Skip to comments.At Army Base, Movies, E-Mail, More Showers on the Way Mean It's 'getting Better All the Time'
Posted on 03/22/2002 4:05:02 AM PST by TomGuy
At Army Base, Movies, E-Mail, More Showers on the Way Mean It's 'getting Better All the Time'
By Charles J. Hanley The Associated Press
Published: Mar 22, 2002
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) - "Things are getting better all the time," said Londi Farrow, the morale sergeant. "Nobody's complaining."
He must not have talked to any grimy female soldiers lately.
"Yeah, we got showers finally - if you can get to them," complained Sgt. 1st Class Loretta Feliciana. "They set aside only two hours a day for females. If you're out refueling planes" - her dirty job - "you're out of luck."
In the Army way, slowly or quickly, by the book or by improvisation, U.S. troops are settling in for a longer haul at their home-away-from-home, the base at Kandahar's bullet-pocked, broken-glassed, dust-coated airport. And the troops agree that life has gotten better since 101st Airborne Division units first touched down here from Fort Campbell, Ky., in January.
Life has been harrowing, too - when the infantry battalions got their baptism of fire earlier this month in Operation Anaconda. But now when they return to base they can find some simple conveniences and pleasures: Showers and the latest portable toilets, in place of crude latrines. E-mail. Junk food in the PX. Movies.
"We've shown 'Black Hawk Down' 25 times as of today," said Sgt. 1st Class Farrow, 31, of Cochran, Ga., whose sprawling Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent offers movies on a big-screen TV three times a day, and Armed Forces Network news and sports in another corner.
The 101st Airborne's "Screaming Eagles" did better than that on Tuesday afternoon, when the Army arranged the first live concert of the Afghanistan deployment. A Nashville-based five-piece band, Mink, led by red-panted, bare-midriffed singer Jonda Madison, left the flak-jacketed audience of 1,000 soldiers stomping and shouting, especially at "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
"It was kind of an ice-breaker thing for bands out here," said 1st Lt. Kelvin Kearley, 26, of Mobile, Ala., who helped arrange the show. Others will follow. "We already had a lot of people asking for rock, metal, country."
Tuesday was also the night of the "Super Supper," the first fresh hot meal of the Afghan operation - a cornucopia of T-bone steaks, shrimp scampi, barbecued ribs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, cheesecake and on and on. Six thousand meals in all, for a base whose maximum complement is 4,700.
"They kept coming back for seconds," said the mess chief, Staff Sgt. Patrick Walker, 35, of Detroit. "They killed the T-bone steaks." The troops enjoyed their dinners simply plopped down, as usual, on the gravel in the open air.
The latest simple pleasures also include a rank of computers with Internet access. "It's just nice to be able to talk to family," said Spc. Brooke Bray, 21, of Dothan, Ala., who gets advice electronically from her stepfather at home, a retired Army colonel and Vietnam veteran.
Over at the tiny, jampacked post exchange, or PX, a big tent joined to a gutted airport building, they line up at 6:30 a.m. for the 9:30 opening, to buy up the stocks of soda and candy bars, T-shirts and DVD movies. Even the 15 portable DVD players went in a flash, at $499 each.
"The biggest thing is entertainment. They've got down time," observed manager Al Logan, a 32-year PX veteran.
But the biggest improvement - "definitely," said Spc. James Marble - is the 10 shower stalls that arrived about a month ago, even if the 20-year-old from Yering, Nev., says he sometimes waits 90 minutes for his turn.
Feliciana, 42, of Sacramento, Cal., acknowledged the shower unit freshened things up at the grubby base. "No shower - remember, I had to sleep with myself for those first 16 days," she laughed. But she and others complained to the brass about what they see as unfairly limited hours for women soldiers.
It seems to have worked. A second shower unit is expected within a couple of weeks, along with a mess tent with tables for sit-down meals, and a workout gym.
"There ain't too much complaining," said Morale Sergeant Farrow. "It could be worse."
It makes me smile to read this stuff.
... and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Department of Education, and the BATF, and foreign aid to Muslims...
We've got plenty of money; it's just not going to the right places.