Aug 3, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
The Armed Forces Entertainment Outdoor Legends Tour led Brenda Valentine, Jim Shockey, Lt. Col. (ret) Lew Deal and I to visit U.S., Canadian and coalition force troops from dozens of other countries in Germany, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan. We visited the regional medical center in Landstuhl, MANUS Air Force Base in Bishkek, and U.S. bases and camps in what’s known as the Kabul Cluster. These included Camp Phoenix which was our base in Afghanistan, NKC which stands for New Kabul Compound, Camp Eggers, Camp Blackhorse, Camp Julien and Camp Morehead.
Each camp has designated primary missions and is home to varying combinations of coalition troops. The location of each camp is also unique in terrain and amenities, but the big thing they all have in common is the grind and the stress under which the inhabitants live. While things have been relatively calm in the area of these camps in the last several months there is always the possibility that can change in a second. The men and women based in these camps live with the daily knowledge that “the bad guys” are still right outside that wire.
Bagram Air Base in Kabul is regularly fired upon with rockets from the nearby mountain foothills. The insurgents come across old Russian rockets, aim them in the general direction of the base, and employ a method of “delayed launch” that uses the evaporation of dry ice to fire the rocket well after they’ve left the scene. Even though coalition military forces can scramble aircraft moments after the rocket is launched, the bad guys are never caught in the vicinity.
At Camp Julien, we walked to a landmark known was the Queen’s Palace. Though outside of the fence of the U.S. Camp Julien, it’s still within the base of the Afghan National Army with which the coalition forces work side by side. The trail to the castle comes within feet of the outermost fence and we are told it’s common for the children living on the farms below to run to the fence when they see anyone walking there. They come to beg for candy, coins, etc. However, we were warned that if the children started approaching we were to stay back and allow our escorts (aka bodyguards) deal with shooing them away. The possibility always exists that the bad guys could have booby trapped one of the children. Think about that while you’re enjoying your morning coffee and corn flakes safe in your home back in the good ol’ USA.
Camp Morehead is the home of the U.S. Special Forces working with and training the Afghan National Army Commando Brigade. It’s a large base that’s home to a big shooting range! When our group saw that during the tour, our ears perked up for sure. We weren’t disappointed. The Morehead team had a real treat for three dyed in the wool shooters. At the range we fired a variety of full-auto guns in 5.56, 7.62 and 50-caliber. We shot standard issue Beretta 92 9mm pistols, and even a real Russian AK-47 in full auto. It was topped off with firing a grenade launcher and ultimately a shoulder rocket launcher. The latter was amazingly easy to shoot and extremely accurate even for us “beginners.”
Then as an added treat, the strong contingent of bow hunters at Camp Morehead took us to their makeshift archery range where we enjoyed the friendly camaraderie of shooting bows, swapping hunting stories, and forgetting where we were for a blissful hour.
Next post, we’ll look at the troops greatest wishes for hunting and fishing and the outdoors when they come home.
To any service men or women reading this post, “Thank you for your service. Stay safe. God bless. Come rejoin us in the woods with your families when you get home.”
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