposedly the big pimpin’, entrepreneur who facilitated the move of half of Tashkent’s female population was the KBR Security Supervisor.  Rumor had it that he had married a Russian mob princess.
Crime in Tashkent was off the charts and the police were part of the problem.  We had a few guys get mugged in Tashkent.  KBR guys leaving out on R&R would get wasted and fall asleep in bars and get ripped off.  Bouncers would roll drunk morons in alleys behind clubs.  Some guys would take girls home and pass out.  Once the guy was passed out, the good little gal would steal anything she could fit in her purse — wallets, rings, watches, money, passports.  Anything she could sell would be gone in the morning.  I got lucky the one time that I passed out with a gal in my room.  She got up in the morning and went home.  I awoke with a start and noted immediately that she was gone.  “Fuck!  What did she take?  How screwed am I?”  I scanned my room.  Everything was right were I’d left it.  Even my wallet and stack of Uzbek Som was sitting on my nightstand unmolested.  My passport was still in my backpack.  Then I noticed a piece of paper beside my desk.  I picked it up.  “Tatiana 02398734”  She’d left her phone number.  That’s when the night came back to me.  I freaked out.  Had I really done that?  Three rules to prostitution.  1.  Don’t forget a condom.  2.  Don’t go down on them.  3.  Don’t pass out until they leave.  I’d broken all three rules that night.  I was lucky.  The only negative consequences to that night was a bit of anxiety.  I remember the girl only vaguely.  She had that sexy Russian accent and I thought it was cool how she said my name.  “Deh ‘veed”  That and she had long, blonde curly hair and a body that a Playboy bunny would kill for.
I, also, passed out one and missed my flight.  I went out with my buddies to a few clubs and came back to my hotel about two hours before I was supposed to catch the bus to the airport.  I took a shower, towel dried myself and sat down butt naked in a chair.   The next thing I know, I wake up with the sun shining in my face.  I was supposed to have been on the bus at 0400hrs that would take me to my 0600hrs flight.  I looked at my watch.  It was 0615hrs.  I got out two days late and had to pay 400USD to change my flight.  It wasn’t a big deal to miss a flight on the way out.  It was your time you were wasting.  I was lucky in that regard.  If you missed your flight on the way back in due to drinking, KBR sent you packing.  FIRED!  Sucks to be you.

The worst part about flying in Uzbekistan were the Customs Police.  These ragamuffin shitbirds would attempt to intimidate us into paying bribes or steal from you as they searched your baggage.  On the first trip out, I’ll admit that I was intimidated.  Luckily, they didn’t ask me for money or try to take anything out of my bag.  That didn’t happen until my last trip out of Tashkent.  The guard rips through my bag and pulls out a knife that I’d purchased as a gift for my cousin.  “I want this.  Let me have it.” I looked at him like he was crazy and said; “Fuck no!  That’s a gift for my cousin.”  I think I shocked him.  He looked at me for a hot second and then waved me on.  I stuffed everything back into my bag and moved on.

Contracting “US Companies” in Afghanistan

US Contract Companies are hiring 15 to 20 Third Country Nationals (Indians, Filipinos, etc) for every one American in Afghanistan. 10% of Americans out of work and DynCorps, Fluor, CACI, AECOM, KBR and all of these other “American” International Contract companies aren’t interested in hiring any of them.  Maybe they’ll hire some illegal immigrants as well.

They are keeping their bottom line in check with these moves.  Making millions of dollars in profit by stiffing the American worker.  DynCorps, KBR and Fluor can hire 20 Indians for the cost of hiring one US Citizen.  The US Government is awarding these multi-million dollar contracts to these “American” companies and they here 80-90 percent foreign employees.

What I think is even more humorous is that the US Government is making this concerted effort to break up large contracts such as the KBR LOGCAP II contract as well as others.  There are very few companies that can handle the logistics of these operations.  What ends up happening is that Company A wins the contract from the US government.  Company A then subcontracts to KBR (or whatever company) or a subsidiary of KBR.  The same company winds up with all of the contracts that they had before.  The difference is that there is now a middle man.  It’s all a shell game.  I guess Congress and the average American out there are idiots and are fooled by all of this muddling of facts and actions.

Another thing that Company B (KBR) does is form another company/corporation.  It looks like a separate company on paper but it’s indirectly owned by the same people.  They even hire the same folks from earlier contracts to run them.  Same PM, same DPM, same cast and crew.  On the surface, a new company is in business and winning contracts.  In reality, it’s the same group of folks making the same money.

And it’s easy to see.  Easy to investigate, but, the US government is too lazy or incompetent to see the obvious.  I’ve been laughing for 5 years.  Same crooks winning the same contracts and the same Congress and DOD/DOS getting scammed for more and more tax dollars.

Fools!

It’s been the same story since at least World War II.  I bet that some of these companies can be traced back to the War between the States.  The US Government never learns.  They just open that check book and sign more checks.

No, I’m not a disgruntled employee or former employee.  Most of my contract work requires that I am a US citizenship.  This doesn’t affect me and never will.