**Note I am not stationed in Afghanistan, nor am I in the physical shape to be doing what Dirtboy does, or what this fellow is doing as I post this in Kandahar. Also, the opinions expressed in these postings are not my own, if you disagree do not post here I don't care if you do not support the troops, or what your views on the war in Afghanistan are, the sandbox is what you are looking for also if you wish to reply to this fellow register at www.emtbravo.net and post away.

Posted 22 July 2011 - 08:30 AM
The pictures did not paste as nicely as I wanted them to, so in order to view the pictures (I highly recommend looking at them) go to this link:

Posted Today, 05:47 AM

Well another week has passed and that means I'm one week closer to getting home for R&R...6 more to go. Speaking of home I think this entry may be somewhat more personal than most because as I get closer to home I find myself thinking more and more about it. Now I'm not the emotional or sentimental type (according to my wife...:P ) other than the occasional angry outburst, but in keeping with the idea of giving a clear, albeit personal, view of life here for those that may want to embark on this path, I think in todays installment I'm going to share a little more on the trials and tribulations but equally important the positives and benefits of life here.

First off let me digress back to home and the universal malady that affects everyone here....homesickness. Yep even hardened firemen miss home at times, especally those of us with wives and children. For me yesterday was another reminder of what I'm missing. My wife attended the wedding of a friend and later after they were sent, I looked at the pictures. Everyone was happy, as they should be, and life went rolling merrily along except that I, perhaps selfishly, was,...well, saddened. This because of the fact that I was not the one standing beside my beautifully stunning wife enjoying the nuptials of a friend. As we all know sacrifice is a part of all of our lives, and we all accept that as a part of who and what we are. But in some respects it may be just a little bit more so for those that choose to work over here...we can't get relief guys to cover a shift so we can take half a nite or day off for a child's school play or big football game, holidays or birthdays or whatever. You give up alot coming here and again I'm not crying about that, I'm just making anyone interested aware that life will go on without you back home. And sometimes missing those parts of life can leave a large void. Some can't take it. I recall my first deployment to Iraq, my roommate, who also traveled to the camp with me, was there only 3 days and realized he couldn't do it, he couldn't become frozen in time and space in the sandbox. And in some ways that's what working here is like...we call it Groundhog day. At times it seems as if the clock is just spinning here and not moving forward, it stays the same for what feels like an endless cycle of days and nights simply repeating themselves where even the weather doesn't change. This sentiment invariably gets stronger for everyone here as events, good and bad, unfold back home. You quickly come to realize that you are not really an active part of the life back home anymore and have no control over it. Many accept this fact but for those that don't, most quit at their first R&R after they've arrived home and just can't come back because of that realization. Of course this epiphany is really only a minor inconvenience for us, as we can leave any time we want, but for the military it is a situation that is far more than an inconvenience and I am in no way trying to compare the two. In the end anyone thinking of coming over here must have the full understanding of what they will give up, and in some cases that sacrifce can extend all the way to wives and families as couples become lonely and grow apart. Many a marriage has come to a bitter end for guys here as the partners, both here and at home, seek solace to fill the voids.

Ok enough melancholia.

For all the trials and tribulations that have graced these last few installments there is a flip side to the coin. There are positive aspects and benefits to working out here which go beyond the obvious financial ones although that is a good place to start. This contract I'm currently on is one of the lower paying ones and I have no problem telling all that I stand to make just about 80K per year here as a Crew Chief (Engine Co. Officer). A firefighter can expect between 60-70K here at Kandahar. Not that anyone cares but the reasons I took this particular job are threefold of equal importance:
1. The pay, I do have a family to support
2. The desire to support and protect our troops in their mission here
3. The leave (R&R) package. We get 30 days off every 90 days with full pay. And for this family man that is a huge attraction and benefit of greater personal importance than the money alone.
Now as I said this is one of the lesser paying FD jobs out there, and for most guys out here money is naturally the most important motivator. Most jobs pay well over 100K a year with 30 days off annually. Crew Chiefs regularly pull in between 140-150K and Chiefs up to 200K. with 91.5 K being tax free for all. So as you can see this can be a lucrative means of making living. When done right a semi intelligent person can make their life here open doors that would have probably remained closed otherwise. And of course the money allows for many of the other "perks" that come from our efforts.

Travel, who wouldn't like to take long expensive vacations. Most firemen here do, especially the single guys. A single guy with half a brain can see the world and still have a good deal of money left over to build a life back home. Start a business, go to school, buy a house..I think you get the idea there. Or for the less prudent, splurge, go nuts and indulge every perverse whim that strikes your fancy in places like Thailand or the Phillipines, both of which hold the top spot as destinations for the single set here. A single colleague is going to Bali, yeah that paradisical island, for a month come October. Rio, Europe and Greek Isles or the Costa del Sol and Monaco, Japan, China and the rest of Asia, Hawaii...you name it and guys have gone there with the money they've made here. The possibilities are almost endless for the single. Of course for the more subdued or the family men, well it's really nice not to ever have to worry about paying a bill. Or better yet to work a year or two and pay off and OWN your house. How about treating the kiddies to all those things you never had as a kid and treating your wife to the things she deserves for putting up with you, because you can. Maybe take the family on a cruise at a whim. Here's another important one to any parent..college tuition in the bank. These are just some of the things made possible from the money earned working out here.
Self indulgences, yeah there's alot of that too. Cars, boats, motorcycles and all the newest, latest and greatest gadgets or electronic devices and toys out there have been bought outright by guys here. Clothes, jewlery, food, and "wine, women and song" along with just about anything else you can think of can be yours for your time and efforts. Here's one that tops the list for alot of the married guys...new boobs for the wife (thankfully I don't share that "need" as my wife is amply appointed in that department). Yeah that's right, all you plastic surgeons rejoice, I'll bet almost a quarter of the guys I've worked with over the years have invested in, as the joke says, that one of the two things fathers play with that's meant for the kids...the other being toy trains. But alas, of that quarter more than half have found themselves without that investment to play with after all as their wives have moved on to "bigger" and better things...maybe because as men we don't enjoy the luxury of being able to enhance our natural attributes. Well enough about that, as I'm sure you all get the picture as far as the money goes, other than to say that for me personally my time and the money earned over here past and present, has afforded my family and me the opportunity to live a modest yet relatively comfortable life..and that is worth putting up with any depravation as far as I'm concerned.

There are of course other far less tangible benefits to working out here which, depending on your personality, can be very rewarding. For most, supporting the troops is, if not tied with first among the reasons to be here, certainly one of the top five. Patriotism abounds out here especially with the Canadians, Brits and us Americans and I have seen it lived on every deployment I've been on. I too feel a deep sense of responsibility and pride in working for my Country and our military, even if it is indirectly. We regularly go above and beyond or to use the business term, "push the limits of the SOW" (scope of work) when dealing with the troops because to the vast majority of us they deserve at least that. Those that don't believe in "helping out" usually don't hang around too long, since they quickly come to find out (with a little help) that this isn't the kind of place for them.
Then there's the work. I love being a fireman and have since I was 16, (for those who feel that as a volunteer back home I am not one, well I won't even dignifiy that idiotic view with a response). Quite honestly it is probably the only thing I'm even remotely good at and I don't hold a candle to most of you. Anyway, while this isn't a major metropolis with fires and incidents every day, nor do I want to give that impression, all things being considered we do get relatively busy and we do a very diversified bit of work out here. Many guys (myself included) have taken advantage of this and the opportunites that have presented themselves. We have had both the good fortune and desire to take a number of training classes and attain certifications that we may not have otherwise been able to. These along with the work have been translated into practical experience both here and back home for most of us. For me, I have now spent a number of years as a Company officer out here as well, and this has put me in a position to deal with issues and gain experience to better serve back home. This again is a "perk" worth well beyond it's weight in gold, at least to me.
Another attraction, and to some of us a benefit, is the adrenaline rush of working in a environment which is full of dangers in addition to the normal fireground ones. Being in a war zone (and make no mistake this is an active one) is just the kind of lifestyle suited to those of us who, like me, thrive in crisis. I'm sure everyone here can relate, at least on some level, to the satisfaction we get from doing a good job while facing the life threatening dangers presented by our nemesis..Fire. You get that same satisfaction here along with the satisfaction of facing down people that want to maim and kill you at every turn. Again not to mislead, this is not the front lines and I'm not saying we face anywhere near the dangers of the troops, but the possibilty of an untimely death at the hands of a cunning, determined and fanatical enemy is ever present and doing our duty in spite of it can be, and for some is, very rewarding.
This job, like my previous tours has also given many of us an opportunity that I am positive we would not have otherwise had, the opportunity to meet and work with firemen from all over the U.S. and now the world. For some that may mean nothing and that is fine, but for others (again myself included) this work presents an opportunity to not only expand, but share our knowledge and experience far beyond what would have been possible at home. The work over here, by it's very nature, puts a variety of skill sets and methods together and forces them to meld into a working fire department. While some may see this as a drawback it is in reality a chance to build fire service from the ground up using the insights, knowledge and experiences of all of the personnel available. It may sound chaotic and in a sense it is. But I have been fortunate I guess in that for me, most times have found that for our efforts the results have been far more suprising and in the end rewarding than anyone thought possible. And in an extension to just the job itself, working these contracts can open up the world to those who want it in the form of friendships made out here. There are not many places with such a diverse population as there is stationed here where a firemen can spend the day making friends with a group of people from Romania in the morning, England at lunch and any number of other nations (including the locals), stationed here for dinner? The cultural and historical facets of all of these diverse groups is here and for those interested, open to exploration.
Well I seem to be getting a little (or alot) long winded so I'll cut it off there.

In closing I can only say that which I've said before...life here is, as it is everywhere, what you make of it. Guys that make it over here tend do so because they come in with eyes and minds wide open, so if the idea of working here is stirring in your brain, just try to remember that simple premise. To that end I have tried to paint as realistic and objective a picture of life here for you as I can, I hope I have done so thus far.
There is some news and I am still going to share the differences between UK and U.S. tactics, but since I've droned on long enough here we'll save those for another day.