Wednesday, August 17, 2005
My Journey To Central Asia
They say that your first deployment is always your best. If so, I couldn't have asked for anything better when I was sent to Kyrgyzstan a while back. I was cleaning out some files and came across the pictures from that deployment, so I figured now was a good time to look back. I didn't take all of these, but I was able to grab many of them off the shared drives where people would dump their pictures and music before they left for home. I didn't know to bring a digital camera when I deployed, which was one of the many lessons learned on that assignment.
After hours of flying over seemingly uninhabited land, the first thing we all noticed once we landed in Kyrgyzstan was the modern international airport. Of course 'modern' meant 1960s Soviet styling and functionality mixed with modern screens, signs, and places to eat. They really loved their tile-mosaics for some odd reason.
It's always the small things that really make a difference when you're oversees. I never imagined I would ever get to see a fire hydrant in the Former Soviet Union, yet there I was and there they were. Why I remember mundane things like that I will never understand. Funny thing was that the 'hydrant' was actually a water spigot, but I guess it worked.
There was that time when Robin Williams stopped by the base. Of course I was unlucky enough to have missed it, but the pictures and videos were great. Like I've said in previous posts, it's people like him that really make a difference to those deployed. Especially when all political correctness goes out the window and he unloads on everything and everyone.
This was a really cool event. Since the Dutch, Danish, Norweigans, Spanish, Italians, and a few other European nations were using the base, I caught a rare glimpse of the many different ceremonies each nation held. Of course each event was followed by great food and spirits, so you couldn't miss out. By far the Spanish had the most fun, whereas the Dutch had the best food.
Welcome to Paradise. The quarters weren't too shabby as long as you didn't share a tent with a shift worker or a recluse. Of course if you actually worked for a living like some of us out there you would rarely see your bed. I'm sure it was better that way. It left the mice to themselves.
The Europeans always had some of the local Kyrgyz talent come out to perform. They were OK, but nothing beat the U2 cover band that was flown in from Holland. Probably better then watching the real group, and much cheaper.
I can't forget the South Koreans. These guys woke me up every morning with their daily singing and stretches. They of course always took a few of us down to the local Korean Restaurant that they adopted, so those guys weren't all that bad. Most of the time they just kept to themselves and ran the surgical ward.
The airport had its own boneyard, full of old Soviet/Russian/Chinese aircraft. I was hoping to see the plane from 'Fire Fox', but alas I wasn't that lucky.
This was a going away announcement I had to make for one of our old crusty SMSgts that was heading back home. Schmitty, the poor bastard, he had to deploy within a month of returning home. At least he had a great party. My personal motto is a party is never a party without Oompa Loompas... the Original ones of course.
Here's one of the luckiest F-16s ever flown. The shmuck who was flying her went off the end of the runway and collapsed the nose gear. He proceeded to get out and walk around until the fire department rushed out and informed him that he was standing in the middle of a minefield. (yellow flags weren't there) There was a picture I couldn't get a copy of that had his 'City of Angels' CD sitting on top of a mine. Anyways, he lived to be smacked around by his bosses, and the plane was lifted back home to be fixed and flown again. Of course the Russians were the only folks with a plane big enough to bring it back.
Of course I couldn't resist. C'mon, deployments can get slow every now and then. Remember, Photoshop can be your friend.
I walked this roadway to and from work every day. The picture painted on the wall was an ad for the Tattoo shop located on the 3rd floor of the Air Traffic Control Tower. Yes, it was a reputable shop, and yes, I got my second Tat' from the place. Who could resist. You couldn't beat the prices backhome.
Had a passenger jet shoot off the runway and crash. Thankfully it was empty except for the pilots, who survived and were probably at the bar drinking vodka soon after the incident.
Funny thing was the fact that two Air Force fire trucks fell into a massive ditch while rushing out to the wreckage. Again, nobody was injured, but you couldn't help but laugh at the situation.
Yes, we all worked our asses off and never seemed to get a break, but that's why we were there. We knew that we were supporting the guys down south in Afghanistan, which made everything we did worthwhile. I'd do it again if given the chance.
The local orphanages lucked out when we moved in. There was no better way to spend your off-duty time than by helping to build playgrounds, play with kids, and hold the babies that had nobody to care for them. Once again, chance of a lifetime.
Sad thing was that the Kyrgyz were so concerned with their own, they would not allow adoptions to foreign parents. I can understand any concern for what would happen, and yes the region was ripe with kidnappings to resupply the sex trade throughout Asia, but these kids were really missing out on some great prospective parents and a much better life in the West.
A parting shot for now. It wasn't until I deployed to Iraq that I realized how lucky I was to have been to Kyrgyzstan and served with the people I served with. I'll always be thankful for the experience, and proud knowing that I did my part to make Afghanistan free and to inspire the Kyrgyz people to make their own government stronger.
posted by El Capitan at 5:03 PM
Those are some awesome photos. It's great to see things through the eyes of a person rather than a journalist.5:03 PM
Those are some awesome photos. Looks like you had a good time.
The aircraft in the bone yard are Antonov AN-2s, in case you didn't already know. East Germany had those as well and in Croatia they used them for surveillance planes and MEDEVACs. I'm not sure how well the latter worked.
When I was 13 and living in Germany I got to jump out of an AN-2 for my first parachute jump. It was a former East German plane that they now used for novice jumpers and aerial tours of Germany.
Those kids are adorable! Of all the inspiring stories I read about our military, it's the ones about helping kids I like best.1:03 PM
Great post...hope to make it out there someday!
And love the pic of the F-16, lol.