I remember the time I began to question what we are really doing overseas. It was September 2009. Let me start from the beginning. I fix things. It’s my nature. At this particular time I was a C-130 maintainer. I was tasked for my first deployment to Afghanistan. In fact, I was a week out from leaving. Then, the next day I came in I found out I was leaving in eight hours. Our deployment manager sent the wrong personnel to replace someone from a different base and so they decided to yank me that night.
The problem was I had already had my deployment readiness training scheduled for the entire next week. Everything from self aid & buddy care to CPR to M-16 qualification and Afghanistan cultural awareness training which is a really dry computer based training requirement. Then, during this training my flight chief was trying to get everything I needed for my deployment bags. He was constantly calling me asking my sizes for extra uniforms and such. My commander was upset because our deployment manager dropped the ball and the other base didn’t care, I had to pay the price. This meant training for 9 hours, head home for a quick shower, pack, and a quick goodbye to my wife and son (I only had one at this time).
I remember it being sort of emotionally upsetting as I’m sure it would be for anyone rushing for their first deployment because I couldn’t even have dinner with my family. I spent 9 hours running around then hurry up and hop on a plane. I do have to say though that my shop and commander did do everything they could to help me out and make sure I had what I needed. This deployment wasn’t like most where you have a few months notice. It went from being a week notice to I was being told the next day I was leaving that night. To skip forward I bit, we flew to the next base and picked up more personnel and flew for what seemed like days. I didn’t see a bed for the next 24 hours. By this point I caught a small nap on the plane.
We eventually arrived in Qatar. I just remember stepping off the 747 into blistering heat. We were rushed to a sort of in-processing. There was a lieutenant going over some briefings while we were in an air conditioned tent. I had no idea what to do at this point. The co-worker I arrived with got put into another group and I didn’t see her the rest of the time we were in Qatar. No one seemed to really be able to tell me where to go, I had to figure everything out and eventually located the lieutenant that had been giving the briefings. I explained to him I was last minute, my name wasn’t on any paperwork at any place I needed to go to in order to properly in-processed and we eventually got everything straightened out.
About two days later took a C-17 into Afghanistan. This was really where my life changed. We worked 7 days a week, 12 hour shifts. Once I arrived I barely had enough time to unpack in the hut my room was in, grab some food, and be rushed off to work. I remember sitting at the meeting place where the buses would come to shuffle us to and from work that first night when a mortar attack happened. I remember my heart racing but not so much out of fear, but not knowing what was going on and just seeing a bright explosion in the distance. Within seconds the sirens were blaring and then it was over. We didn’t even have time to get in the bunkers known as C-bunkers. These are basically cement arch bunkers surrounded by sandbags. When we arrived at our hangar, it was explained to us what had happened. In fact, we received weekly intel briefings about the attacks on our base.
As the weeks went by, we had a fair amount of attacks on our base from rockets to mortars to even “Taliban” members, or whatever they were being referred to at the time, storming the front gate with guns. We had to carry our weapons with us wherever we went with the exception of our compound. We’d leave our weapons in our rooms. If we wanted to visit the Base Exchange, or grab chow, we had to take our M-16’s with us. Everywhere we went, when we stored our guns, we had to clear them using the clearing chambers located at areas to include the dining facilities and even the hangar at work. This just sort of became your everyday normal. Come in to work, clear my gun, check out tools, and go to work out on the flight line.
We did have local nationals that worked on base. They did everything from construction around base to working at the dining facilities and even on each of the compounds collecting garbage. We had what was referred to as LN duty where people would be scheduled to chaperon them around making sure they weren’t doing things they weren’t supposed to. Shortly before I arrived we did have an incident where one was suspected of relaying coordinates to some off base for a pinpoint strike where unfortunately two people died. They suggested we didn’t interact with the local nationals. They never gave an actual reason, they just suggested we didn’t. I’d see people go out of their way to purposely plow through them and cuss them out for no reason. Whether or not they could understand me, I’d walk over and apologize for their actions. It’s easy to discard a person when you know nothing about them and fighting them. These people, however, were only there for a paycheck. They have families to support and aren’t necessarily involved in the war.
I remember one night waking up about an hour or so before I had to start getting ready for work. I had to relieve myself badly due to the amount of water I had drank. In my half awake stumble out to the bathroom trailers I heard this loud rushing noise. I looked up to notice rockets flying overhead and hitting maybe 100 yards away. It certainly woke me up. There was another night a plane was bringing back some alleged enemy combatants. I remember stepping up into the plane not even knowing they were coming back. I began going about my business and happened to turn back and look at the cargo compartment. I noticed dozens of, what I would assume were, Afghani fighters with their hands zip-tied behind their back sitting Indian style on the floor chained to the cargo floor with blindfolds on and vomit bags around their neck. We weren’t ever told who they were or what they had supposedly done. See that, that right there. We weren’t even allowed to know. Why not? What did they do? I thought to myself, did these guys even do anything? Were they running away from people in the woods? Were they even armed?
I get it, I do. There are enemy combatants, but do they actually threaten our way of life all the way over in the U.S.? Why were we over there making these people our enemies? Because here’s a little fact, actually it’s quite big rather, I did not learn until years later. Not one person involved in the Attacks of 9/11 were even Afghani…not. a. single. one. Mohammad Atta – Egypt, Ahmed al Ghamdi, Hamza al Ghamdi, Saeed al Ghamdi, Hani Hanjour, Nawaf al Hamzi, Salem al Hazmi, Ahmad al Nami, Khalid al Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, Abdul Aziz al Omari, Mohand al Shehri, Wail al Shehri, Waleed al Shehri, and Satam al Suqami – Saudi Arabia, Fayez Banihammad, and Marwan al Shehhi – United Arab Emirates, and lastly Ziad Jarrah – Lebanon. Don’t believe me? I’m not a huge fan of CNN, but here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/27/us/september-11th-hijackers-fast-facts/ . I learned of this information during Airman Leadership School. Maybe it’s something I should have dug into earlier but you don’t think about these things. When leaders give speeches, they immediately make everyone not us to be the bad guy and we need to go over there and blow shit up! I found out later Bin Laden had actually been advised by his Al Qaeda brethren not to attack the U.S. but he did anyways. I believe I picked up that tidbit of information in a PBS documentary I watched online years ago. It was a Pakistani journalist embedded with the Taliban. They were discussing IED’s and just kept saying they want to be left alone. They just want us to leave Afghanistan. They have no desire to come over and attack us. They don’t want to be a part of our western culture. So why were we in Afghanistan? To this day I’m still confused. Did it start because the Taliban refused to turn over Bin Laden without actual proof linking him to 9/11? Could it be to the vast amount of Lithium deposits? Or, is it simply the big money behind war and the military-industrial complex?
After months of attacks and no days off and tense relationships with other personnel, it was finally time to come home. I decided to do more research on Afghanistan. I looked at some of their cultural beliefs and did a lot of photo searching through Flickr. I’m a visual person and wanted to see more of the country. This is how I learned about how long Afghanistan had been at war. I also learned just how beautiful Afghanistan is. I simply pulled up the site and typed in Afghanistan and browsed through the thousands upon thousands of photos.
Sometime later I decided I wanted to begin my bachelor’s program. I chose to get a degree in social and criminal justice with the idea of possibly running for a local government position one day. I got so tired of seeing people’s rights stepped on and the direction our government was going. I ended up discovering Ron Paul and, while some of his ideas like getting rid of the 3 letter agencies and getting rid of the Department of Education are way out there, he made a lot of good points about our foreign policy and discussed 9/11 being blow back for things we’ve done to other countries.
I stopped really keeping up with world events and focused on schoolwork. I didn’t complete my degree until this past June and have been contemplating what my next move will be. That’s when Brandon approached me about Project RED HAND. We discussed the mission of the group and I was introduced to those he wanted to bring on board. I’ve never worked with activists and knew I wanted to help people. I had a desire to find a way to hold or government accountable for not just it’s misuse of drones but everything including it’s overreach into our personal lives with the NSA and the like. I decided to hop on board. So here I am. I hope to help make a difference.
Written by The Doctor