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ERStettin
08-27-2009, 02:26 PM
This is an e-mail I sent to some family and friends to let them know how things are going over here in Bagram, Afghanistan, since I retired from the Army and took a job as a military contractor. Thought I would share it with you guys as I know some of you have friends or family here as well.


Well, just a quck update on all that has transpired since I have been here in Bagram, Afghanistan. We started out living in a tent and sleeping on Army cots when I first arrived. The temp is usually over 100 everyday and the wind blows this very fine, almost powdery sand everywhere. It gets into everything. The other Avenge guy that I fly with said he was briefed by the US Embassy folks here and they said 20% of the crap in the air, is actually crap and waste...lol. I don't know how, but I am guessing because of the lousy sewer systems.

The first day I got into country, our camp was hit by a rocket attack. It actually landed about 100 yards from my tent. It hit the Aviation chow hall but didn't go off. Several days after that, there were two more rocket attacks in the same day. I heard one of them and ducked into a bunker. They both hit on the other side of the field from me. We are thinking they were trying to hit the Air Force jets.

Last week, I was flying up around the Pakistan border in the mountains, just to the northeast of Bagram and heard a TIC (Troops in contact radio call). A TIC is the accronym used to let everyone know there is a battle going on between friendlys and the Taliban. The friendlys had called in some air support and the next thing you know, two F-16's came screaming by and fired their rockets into this mountainside. Fertilizing the mountainside with Taliban body parts. We flew over the smoking hole afterwards.

Just yesterday we were flying back from our mission. We were on final approach and there were two other King Airs in front of us. Both L3, 350's.. We were number 3. The tower announced there was what looked like a controlled explosion just south of the field. In other words, they thought it was someone detonating something on purpose inorder to get rid of it. It detonated right under the second King Air who was on short final for landing. I saw the plume of smoke and debris because I was flying right behind him. As I got closer to it, I could see it was an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) intended to blow people up, in their cars as they traveled the road, just south of the airfield. The bomb had blown a crater into the north side of the road and blew two lanes of it completely away. It didn't look like it blew any vehicles up, though there were several of them in the area and on the sides of the road, further down from the explosion. I called the tower and gave them a SPOT report and let them know it was an IED. I was about 3 miles out, on final approach for landing and by the time I landed and started taxing in, there was an AH64 Apache Helicopter Gunship and OH-58 Kiowa Warrior Helicopter in the air and on their way over to the scene.

This is getting to be a regular occurence over here. EVERYONE is armed to the teeth here, whether you are eating in the chow hall, shopping in the PX, or taking a dump or shower. There are M-16' automatic rifles, M9 semi auto pistols and a slew of armament on everyone walking around Bagram. The commanding General (82nd Airborne runs this place) has stated everyone will have their weapons with them at all times.
I have now moved into a B hut. It is like a very small, playwood house. I have a twin bed to sleep on now and airconditioning. There are 6 of us in this thing and not alot of room to move, but it definetly beats the tent and army cot.

The food is pretty good by anyones standards. You can eat 4 meals a day if you want. They have 4 DFAC's (Dining Facilities) on base and 4 gyms as well. I usually eat about 2 to 3 meals a day and eat ALOT of salad, vegetables and fruits. I try to eat just a chicken thigh and leg, or piece of fish, or turkey leg, for my protein and then just veggies and fruits the rest of the time. I am now weighing in the 190's and plan on trying to get into the 180's by the time I get home, November 2nd.

Not much to do here other than fly, sleep, eat, and workout. They do their best to provide us with MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) stuff to do,like movies, shooting pool, internet (VERY slow), ect.. We do have two Dairy Queens, Orange Juilius, Barbeque Restaurant, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Churches Fried Chicken on base. But it gets old very quickly.

I am usually off two days a week. That is because we have enough pilots to fly so you don't have to work a full 7 days on. Today and tomorrow are my days off this week. I have run into a couple guys I knew from my Army days and the guys I have met from Avenge have all been great. I really like doing this job. It is like being in the military again and we are able to see the kind of impact we are making on this war on terror. Everyone is focused, but not scared.

Hope all is well with you guys.

Ed




BTW, we have a UFC Legends Tour poster on our wall in flight operations. Apparently Dan Severyn (spelling?), Mark Coleman and Travis Lutter (spelling?), along with some of the ring girls were over here awhile back and stopped by. They all signed it. THANK YOU!!!!

I hope I am here the next time they come around. Would love to meet them.

Crisco
08-27-2009, 02:33 PM
rock on brother stay safe

Twinsmama
08-27-2009, 02:35 PM
Glad to hear you are doing good. You must be such a brave person to go back. "Everyone is focused, not scared" there are so many brave men and women over there!! Stay safe. Keep updating it's good to get an idea from someone that is actually there what is going on.

ERStettin
08-27-2009, 02:59 PM
It is nice to be able to come here and read. It is a great way to escape for a couple minutes and touch base with what is going on back home.

Will do my best to update when able. The internet is slow over here.

Preach
08-27-2009, 03:20 PM
Very nice brother stay safe and enjoy yourself

Chuck
08-27-2009, 04:22 PM
Excellent post brother thanks for keeping us informed! Stay safe!!

Neezar
08-28-2009, 02:07 PM
It is nice to be able to come here and read. It is a great way to escape for a couple minutes and touch base with what is going on back home.

Will do my best to update when able. The internet is slow over here.

Thank you for sharing that with us. It is very interesting to get a glimpse of what is going on over there from a personal standpoint and not the overall picture or what you get from the media. Not that the overall picture is bad but it is nice to get a personal view.

:)

Neezar
08-28-2009, 02:09 PM
Well, just a quck update on all that has transpired since I have been here in Bagram, Afghanistan. We started out living in a tent and sleeping on Army cots when I first arrived. The temp is usually over 100 everyday and the wind blows this very fine, almost powdery sand everywhere. It gets into everything. The other Avenge guy that I fly with said he was briefed by the US Embassy folks here and they said 20% of the crap in the air, is actually crap and waste...lol. I don't know how, but I am guessing because of the lousy sewer systems.


:yuck: Now that you could have kept to yourself.


:laugh:

VCURamFan
08-28-2009, 04:05 PM
Hey man, glad to hear you're doing OK. Stay safe, we'll be praying for you.

ERStettin
08-29-2009, 05:20 PM
I regret not keeping a diary during my military years. As I age, I am finding it helps me to write about this stuff. I wanted to write about today, 29 August, 2009.

FLIGHT 33119

Flight 33119 is a ANG (Air National Guard) C-17 out of Mississippi. The aircraft was sitting on the ramp today when I arrived to work this morning and was preparing for my mission. I generally look around the plane, hangar, and such prior to going into flight ops to plan and prepare for the missioin that day. This morning I noticed alot of soldiers and civilians on the ramp in front of our hangar, and around the C-17. It was a sunny morning and clear, with the usual dusty haze in the sky, causing a yellow tint type of color in the air. The wind was lightly blowing and the temperature was comfortable. The sun had not yet begun to beat down on the hard, dusty, desert below it.

I walked inside flight ops and started planning my mission. There were a couple of our Avenge guys in ops, talking to family, surfing the net and working on their missions. I sat down at a computer and pulled up our flight NOTAMS (Notices to Airmen) for the mission today. As I read them, I noticed the ramp was closed for a period of time for a Fallen Hero Ceremony. It was going to cause us to have to change our departure times for our mission today. Only alerted aircraft are able to take off and land during these ceremonys.

As I read about the Fallen Hero Ceremony, it caused me to flash back to my first deployment to the middle east in 2002/2003 when I was in the Army, and we deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom. We had gone over to Kuwait as a fixed wing unit back then and while we were there, Operation Iraqi Freedom started. I had many of my Army friends with me at that time and ran into alot more of them during my time there. One in particular was my good friend Eric Smith.

Eric was a young, short, dark haired guy the day he arrived into my unit at 56th Aviation Company in Mannheim, Germany in the late 1980's. I was assigned as his sponsor and was tasked to show him around, help him with his inprocessing, getting his housing assigned,and everything else that goes with helping a soldier get the things he/she needs when they first arrive into country. He was originally from Rochester, New York but had been living in San Diego the last couple years prior to arriving to Germany.

Eric was a straight shooter, one big reason I like him so much. He had little reservation telling you how he felt about things and always thought before he spoke. He enjoyed lifting weights, flying, and hanging out with the guys. We spent alot of Friday nights in the Officers Club with my wife Penny, and our friends. We did the things soldiers and military families did. We were all very close, argued at times, but always had each others backs when things got rough.

Through those 3 years together, we spent many hours flying together, working together and having fun, like Army friends always do. Eric was a joker of sorts. Always enjoying a practical joke, always at the company sponsored events and always ready with a smile and witty comment or ear to listen to problems if need be. He was one who loved to be in the mix and always willing to share what he did or saw on his leave, pass, or occasional weekend off in Europe. We had some crazy nights in many different European countrys together.

As the Army life is prone to do, Eric and I parted ways when I ended up leaving that unit, 56th Aviation Company, in May of 1991 when my family and I moved onto Ft. Irwin, California to the NTC (National Training Center). I don't remember where Eric ended up going after our time in Germany but I ran into him now and then during TDY's (Temporary Dutys), attending various Army training courses at Ft. Rucker, Alabama and the last time I saw him, was in March 2003 in Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Eric, another mutual friend of ours, John, and myself, made plans to try to meet in Bahrain and have a couple beers at the Navy base there, after we all finished up our assignments. It was the only place you could drink in the Persian Gulf at that time that we knew of and the Navy base had nice accomodations and allowed us some great R&R opportunitys unlike any other place at that time.

We sat around that March day and caught up on days gone by and then parted ways, each of us with different missions to accomplish. At that time, I thought I would see him again. It just never registered differently with me. I always saw my Army friends down the road, somewhere in the world. Army aviation is a small, tight knit community. Regardless of where you were, it could be the swankiest, nastiest place in a city and someone would know you from somewhere in your Army career, if you ended up staying in long enough. This was my thought process and saying goodbye to Eric that dusty, hot day in Kuwait, seemed no different to me.

Eric was out on a flight shortly after that meeting in a UH-60 Blackhawk. He was up around Karbala when the aircraft he was on, crashed. I never knew if he was shot down or it was accidental. Some say accident, some say small arms. I don't know what he was doiing and I have yet to run into a friend that new him and could clear it up for me. I had heard there was small arms fire involved but have never confirmed it. All crewmembers on board were killed, including Eric. I got the news from our mutual friend, John.

I was coming back to my hooch, just after eating chow, and saw John in the distance. He lifted his arm to get my attention, when he got it, he dropped his arm, dropped his head, and started walking towards me. He didn't look good and I could tell something had happened. John was generally a happy, confident guy. He walked with confidence, always had his head up as if he were taking his whole surroundings in and evaluating every moment of his day. As he got closer I could see he had been crying. He had streaks down his cheeks from where the tears had run over the dust on his face. "Ed, did you hear?" I braced for the news, nervous and a bit afraid to ask but very intent on finding out. "No Johnny, what happened?" "I heard Eric was killed today, but I can't confirm it." I felt sick. I told him I was going to ops and would have someone go down to CFLCC (Coalition Forces Land Component Command) http://www.kuwait.army.mil/, and confirm it. I headed off to flight operations and told my JTF (Joint Task Force) commander, Captain Holcomb. He called the Seargent Major at CFLCC and confirmed Eric was killed.

They buried him in Arlington Cemetary. He was cremated and his remains lay in a little box, Section 6-JJ, Row 20, Site 3. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/easmith.htm

I went to visit him shortly after arriving home. With the names of other very famous war heros buried with him, it seemed appropriate our friend was among them. He represented everything an American Solldier should be. He was a patriot who believed in what he was fighting for. He knew dying for his country was a possibility and lived happily, got along with others, and worked hard at his job, never bad mouthing his country or showing fear under pressure. He remained strong and steady as a rock and leader to the end. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be around and have on your side during times like these.

As I put down my NOTAMS, put on my sunglasses and walked outside, I knew what the crowd was waiting for. As I walked out to the front of the hangar I noticed an older maintenance tech of ours. He was standing out in front of the hangar and was working on little things, just kind of killing time. I walked up to him and asked how many were going home today. "One today, just heard we lost 2 more 30 minutes ago, we will be sending them home tomorrow if we can get them out of the mountains by then.", was his reply. I looked up, fighting back the emotion I felt and just turned away. I am glad I had my glasses on because I didn't want to have anyone see me cry. I couldn't stop thinking about my friend in the flag draped box.

I noticed the honor guard start to assemble. Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines were all present. A photographer was taking pictures and I turned away and acted like I was doing something when she turned the camera in our direction. As the Colonel called the group to attention, the older maintenance tech, myself and my other coworkers, stood, single file, hands over our hearts, in front of our hangar, as a Humvee, with six soldiers and a flag draped box, passed by. I couldn't fight it anymore and had to blink to let the tears come out of my eyes.

As the band played "America", they loaded that soldier, our friend, on flight 33119 for home. I don't know who he was. I don't know how he died. I do know he was my friend. I hoped his family knew how we all feel about him and his sacrifice. I hope everyone here feels the same as you read this. Another hero went home today. I am certain of it.
I will not ever forget our military men and women and the sacrifices they make for our freedoms. They have provided us the opportunitys we all take for granted on a daily basis in our great, great country.

May God continue to bless our military men and women and America!

Chuck
08-29-2009, 07:29 PM
Excellent post. I sure appreciate you explaining what the military jargon means. Sometimes all of your acronyms are like another language so it really makes your story easier to understand.

ERStettin
08-29-2009, 08:06 PM
Don't feel bad Chuck. It took my wife and I years to understand what the accronyms meant. The Army LOVES them and as I write, I will continue to define them, for the very reason you have stated.