Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Report From Afghanistan: Soldier's Advice

VPR's Steve Zind will spend three weeks in Afghanistan, covering some of the 1,500 members of the Vermont National Guard who are deployed there. He'll provide a close-up view of the Guard's mission and how things are going from their perspective. In addition to filing reports for broadcast on VPR, he'll be posting photos and a reporter's journal about his experiences on this page.

If you have suggestions for stories he might do when he's with the Guard, or questions you'd like them to answer about their mission; or if you have friends or family serving in Afghanistan, feel free to send him an email at ReportFromAfghanistan@gmail.com.

The following is re-posted at the VPR Blog from Steve Zind's Reporter's Journal. Follow Steve's blog and reporting from the region in VPR's Report From Afghanistan.

Soldier's Advice

In advance of my departure, I’ve been pestering people I know who’ve been to Afghanistan with all sorts of questions.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I need to take, beyond the recording equipment and the protective gear the military requires.

Toward that end, I’ve been corresponding with VPR commentator Larry Doane. As a guard captain in Afghanistan, he commands a unit that’s moved around a lot during the deployment.

With his permission, I’m posting below a recent email he sent, offering advice on what to bring and his matter-of-fact description of what to prepare for. I think it’ll give you a feel for the day to day life of a Vermont Guard soldier in Afghanistan.

Steve Zind

Larry writes,

“Weather wise it is hot as all get out during the day and pretty cold at night. Up to around 100 degrees during the day, drops to about 60-70 at night which feels pretty chilly after the heat of the day. Very windy, when it rains it really rains. Lightweight rain gear will be welcome if that happens. Good boots are an absolute must. You will be living out of them and the terrain here can be very rocky. A very stiff sole, but not absolutely rigid, will be good. Just make sure they're broken in before you get here!

“Laundry takes about 4-5 days to turn around here…Many of us just use a bucket and soap to keep our stuff clean. I wouldn't worry about [cutting down on] your clothing too much. If you err on anything, bring plenty of socks. Bring a good set of shower shoes…The walk to the showers is usually over a gravel parking lot. Or you could just wear your boots to the shower and change there, but I'd avoid bare feet at all costs in our latrines.

“I'm not sure if you've been over here before or other high altitude trips. We're at about 5,000 feet and it only goes up from here. Showing up in the best cardiovascular shape you can, will make a world of difference in acclimating and avoiding feeling like crap for the first week you're here. The jet lag will be tough enough to deal with.

“Finally, and no one wants to talk about this part: It's a no kidding shooting war around here no matter what you might hear. Make sure you bring gear that you've tried out and fits and you're comfortable with. I know you were buying a vest and a helmet. Please also bring eye protection and fire resistant gloves."

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