**Note, I am not in Afghanistan, the below blog is from a Career FF who is stationed at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, and I do believe him when he say's its the busiest airport in the world. PR and ARMA Players take note of not only the US/British aircraft but also of the Russian aircraft mentioned and still in service.

Also some of the language is a bit nsfw, so if you get offended easily do not read after the first posted sentence.

Posted 08 June 2011 - 08:26 AM

Many people have PMed and emailed mre asking about life "over there" in Afghanistan, so I thought I'd write a quick decription of how it is for those interested.

To start I am now assigned to Kandahar Airfield which, unlike all my previous jobs, is a NATO run base. At present I believe the British are the ones technicaly in charge of the base but almost all NATO countries and a few others are represented here. This makes for some interesting interactions as cultures do clash occasionally, usually with comic results fortunately. It is hot here, I mean really hot. Average temperatures this week have been just above 130 with the nights cooling down to a balmy 100 or so. It is also dusty here to the point that everything has a permant shade of tan covering it, no matter how often you clean it.

My FD here or to use it's proper name Kandahar Fire Crash Rescue Services is comprised of 60 men manning 6 crash trucks, 2 structural Engines and a Tanker along with a Chief and as they call them a Plattoon (our Depruty Chief or Shift Commander) Chief for each of the two shifts. Work schedule is 24 on 24 off or on average an 84 hour work week, which may sound like alot but trust me most would rather be working everyday as there isn't much to do otherwise. We do have a gym at the main station as well as a number of military ones throughout the base that we are free to use. There are 6 DFACs (dining facilites), 1 British, 1 French or Continental, 1 Asian and 2 American, the other I havent found yet but it is reported to be Arabic serving only Hallal food (similar to Kosher). The food itself is edible although as any former soldier can tell you, everything is cooked well beyond well done. Kandahar also boasts a Boardwalk which is just exactly what you'd expect it to be, a wooden sidewalk on which fromts a number of commercial establishments. We have a KFC and Friday's, 2 pizza joints although the term pizza is a bit of a stretch to anyone from our area, a Nathan's open 24 hours to boot a coffe shop and a French Deli/Patisserre. Along with the gastronomic choices there are a number of small "Haji" or locals run shops carrying everything from cigarettes to jewelery and trinkets to a full tailor shop that will make a hand tailored suit for you for about $250. There is also a Bazaar every Saturday with the ubiquitous bootleg movies as well as an impressive selection of junk, haggling a must.

About the FD itself aside from the above. Well I started at the main station, Station 1 which sits on the Airfield. Housed there are 5 of the 6 crash trucks and their attendant crews. I was assigned to Engine 3 one of the two structural units on base. Station 3 houses another crash truck on the opposite side of the runway. Station 3 is a luxuriously appointed Army tent with none of the comforts of home. Station 1 is more akin to a Stateside firehouse with an alarm room, offices, a large dayroom and sleeping quarters (3 to a room). The crash side of the house is busier here since much to my suprise Kandahar Airfield is the busiest single runway airport in the world with between 850 - 1000 inbound and outbound flights a week. And there is quite a wide variety of aircraft in and out of here including C-130s and C-17s, C-5s as well, F-16s, F/A/18s, Harriers, A-10s. We also get 737s, Antonov A-12s and the other really huge Russian one whose designation I can't recall as well as a few 747s. Choppers abound with Blackhawks and Chinooks, Cobras, and Apaches and a large contingent of old Russian machines like the Mil-8 and the Mil -10 for transpot duty. And of course the UAVs which are really quite impressive.

My current assignment is as the Crew Chief (Capt) of Station 2 "Southside". I have with me 4 crewman and our rig is a European spec'ed Rosenbauer from Germany. Needles to say that it takes a bit of getting used to with the pump in the rear and it's overall lack of hose and equipment by our standards, not to mention its all metric. I have a pump that in liters!! Damn Europeans now I have to do math.
Our first due is about 8 sq. miles with roughly 25,000 miltary and civilian residents. Building range from one and two story PEBs (pre engineered buildings) of metal and wood. wooden B and C huts (think ranch houses except it's many offices or sleeping rooms off a central hallway), tents of various sizes up to 200 x 75 and a large number of two story masonry barracks (think garden apartments). Along with these living areas we on the Southside enjoy the distinction of being what back home would be called the industrail side of town. The majority of the mechanical shops, warehouses, storage facilities fuel points and motorpools are in our first due, along with a host of HazMat goodies. All in all it's a diverse and challenging district.

Now what makes KAFs Fire Department somewhat unique is the fact that we are comprised of a multi national force. There are Indians, Philippinos, South Aficans and a sizeable contingent of Brits. Then there's a few Canucks and representing the good ole USA is Nate who hails form the metro DC area and myself. While English is the required language I have found that it's use is somewhat impeded by the variety of accents in use. In fact I've found that I'll need to invest in an English to English dictionary to communicate with my comrades form the UK...LOL

One of the most common questions I get is, is it safe? Well safe is a relative term in a war zone. We do get regular presents of the 81, 120 and 240mm variety from our Taliban friends outside the wire and they do at times cause causalities. The last was a soldier a few months ago. Our towel headed friends also like to try and crash our party here often by trying to get through the wire. They don't get too far. In fact just prior to my arrival about 100 or so of them got their wish with a one way fast track ticket to meet Allah...isn't that nice for them. Hopefully their buddies will be right behind. Our boys here are more than happy to oblige that wish and we all support them. Vigilance is a necessity here, just like home complacency kills. We do all we can to stay safe, but the reality is, if your numbers up then it's up. Until then I and all of us have a job to do and we just do it.

Some may think this a noble or courageous endeavor, for that I thank you, but please give your kudos to those that really deserve it, the brave and dedicated men and women of our Armed Forces. These folks are as courageous as they come and they are in a sense our kindred spirits....they too put themselves at risk to protect and serve others, all of us here and back home.

In closing I would ask a favor from all who read this. As you go through your day stop for just a minute and think about those service members over here and what they are sacrificing for you and yours. And if it should strike you please find an organization that send things over and send something to a soldier, sailor, or airman here. It couild be anything, a letter, a card and damn tube of toothpaste...anything so that they know that you remember and support them. They will appreciate it more than you know. Freedom is not free and these folks are paying the price for our freedom, please don't forget them.

Posted 16 June 2011 - 02:11 AM
Well here's another quick update from always sunny Kandahar Afghanistan.

The past week has seen us relatively busy running about 5 calls a day on the structural side of the house. Most of these are smells and bells calls which have turned out to be nothing. My comrades on the crash side have had a few calls as well a day, mostly hot brakes although they did get an engine fire on a fully armed Harrier yesterday. All turned out well.

Now for us structural boys yesterday was for us a busy one. 15 calls ,only two of which involved any actual fire though. Both of these were vehilcle fires. The first was a Humvee with the engine compartment going, which was doused immediately. The other was a large "Jingle" truck/tanker hauling fuel. A 'jingle truck" by the way is what the locals use to transport material. They are so called because the exterior of the vehicle is adorned with small bells and murals depicting any number of religious or cultural scenes. Anyway this particular Jingle had the cab rolling good and impinging on the loaded tank on arrival We hit the cab fire while cooling the tank and all ended well...for us. The driver on the other hand lost his identity cards in the fire as was thus escorted off base by the MPs after a brief interrogation.

We have had a number of rockets come in of late. no injuries or fatalities and only minor damage. During these episodes we are routed to the sector points closest to the impact zone to stand by, under cover of a bunker of course, until the all clear is given and we then do what needs doing. Of course in the event of injuries we are expected and have in the past responded into the "hot" zone while under fire. But of late that hasn't been necessary.

I also got the opportunity the other day to go to a part of the base I had not yet seen. This is on the Northside. As we drove along checking our EMPs (emergency water points) in the 125 degree midafternoon sunshine it dawned on me that "hey, we at the wire". And sure enough we were, not more that 10ft from Talibanistan. I watched as some local shepards tended their flocks a mere 100 ft away. They waved and we waved back and everyone was all smiles....of course I was thinking something entirely different like "is this guy trying to find a hole in the wire"? Well not to worry there were guard towers aplenty and guards to man them too. But it did make for an interesting afternoon diversion.

One more note and this is a sad one. Yesterday saw two ramp ceremonies next door to the main fire station on the airfield. We happened to be there for both occassions so I attended with the permission of our Chief. For those who do not know, a ramp ceremony is held when the body of one of our soldiers is loaded aboard an aircraft, in this case C-17s, for his final trip home. While one of these ceremonies was ongoing I saw two medivacs choppers as well as a C-130 dropping off more wounded. Our Fire Station is adjacent to the hospital. It is these tragic events that bring the reality of what our boys endure here front and center. God Bless em.

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures as of yet to share, but when I do I will post them. Of course due to security we are extremely limited as to what we can and cannot share, but I'm sure you all understand.
Thanks to all for serving back home, especially my fellow " Belltown Boys"...ATW since 1928

Posted 27 June 2011 - 09:58 PM
Well it's been a little while since I wrote so I thought I'd give a quick update.

Overall things have settled down a bit. I've been reasigned back to the main station since my counterpart there went on R&R, and am now the Officer of Engine 3. Ths puts me back on the airfield which means lots of noise all day and all night. But this also allows for some intensive training on the various aircraft stationed here. A high point of that being the tour of an AC-130 or what we refer to as the flying death. Armed with a 25mm gatling gun capable I'm told of 6000 rounds per minute, a 40mm cannon and the big boy 105mm howitzer, this baby can really dish out the pain. And dish it out it does much to the dismay of our towel headed friends outside the wire.
Call wise it's been rather slow with only one structure fire the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately due to it's rather remote location on base and the delay in notification there wasn't much left to save upon arrival. Other than that nothing but a few dumpster fires and smells and bells.
On another front we have been recieving daily mail from the Taliban which usually consists of 6 or 7 rockets at about 5am. Some of the boys on the North side got a bit of a rude awakening the other morning as one of those rockets bounced not more than 50ft from their tent, careened over the runway and hit an unattended garbage truck without exploding. Maybe it was made in China. Seems there's a target of particular importance to our pals in the hills surounding the base on the North side and after a little research I managed to find out what it is...a fuel point with thousands of gallons of JP8 on hand. Needless to say with limited water and foam capabilities this is one of our "nightmare" scenarios. So far though their aim has been anything but true and the ordinance mostly duds..thanks again to the communist work ethic.

But for all that the seriousness of life here has come crashing home the past week with a number of our boys being sent home on their final journey. I don't wish to upset anyone or dreg up memories but the other day was an especially sad one here as 5 service members were loaded aboard the now way too familiar C-17. As I stood on the tarmac adjacent to the ramp ceremony and watched as one by one each flag draped casket was taken aboard I drifted back in time. With "Amazing Grace" on the pipes playing from the loudspeakers my mind went back to the many times I stood in that long blue line on a suburban street, in front of a church as yet another of the 343 was driven past on the way to his final resting place. Now over my years working here or in Iraq I've been to a lot of ramp ceremonies and at all of them I would think of the 343, but for some reason on this particular day the emotion and anguish felt on those days so long ago swept over me like a tidal wave.

I thought of the loss to the families of these young soldiers. How in a split second the lives of so many people were irrevocably changed and with those thoughts came the realization that for 343 families back home that loss, that void has never been filled, and it never will be. I thought of these young boys who have given their lives in defense of our nation and all that is good about it. And with that I thought about the sacrifice of the 343 and how they exemplified what it means to be a fireman, what it means to be a hero. Under vastly different circumstances the honor, courage and strength of the American spirit shown brightly through the acts of these brave souls on the battlefield here and in the Towers on that fateful September morning. Finally as the ceremony drew to it's conclusion I thought about the sacrifices made by so many and felt the anger well up inside. The fanatics here have brought so much anguish to so many families back home and for what. Blind hatred and ignorance.

Since that day last week I have often thought about the events of 10 years ago and what they have meant to me, my family and my Country. The anger persists, but it has been tempered by the realization that, be it the soldiers that I see here making their final journey home or the 343 brave heroes of 9/11, the world is a better place for all of them having been in it....even if only for a short time.
Life goes on as it must, but as we move forward let us not forget the sacrifices made by so many and let us all try to do right by those who have given all so that others may live.

Posted 12 July 2011 - 01:40 PM

Today's installment has nothing shattering to report save that for the last 2 nights the Taliban has been getting the sh!t kicked out of them just south of base. Explosions and small arms fire can be heard almost as soon as it gets dark and goes on til early morning just before sunrise..which here is at about 4:45. I've talked to a few soldiers in the know and have been assured that our towel hearded friends are getting a good lambasting, with so far only some minor injuries to our boys...thank God. And another good sign is that to the best of my knowledge there have been no recent ramp ceremonies American or Allied.

In other news rockets continue with their regular frequency although the past two days have been unusually quiet. (generally actions at one side of the base rarely effect the attempts by the jihadists to inflict punishent from the other side, so the events of the past couple of nites are probably unrelated). The temperature remains a a balmy 130 or so, although Friday saw a modest increase to 147. And yes of course we had 2 calls at the height of the heat and the crash boys ran another 3.

One of the things I thought I'd pass along is some of the operational English to English translations and differences we deal with here daily.
To the Brits:

a nozzle is a branch
a search team is a B/A team
a B/A is an airpack
a line is a line but to call for water one must say "water on" as opposed to "charge it" and yes you guessed it....to shut down "water off"
on scene is " in attendence"

Irons are non existant to the Brits so there is no translation there, but they do have tools for forcible entry in the form of a crowbar
Appliances are not for use with hose...they're the rigs.
a wye and water thief are a double and triple diverter respectively, while reducers and double males/females are quite the novelty
flat packed hose is quite the novelty for them as well as all their hose is stored in double donut rolls and I have been repeatedly asked why we Americans continue to use those pesky threaded couplings..to which I answer, "that's just the way we do it, here let me show you how".
Tactics differ as well

Pulse is how they operate their attack lines (which by the way is more often than not what we call a booster reel) while we Americans in British jargon "jet" the fire
"pulse" is to use repeated rapid short bursts on wide fog into the upper thermal layers and let steam do the work, "jetting" on the other hand is direct application of water which allows water to do the work and creates less steam...as you can well imagine for the Brits we do it to all wrong.

Strategic risk assessment is what w call size up, but as I passed along earlier due to the potentail legal ramfication they face the Brits tend to take things a bit farther in assessing risks than some of us are used to
working ahead of a line is always forbidden by their standards, and this has led to a bit of differences of opinion as the Canadians and the few Americans here have been taught to operate as part of a search team ahead of or above a line when necessary..VES is also unheard of and so it seems to their way of thinking borders on suicidal
and the Brits will always have a B/A control officer on hand...even if it means reducing the crew to do so. A B/A control officer can be an officer or a FF but either way he records the time and monitors the clock for everyone who enters the building and he can pull anyone he deems necessary...period
as far as pumping goes hose lengths and diameters are metric in mm with 45mm being the most common line outside of the ubiquitous hose reel. Pump pressures are in bar, which if I'm not mistaken is one bar = 14.5 psi

Well I'm sure there more that I'm forgetting but that's enough for now.

Posted 16 July 2011 - 09:23 AM

Since it's my day off (Blue crew works the odd numbered days this month) I thought I'd throw a few tidbits out there for today's installment.

First off I left out one very common translation from my last post. To our British colleagues a call or run is a "shout". So when we return from a run we are often asked " you structural boys had a shout did ya? Tell us what was it all about mate"? or another often heard phrase from the PC (Platoon Chief) is "c'mon now crash guys, we've got a shout...let's get moving".

Well it finally happened, the Talibastards scored a hit with yesterday morning's 5:45 rocket barrage. Fortunately everyone working in this particular hangar/storage building had just left for breakfast as the first volley of 6 or 7 gifts came in. Due to the fact that the impact and subsequent explosion of one of them started a fire, we (meaning Engine 3), were dispatched before the all clear was given. When responding in these circumstances we enjoy the added comfort of wearing our 35 lb flak vests under our turnout coats...(although for my corpulent self a few extra pounds sweated off doesn't hurt). Anyway when called out before the all clear on the structural side only one unit is dispatched, this because we don't want the entire shift wiped out should a lucky or well aimed shot find it's mark. Anyway we arrived to find a 100 x 25 building with modest fire in the rear C/D corner storage area. We immediately stretched in with an 1 3/4 and got to work as I was sure our 750 gallons would easily handle the fire. And it would have except for one tiny little inconvenience.

About 2 minutes in we were handed a lovely little surprise in the form of a rocket landing about 200 or so yards away. While not close enough to take shrapnel we not only heard the loud explosion but felt the concussion. At that I ordered the line and pump shut down and we all proceeded to the nearest bunker. An additional 3 rockets landed in rapid succession, but none as close as the first. After a a few minutes an Army Major and I deemed it safe enough and it was back at work. Luckily in our time away the fire had extended upwards and broken through the roof, but by this time our water was running short and all we could do was knock it down and hold it in check by hitting it everytime it flared back up. As often happens as time progressed the fire had become too deeply seated in the stored materials to allow for complete knockdown until the tanker was given the ok to proceed to the scene and we had adequate water. Some might be asking why not just let the place go and protect the exposures, and that was my plan after we had been so rudely interrupted by the Talibastards last shots, but one of the COs on scene made a good case for us to work to hold the fire in check....the multitude of sensitive items stored within the building that needed to be removed. So while the Army took care of the salvage operation we held the fire in check. As it turned out as they completed their duties our tanker arrived after the all clear came over the Big Voice and we were able to knock the fire out and save most of the building and it's contents, much to the pleasure of those we are here to serve.

One thing I find that I have been remiss in doing is giving an overview of a typical day (after all the tiltle of this thread is Life in Afghanistan). So with that here it is:
On our days on, shift officially starts at 8am but in reality we gather at about 7:45. At that time all members on duty and all coming on duty meet in the bays and swap radios and get a quick briefing on what's important for the group from the Chief or D/C (Deputy Chief). Once that 2 minute drill is over those going of duty remove their gear etc from the rigs and we that are coming on put ours aboard. Then comes truck, SCBA and equipment checks with all power tools started and run daily. All the daily paperwork is filled out upon completion of the checks and we'll usually have about 15-20 minutes to chill until our morning meeting with the PC (the shift commander) starts at 9am sharp. At this meeting specific duties and miscellaneous jobs are handed out for the crews to complete during the course of the day. These range from pump and bladder checks (these are emergency water points for our use which are spread throughout the base), to inspections to training and so on.

Engine 3 also has the daily duty of picking up lunch and dinner from one of the DFACs as the crash crews cannot leave the airfield. Lunch is at 11 and dinner at 5. As you would expect we are not permitted into the "day" room other than for lunch during the day. No TV, no personal computer usage, no games ect ect. Since we have a gym at the station at some point in the day all on duty crews must do PT as well. Our work day in terms of actual duties usually ends with dinner and as such we are free to watch TV or do personal things within the station after that. Lately we've had some good volleyball games in the bays at night. There is no set lights out, but most guys are in their racks by about 11-11:30. That is my usual schedule as well although I'm good at about 4 1/2 to 5 hrs sleep so I'm an early riser. I'm up by 3:30 to 4 am every morning at which time I call home, take out the trash, start the coffee and wash down the invariably dust covered rig for the incoming crew. The official wake up time is 6:30am at which time we give the station a once over, restock the bottled drinking water, and make sure everything is hunky dory for the incoming crew. Usually though as I'm sure you've figured out by now, our real wake up call generally comes at about 5-5:30 from our pals outside the wire. On average we spend about 45 minutes to an hour in the bunker during these interludes of the daily rocket concerto.

Days off on the other hand are ours to do with what we please within the confines of the base. As I've said there is the Boardwalk with it's many gastronomic and commercial choices. There is our living area which has it's own small gym, TV room and, for those who don't own laptops, a computer room. Our laundry is usually packed up on days off and placed in the bin on the first floor. A company contracted to do the laundry picks it up and the usual turn around has the cleaned laundry back on your next day off. For alot of guys they choose to stay in their air conditioned rooms..and at a usual 130 degrees can you blame them? I am a walking wanderer using my days off to meet and greet at the many compounds on base while familarizing myself with them. Call it preplanning and community relations all rolled into one. But as with all days off they are over quickly and then it's back to the grind for another 24.


Peter Cogliano
Crew Chief Engine 2 "Southside"
Kandahar Fire Crash Rescue Services
Kandahar Airfield Afghanistan

2nd Capt / Asst. Training Officer
Belltown Fire Dept.
Stamford, CT