U.S. bases in Afghanistan are constructed, in some measure, from metal shipping containers. Sometimes containers merge together into long dorm-hallways, each container housing two bunk beds. Sometimes they are stacked three-high like legos.
A distinguishing feature of this type of construction is that it is easy to move, easy to erase.
My deployment began in a room built from coagulated metal shipping containers to bunk 30 females at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan. The borders of our personal space directly correlated to the dimensions of our mattresses, with shared space underneath the bed or in coveted corners of the room for our gear. Graduating to a bottom bunk (when others would vacate them) was luxurious because you could hang blankets or clothing around your space to block light and create a semblance of privacy. There was certainly nothing to complain about—these were “hard billets” (not tents) with hot showers (most of the time) right across the courtyard.
Our base was located in Kabul’s “Green Zone,” a highly fortified area of the city including two major international military bases, the Afghan ministries of defense and the interior, the presidential palace, and the U.S., Italian, and German embassies. To exit the Green Zone, we donned body armor and helmets, locked and loaded weapons, and mounted armored vehicles, usually traveling in convoy. To enter the base on foot, we passed through multiple checkpoints showing the appropriate badges, and clearing weapons at the clearing barrel. Afghan visitors to the base had to be escorted, were extensively searched, and had to relinquish all electronic devices.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Namedwell: Synonyms for Self by Farzana Marie. In her submission, Ms. Marie described Namedwell as “vignettes and mini-essays…composed of the raw materials of personal story.” Twelve days after submitting her work, Ms. Marie, a U.S. Air Force veteran (2006-12) and a doctoral student in Middle Eastern literature at the University of Arizona, suffered a massive stroke and fell in Afghanistan. She is now being treated in Arizona, but has so far lost the ability to speak or write, and is challenged cognitively. To find out more about this inspiring young writer, please visit the fundraiser page set up in her honor.
Note on the Photo: Lance Cpl. David Rodriguez, a 21-year-old fire team leader with 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment and native of Riverside, Calif., walks along a ridgeline after clearing compounds with Afghan National Army soldiers during Operation Tageer Shamal (Shifting Winds) in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 4, 2012. During the operation, Jan. 4-8, Afghan forces and Marines with 3/3 cleared the area of insurgent activity, weapons and improvised explosive device-making materials, and held shuras to address the concerns of local elders. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)
From Eight Slices of the War in Afghanistan by Farzana Marie
Introduction by Dan Cafaro, Publisher
I: To Merge, To Erase
II: Restrepo: One Slice of the War
III: Inside with an Itch
IV: Enter to Search
V: To Fight
VI: To Find or Be Found
VII: When Language Fails
VIII: Tea with Terrible Questions
Afterword by Dr. Timothy Kirk, Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Ret)