Delaware's National Guard and Air Guard Members: Serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait
Delaware’s heroes are not just the ones deployed overseas. The others are holding down the forts at home.
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All told, there are currently 525 Delaware Army and Air Guard personnel deployed in Afghanistan. While these citizen-soldiers deal with the dangers, discomfort and homesickness that come with being in a war zone, their partners back home face a different set of challenges. Single-handedly, they manage the quotidian events of family life, such as the definition of “double-space,” that can quickly turn into crises. Email, Skype and cell phones make communication easier and more frequent than in previous wars, but, as one wife says, “I miss having him at arm’s length, right here with me.”
She and the other spouses can take some solace in the U. S. military’s attempt to give their loved ones a taste—literally—of home, even in the heart of Taliban country. What could be more American than T.G.I. Friday’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Nathan’s hot dogs? That’s exactly what soldiers and airmen can find on the base’s quarter-mile-long “boardwalk,” where they also can buy T-shirts, Afghan rugs, cell phones and MP3 players.
More than 26,000 troops from several nations are assigned to the airfield, so a smorgasbord of food is available. Lt. Col. Vincent Orlando, of Milford, is partial to a lunch of stir-fry at the Asian chow hall near his work area. In the morning, he can order an omelet at the American chow hall. Bottled water is everywhere—the local water is undrinkable—and the Post Exchange sells standard PX items—toiletries, snacks, cigarettes, but no alcohol. (General Order No. 1A basically prohibits consumption of alcohol by service members in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait.)
Most areas are air conditioned, including the “mods”—modular units, which sleep four to eight people, depending on rank. For entertainment, almost everyone depends on laptops to watch movies, read books and use email. Television reception is limited, but Orlando did catch a live broadcast of the Super Bowl at 3 a.m. There is an occasional rock concert on the camp’s stage.
Despite these very American amenities, the airfield is still in a combat zone, and the threat of a rocket attack hangs in the air, along with the constant stench from the “poo pond,” where waste from the entire base is disposed.
There are plenty of recreational facilities, including volleyball and basketball courts and soccer fields, and everyone seems to be into physical fitness. Troops can choose from a U.S. or a NATO gym. “The NATO gym is cleaner,” says Orlando. “You even have to take off your shoes before you enter, then put on sneakers after you go in. And it’s all machines. The American gym is a little more gritty, with weights. And it smells like a gym. That’s where I go.” He says he has dropped 25 pounds since arriving in Kandahar.
Page 3: Standing Guard, continues...